So, you’re ready to jump headfirst into the world of nonprofit public relations — congratulations!
But before you can start raking in those media hits, you need to know the basics of developing a high-quality press release that journalists won’t be able to ignore.
It’s not uncommon for media organizations to receive hundreds of press releases every single day, so you need to make sure yours stands out.
We’ve got you covered. Just follow this handy guide to press release best practices and you’ll be well on your way to securing great media coverage for your nonprofit.
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And if you’d like a printable version of this blog post + everything you need to know about nonprofit public relations, be sure to download The Complete Guide to Nonprofit Public Relations!
Using the Inverted Pyramid Approach to Write Your Press Release
If you’re not already familiar with the inverted pyramid style of writing, now is a great time to learn!
The inverted pyramid approach essentially means frontloading a press release or article with the most important information right at the beginning.
The “need to know” details are followed by further context, including quotes. Your release then ends with brief information about your organization and contact details.
This format ensures busy readers can quickly and easily understand the main point of your press release without having to search for it.
It also offers a classic, consistent style of communicating information that helps journalists efficiently review the many press releases they receive every day.
Here’s a graphic from Marketers Media that breaks down exactly what you should be including in each section of your “pyramid.”
Follow These Formatting Standards
But what about some of the more nuanced elements of press releases?
Press releases should follow accepted formatting standards, which will maximize your chances of having your press release read.
These standards include:
Use your organization’s official letterhead.
Use a short, attention grabbing headline that gets right to the heart of your story. A subhead can also be used to share need-to-know secondary information.
Always include the date and the city in which the news is being announced.
Include key information and background details related to the news item being shared. This is another critical time to rely on the “who, what, where, when, why and how” checklist.
Try to stick to one page or no more than two pages.
Include one or more quotes from key representatives, usually the head of your organization.
Always offer contact information for media inquiries.
Include a brief paragraph about your organization (also called your boilerplate) at the end of your release.
It can be helpful to include a bulleted list summarizing key messages or key details to make sure that information is clearly and immediately visible.
Add a symbol or word indicating the end of the press release (such as the commonly used “-30-” or “###” symbols).
Nonprofit Press Release Examples
We know this is a lot to keep in mind, so here are a few examples of great press releases from nonprofits to use as a guideline.
This press release gets straight to the point: Kids Help Phone has launched a first-of-its-kind new data platform that will provide unprecedented insight into the state of youth mental health in Canada today.
After the initial opening statement, which summarizes the most critical points about the new platform, the release offers a link directly to the platform and uses the paragraphs that follow to delve more deeply into what it all means and why it’s important.
2. UNICEF USA
This press release shocks the reader with the most important statistic to emerge from a new report released by UNICEF and the World Bank: one in six children globally are living in extreme poverty. It’s a new finding that cannot be ignored and almost forces the recipient to learn more by reading on.
The quotes included in this press release are also great examples of avoiding classic “press release speak,” which is just an obvious reiteration of approved key messages. Here, UNICEF and World Bank offer quotes that are human, insightful and action-oriented.
This release from Covenant House, a youth shelter in Toronto, packs a whole lot of key details into one efficient opening statement: the organization’s annual fundraiser is going virtual due to COVID-19 but its goals remain unchanged.
It also offers an easy-to-read list of ways the public can get involved to help raise funds and awareness for homeless youth in Canada’s largest city.
All in all, this release is brief, specific and makes it easy for journalists to understand the message Covenant House is asking them to convey.
Nonprofit Press Release Template
Still feeling a little unsure about where to start?
Our free nonprofit press release template takes all the guesswork out of the process! And once you’ve used this a few times, developing a press release from scratch will start to feel like child’s play.
How to Issue Your Press Release
What are the best practices when it comes to preparing your press release for distribution?
We’ve got you covered. Just follow these basic rules and you’ll be good to go:
When you issue your press release, be sure to attach it as a PDF and include a text version in the body of your email.
Important: Make sure to BCC your contacts! Include your own email address in the “to” field if leaving it blank makes you feel twitchy.
Write a quick introductory note indicating that you thought your contacts may be interested in this news item from your organization and to please contact you to learn more or schedule interviews.
When to Issue Your Press Release – and When to Follow Up
Your press release is approved, your media list is ready to go and your distribution email has been prepared – but when do you hit send?
When it comes to actually sending out your press release and following up, there are some best practices around timing that you should keep in mind.
Here’s what we recommend:
One week out: Issue your release one week before your big announcement/event/report release/program launch date to give your contacts time to work your story into their coverage schedule.
The day before: One day before your announcement/event/release/launch date, follow up with your media contacts by forwarding your original distribution email (remember to BCC everyone again) and including a note indicating that you’re following up and reminding them that your big day is tomorrow.
After sending your reminder email, follow it up with a round of phone calls to your media contacts to see if you can get someone on the phone. More often than not, speaking to an actual human and having an opportunity to share more details about your story will result in a media opportunity.
If there is no specific date associated with your story, simply issue your release and follow it up with a round of phone calls.
You’re Good to Go!
That’s all there is to it.
You now know the basic elements of a great press release, you’re armed with a few solid examples and you even have a template to help guide you through the process.
Now get out there and start writing! If you have any questions, ask away in the comments and we’ll be happy to help.
And for more information about nonprofit press releases and public relations, download the Complete Guide to Nonprofit Public Relations.