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How to write a press release

Sending press releases is never a waste of time and something that local groups and E-USA should do regularly. Newspapers always need content, so submitting a press release is actually doing them a favor. Simply printing your press release means less work for them. Perhaps they want to follow up, perhaps they will toss it out without a read. From time to time, they will publish it unaltered. (Or a reporter will investigate for herself, which typically results in a fluff piece complete with a few Esperanto phrases and the obligatory "Esperanto never became the world language" as if that were some kind of news flash.)

I studied Public Relations and Journalism, and I'd suggest that you try as near as you can to imitate the style you see in the paper. The more a release conforms to an editor's style and expectations, the more likely they are to consider it for publication. An article that looks like a third grade school project will be thrown out, or worse: posted on their lunchroom bulletin board to be mocked until something funnier arrives. Some other things that you should remember if you want to write a press release:

  • Write in third person.
  • Write in simple language.
  • Write in active voice.
  • Write objectively.
  • Use one or two direct quotes.
  • Write in short 20- to 35-word paragraphs, one or two sentences each.
  • Avoid using the same word to start every paragraph.
  • Use the inverted-pyramid style. The first ("lead") paragraph should carry the main thrust of the story, and each subsequent paragraph should contain less and less important information. This way, the editor can use as much or as little of the article by trimming paragraphs from the bottom. Some stories are trimmed so much that all that is left is a news brief consisting of only the lead.
  • Identify the source of the article and include a person's name and telephone contact for follow-up/confirmation.
  • Put "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE" on the top.
  • Use a short but informative headline.
  • Put "-30-" at the end.

You may ask: what are some good newsworthy items to write about?, but you don't have to, because I brought it up first. A club's founding, accepting a visitor, involvement in some charitable (not political!) work or holding a banquet are good occasions to send a release. A club's reaction to some language-policy related news is another fitting occasion for a release, but it can be like playing with fire. It has to be timely (within hours of the story breaking) and it has to be representative of the Esperanto movement's actual aims, with the Prague Manifesto being a succinct summary. A fringe ideology is an easy way to marginalize the entire Esperanto cause.

Also, the bigger a paper is, the lower your expectations should be. A release, or several of them, to the Chicago Tribune will probably go unnoticed, but the Kalamazoo Gazette would probably eat them up like Pooh eats honey.

by limako

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