How to Write Campaign Press Releases
By Peter G. Pollak,
Many campaigns start out enthusiastically issuing press releases left and right. When their releases don't always get picked up or they don't like the way the releases are used, some campaigns get into blaming the media and may stop issuing releases altogether.
Having a clear understanding of how the media works before you start issuing campaign press releases can help you garner more and better coverage during your campaign.
First, recognize that each media organization has decision makers whose job it is to decide what information to present based on their understanding of their unique audience. In other words, an FM music station may do news, but they know their audience isn't looking for in depth reporting on the local school board election; whereas a neighborhood weekly may see that as front-page material.
Editors read press releases to find out about potential stories. Each editor must then decide what stories to cover and how much space or airtime to a lot to each story.
As a campaign press person your job is to provide editors information they can use in whatever format makes their job easier….all in the interest of obtaining more and better coverage for your candidate.
Keep in mind that no media has unlimited space or time…and that you are competing with dozens or perhaps hundreds of possible stories.
Following a few rules will increase your success rate:
- Don't write the story for the media. Tell them what the story is and how they can cover it, such as where and when the event will take place or how to get a hold of the candidate for an interview. 2. Keep your releases to one page. Offer to provide supporting documents, such as a position statement, but don't flood editors with paper. 3. Don't send your releases to every person at each news outlet whose name or email you can discover. Sending multiple copies of the same release to dozens of people can backfire. 4. Identify the decision makers at the media that are key for your campaign and develop a relationship with them. Get to know what issues they think are important in the election and feed them information on those issues. 5. Don't call up the media to ask "Did you get my release?" or "Are you coming to our press conference?" Only make follow-up calls if you have something additional to offer. 6. As much as possible, treat all media equally. Don't discount a reporter because she or he works for a weekly. 7. If your fax list has more than 40 or 50 numbers, use a delivery service so that each outlet gets your releases at approximately the same time. 8. Make sure the press can get a hold of someone from your campaign. Answer press calls promptly. 9. Respond to events. If your opponent makes a statement you want to comment on, put out a release that says your candidate is available to respond…or include his/her response. 10. Don't give up if you don't get the coverage you would like at the beginning of your campaign. Remember it's a marathon not a sprint.
Peter G. Pollak, is the founder and CEO of Empire Information Services, Inc., a press release delivery service based in Schenectady, NY.