A press release
Circulate a press release when you have something concrete to say - and newsworthy - that is, convey information that is timely and interesting.
Here are a few basic principals to consider when drafting your press release:
- The headline and introduction are the most important parts of the release, so make sure the headline is short and catchy and when writing your opening paragraph, make sure you get the key points up front, then develop the story.
- Remember that busy journalists will look at the opening paragraph and decide whether to read the rest.
- When writing your introduction think: INTRO
I is for INTERESTING it has to attract their attention immediately
N is for NOW and NEW it's happening today/now/for the first time
T is for TIGHT it has to be concise - aim for 14 - 20 words or even less - and no extraneous words
R is for RIGHT it has to be accurate and give all the relevant details - who, what, where, when and why
O is for OUTSTANDING it has to 'hook' the reader
- Think about your story from the reader or audience perspective - how will it attract them, why might they want to know about what is going on in your school during Count On?
- It needs to be clear that the story is new or at least there is a really significant development. The word 'TODAY' together with a key fact should get you in the right direction. This is not so relevant for features.
- Write conversational English and avoid using slang, clichés or unnecessary jargon and do not write it as if it were advertising copy.
- Make it as personal as possible. Use named people and personal quotes in a lively, informative way. Very often, a journalist will prefer to have a quote straight from your press release, from the Headteacher of the school or the appointed spokesperson.
- Make sure the quote says something substantial. Journalists don't like neutral quotes. Say something like: Maths Co-ordinator XXX said: "Count On is making a real difference to to children's enjoyment of maths. And this is how..."
- Make sure your press release is issued in time to be picked up and used by journalists who have short deadlines.
- Finally, make it interesting. If it doesn't interest you, it's unlikely to interest a journalist.
You cannot guarantee that any release will be published, but you can maximise its chances by carefully selecting the publication, radio or TV station and preparing the most interesting story from the facts available to you.
In setting out your press release, it's best to conform to these simple rules:
- Type your press release in at least one-and-a-half or double line spacing on A4 paper, with margins at both left and right hand side.
- Type on one side of paper only.
- Issue it on school letter-head and make sure it stands out. Type in capitals 'PRESS RELEASE' at the top of the page.
- Include a date at the top.
- Head the page with a bold headline that captures your news story. Try to avoid repeating the headline in first paragraph.
- If the release is longer than one side, type 'more/...' at the bottom of the first page.
- Put a contact name, address and telephone of a Count On Spokesperson who will be able to answer the journalist's questions at the end of the release.
If you want to include any additional information which you think will be beneficial to the journalist, put in a section called 'Notes for editors'.
Here is an example:
1 November 1999
Maths is Fun!
Unique chance for schoolchildren to pick the brains of top professors
Schoolchildren in North London will be having a maths lesson with a difference on Thursday.
A class of 14-year-olds, made up of pupils from five schools in London, will be taught by academics in Cambridge through a video conferencing link.
This unique programme is called ÎMotivate' and is being launched by the national scheme, the Millennium Mathematics Project, that aims to show everyone that maths is exciting.
'Motivate' has been developed by the University's Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, and the School of Education.
"This programme is a wonderful opportunity to bring pupils into direct contact with outstanding mathematicians and to get across the message to future generations that maths can be both educational and fun," said Professor John Barrow, the Millennium Mathematics Project's Director.
The video conference is taking place at John Kelly Girls' TechnologyCollege and head teacher, Kathryn Heaps, believes it is a tremendous way of teaching maths.
"Getting over to the students that maths is exciting is sometimes difficult. They see it as a subject they have to study, not leading on to any specific career," she said. "I believe that Motivate will show them, especially the girls, that maths can be a very rewarding and interesting career."
The programme was chosen by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) as one of its pioneer projects. NESTA's Chief Executive, Jeremy Newton, believes ÎMotivate' gives a real sense of what interactive education can achieve.
"This programme will create opportunities that pupils would not otherwise experience," he said. "NESTA is pleased to be able to provide this link and hopes it will provide a model that others might be able to take up."
'Motivate' is a one year pilot programme and will include five video conferencing sessions, held at John Kelly Girls' Technology College for 12, 14 and 17-year-olds from Islington, Camden, Brent and Newham. Internationally-acclaimed research mathematicians will talk about their work and what maths means to them. They will set tasks for the students who will work on them for a month then present their findings. The videos will be used as a teaching resource in schools and courses for teachers. The programme will be published on the Internet.
Notes for editors:
1. The Millennium Mathematics Project is a new national initiative, based in Cambridge. Its broad goal is to help people of all ages and abilities share in the excitement of mathematics and understand the enormous range and importance of its applications to science and commerce. It aims to change people's attitudes to mathematics, act as a national focus for renewing and improving appreciation of the dynamic importance of mathematics and its applications, and to demonstrate the vital contribution of mathematics to shaping the everyday world.
2. NESTA - the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts - was created by an Act of Parliament in July 1998 as Britain's first national endowment. It was given £200 million of National Lottery money and will use the internet on this sum (approx £10 million per year) to support and promote talent, innovation and creativity in the fields of science, technology and the arts. NESTA has given a grant of £70,000 to the 'Motivate' project. 3. The School of Education first launched the 'NRICH' interactive maths site three years ago (www.nrich.maths.org.uk). The video conferencing is a step on from this.
For further information, please contact:
1. Alison McFarquhar, Press and Publications Office, University of Cambridge. Tel: 01223 332300; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Professor John Barrow, Millennium Maths Project, University of Cambridge. Tel: 01223 766696
3. Julia Hawkins, Millennium Maths Project, University of Cambridge. Tel: 01223 766692
4. Janet Morrison, Communications Department, NESTA Tel: 0171 645 9528; e-mail: email@example.com