Creating a Press Release and Getting Local Coverage


Getting media coverage is a great way to spread the word about your program.It will likely also result in a powerful asset which you can use to introduce/recruit parents, new school employees, or new supporters to your program. As compelling as the research around the program is, the storytelling built by a good journalist consistently touches the heart of people in the way that hard numbers cannot.

1. Pick the right time to generate press.

2. Write a press release focusing on the lead

3. Call individual reports and deliver the press release personally

Here are a couple of useful practical tips on how to get the attention of journalists:

Tip #1: Pick the right time to generate press:

  • New program: We’re launching something new involving the following well-known local people/organizations.
  • Recent results — next steps: We’ve just completed the program and here are some feel-good results about which the community would love to hear. Additionally, here’s where we’re going with it: a next class, support groups, expanding the program.
  • Recent program development–a new partner: Announcing a new partner (a church, NGO, commercial sponsor) and their interest in supporting the program. Getting this type of coverage helps bring in new partners/sponsors too!
  • Related to something national: There was national coverage of Parent Project–and here’s how it ties in locally. There was a national event of significant coverage: drug-related, gang-related, violence-related. For example, when the White House announced the COPS initiative it’s a great time to tie that into what’s happening in our community.

Tip #2: Write a brief press release: focus on the lead

A press release helps capture the key information all in one place–it captivates the reader with a compelling “lead”. Here is a great top 10 list from PRNewsOnline on how to write a great Lead (Reference http://www.prnewsonline.com/water-cooler/2013/06/21/10-tips-for-writing-strong-lead-paragraphs-in-news-releases/):

  1. Focus on the five W’s: who, what, when, where and why.
  2. Before writing, decide which aspects of story are most important. Emphasize these aspects.
  3. Explain the less important aspects in the second or third sentence.
  4. Be as specific as possible.
  5. If your lead is too broad, it won’t inform.
  6. Minimize hyperbole, the bane of PR writing.
  7. Be brief. Readers want to know why your story matters to them and won’t wait long for answer. Leads are typically one sentence, often two, and 25-30 words [rarely more than 40].
  8. Use active sentences. Strong verbs make leads lively and interesting. Passive constructions sound dull and leave out important information, such as the person who caused the action.
  9. Consider the audience’s knowledge. In today’s media culture, most readers don’t need a lot of background. Context is key.
  10. Be credible. A lead paragraph is an implicit promise to readers. Deliver what you promise.

Here are a couple great examples:

From Facebook: http://newsroom.fb.com/news/2014/10/introducing-safety-check/

In times of disaster or crisis, people turn to Facebook to check on loved ones and get updates. It is in these moments that communication is most critical both for people in the affected areas and for their friends and families anxious for news.

We want to provide a helpful tool that people can use when major disasters strike, so we’ve created Safety Check – a simple and easy way to say you’re safe and check on others.

From Apple: http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2007/01/09Apple-Reinvents-the-Phone-with-iPhone.html

Apple® today introduced iPhone, combining three products—a revolutionary mobile phone, a widescreen iPod® with touch controls, and a breakthrough Internet communications device with desktop-class email, web browsing, searching and maps—into one small and lightweight handheld device. iPhone introduces an entirely new user interface based on a large multi-touch display and pioneering new software, letting users control iPhone with just their fingers. iPhone also ushers in an era of software power and sophistication never before seen in a mobile device, which completely redefines what users can do on their mobile phones.

“iPhone is a revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We are all born with the ultimate pointing device—our fingers—and iPhone uses them to create the most revolutionary user interface since the mouse.”

Next… Fill in the details.

Once you’ve finished the lead, you can fill in the blanks with details of your program:

  • Dates the program will run
  • Details about supporting partners
  • Specific public officials who have supported you
  • Quotes from parents confirming the effectiveness of the program locally (or if this is your first program launch, you can include quotes from ParentProject testimonials)

Standard Parent Project Quotes you can use in your marketing materials or press releases:

  • From the Roseville video
    • If there were ever to be a manual for parenting or a class, The Parent Project could be it.
    • There is peace in my family again.
    • I think it helped save our marriage. I didn’t think we had any hope before the Parent Project.
    • Parent Project is like swimming lessons for those who are drowning.
  • From Stolz Study
    • We do not have any of those problems anymore… I mean it’s just 100%. I’ve never seen such change.
    • I do not want to miss a thing.
    • We’ve been waiting for months for this. Coming here is wonderful.
    • I cannot remember anything that I heard in class or in the book that I thought was not worth trying.
  • Kunau dissertation quotes:
    • The Parent Project allowed me to learn, share and implement a plan that worked for our family. My daughter was not the only one who was at-risk. Our whole family was at risk and it was getting worse by the day. The Parent Project gave me the tools that I needed to make changes in our family’s life.
    • There was a point when we almost lost the respect within our home. Being consistent and having consequences applied for out-of-control behavior we were able to bring the sense of respect back into our home.
    • Strong-willed, out-of-control kids have to be parented differently than a compliant child. I needed help.
    • Parent Project gave me a break; it gave me needed support and it confirmed to me that I was not crazy.
    • I should have had these parenting skills when my children were babies. I think that all teenagers should have to take parenting classes before they start to have children.
    • It has been a couple of years since I participated in the Parent Project. I look back on it and I realize that it was some of the best therapy that I’ve ever participated in.
    • The Parent Project was my “play book.” When my daughter started to get into trouble, I felt like I knew what to do.
    • Things are better, a lot better, and I credit the Parent Project in teaching me how to communicate, how to ask the right questions and what to look for.  Before completing the Parent Project I would have just smoked a little more dope and told myself that is how all kids behave.
    • I’ve been clean and sober going on five years. I believe the Parent Project was a big part of that. I also believe that my two children are clean and sober because I attended the Parent Project.
    • I have been a different parent since learning some of the skills from the Parent Project.
    • For the money spent, the Parent Project was the most inexpensive, longest-running educational program that we participated in.
    • Parent Project taught me how to be heard.
    • I wish that I would have had or known about some of these parenting skills before I had children.
    • I’m a much more informed parent now, and realize that my voice and the voice of my husband have influence especially when it comes to raising our daughters.
    • The Parent Project allowed me to reflect on my parenting and how i could improve my parenting.
    • I’m a much better truth teller since the Parent Project.
    • The Parent Project taught me how to better communicate my parenting intentions.
    • The Parent Project taught me to deal with out kids’ misbehaviors and outrageous behaviors, and how to care for their needs.
    • I’m so grateful that the Parent Project was available. I realize that something had to change; I just did not have the skills to know how to do things differently.
    • I liked that every unit in the Parent Project had something that directly affected my son and I.
    • Before I participated in the Parent Project, I considered myself a fairly good parent. However, since the Parent Project I recognize that I’m a much more deliberate parent. I now understand the difference between control and management. If my parenting skills were on a scale of one to ten, I was a five before the Parent Project. I’m a nine on the same scale today.
    • I had no hope until I was court ordered to the Parent Project. The Parent Project gave me hope, which gave me a plan. I put that plan into action and our lives.. .my son and my life specifically.. .have greatly improved.

Finally close with canned sections (see the mock press release below for examples)

Then close with 2 canned sections:

  1. About our organization and our parent project program.
  2. About Parent Project

Tip #3: Call individual reports and deliver the press release personally

Sure you can put your press release “on the wire” but it’s much more effective to use it as a communication tool, not as *the* communication tool. Put it on your organization’s web site and release it on the wire if you desire, but the way to get coverage is to find the reporters who cover your area–TV, newspaper, internet, radio, and call them. Pick up the phone. Tell them your lead (what you’re doing that’s relevant and recent) and tell them you’d love to work with them to spread the good news.

A couple of things which will help pique the interest of a reporter:

  • A politician or local leader who is featured in the program
  • Recent statistics or big local events
  • Parents who are willing to go on the record as testimonials for the program.

It won’t always work, but when it does, it’s incredibly rewarding.

Sample Parent Project related Press Release:

To share an example with you, here’s a mock sample press release (opens in Google Docs which you can copy then edit if you’d like).