Guide to Writing an Effective Press Release

Press releases can be an effective and easy tool to communicate information regarding your church. The purpose of a press release is to inform the community about news in your church and relies on the five w’s-who, what, when, where and why. These components are essential to successfully reach your audience.

By following these guidelines, the chances of getting your press release published are higher and your audience will be able to glean more newsworthy information from it. After composing your press release, revise and edit it-look for spelling and grammatical errors. Submit your press release at least two weeks prior to an event or major announcement.

There are many types of press releases to communicate different types of information. However, the two most relevant to your church are announcement and spot announcement.

  • This type of press release is used to announce events, new employees, new ministries, awards, employment/volunteer opportunities, anniversaries and building renovations. Some examples when to employ this type of press release include hosting a vacation Bible school, hiring a new priest, receiving a historic preservation award, celebrating a 100th anniversary of your church, calling for volunteers to work a soup kitchen and opening an education wing.

  • This form of press release is used to inform audiences about occurrences outside an organization’s control. For example, a running marathon in your community may close a main route to your church and prevent people from attending services. A spot announcement in your newspaper will inform the community alternative routes to the church or give specific directions for alternative service locations. If a fire destroys a part of your structure, a spot announcement will inform about what happened and what the church is doing to handle the situation.

Components of a press release

Certain elements are essential to a press release. Employ the following components for a complete press release:

  • Typically, the first page of a press release is printed on an organization’s letterhead. This helps newspaper personnel identify an organization and it includes such information as address, phone number and fax number. If your church does not have a letterhead, use larger and bolder font to compose your church’s name, address, phone number and fax number. Also, include “Press Release” near the letterhead.

  • A contact person or persons need to be included on the press release and should appear near the letterhead. The contact person does not have to be the writer of the press release-the contact person is one who knows the content of the press release well enough to answer any questions newspaper reporters may have about the information. The contact information needs to include the person’s name, title (if applicable), phone number, fax number and e-mail address (if applicable).

  • The headline is a short summary which tells the most important aspect of a story. It appears above the story and it uses a larger text size. Typically, it is in all caps and is centered on the page. Use powerful verbs and present tense when creating headlines.

  • The dateline states the city and state the press release derives and includes the date. If you are sending the press release to your hometown newspaper, the location can be deleted. The dateline appears at the beginning of the first paragraph of a press release. The location usually appears in uppercase, bold letters and the date is lowercase.

  • The first paragraph in a press release is called a lead. The most newsworthy aspect of an article is highlighted in the one or two sentence lead paragraph. There are two types of leads used in press releases:

    1. summary lead – a concise statement including the most important information of a story. Ex: Christ Episcopal Church will host a community-wide ice cream social and open house for the Sunflower Festival on July 10.
    2. feature lead – a statement which raises interest to entice the reader to read the rest of the story. Ex: Hundreds of people flock to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and not on Sunday mornings. Every Wednesday evening St. Luke’s provides something sweet to eat and to the ears.
  • After the lead paragraph, the body is composed by using the journalistic “inverted pyramid” style of writing. This form places the most important information in the beginning paragraph of the body and the following paragraphs go from the most important details to the least important details.