A press release does not automatically mean that television, radio and newspapers will pick up on the news, but a well-designed press release increases the chances of the news being spread. You should therefore try your hardest to write the best press release you can and design it, as far as possible, in accordance with the guidelines applicable to a press release.
A public information officer will normally ask you to send a basis for a press release, which you then write together. The press release is based on your text, which the public information officer then helps you to edit along journalistic lines. Obviously, you will be able to see and approve the final press release before it is sent out.
Umeå University's press contacts are coordinated by a press officer, who is in charge of university-wide matters, and the public information officers of the respective faculty.
How to design a press release
1. Short and punchy headline
A headline is short, punchy and conveys the most important news. The headline should fit on one line. Unlike a title, a headline is more active:
"Long-distance commuters divorce more often" is a headline. "Social aspects of long-distance commuting" is a title.
2. The preamble summarises
The first paragraph after the headline is called a preamble. It should contain the main conclusion(s). It should be possible to copy a headline and a preamble directly in order to form an item in a newspaper.
3. Write in a news-like manner
It should be possible, in principle, for a news editor to use the press release as it is. So you should take your lead from how a newspaper article is structured:
- Present the results first and the method (if it has to be included) further down. If you have several results, pick the one you believe to be of the greatest interest to the public.
- Include any beneficial aspects as early as possible – ideally in the headline and the preamble – as this is what is most interesting to the public.
- Use quotes to give the press release more life and to make it useful to the media. Always include the name and title after the first quote, after which the name will suffice.
- Use language that is easy to understand. Avoid abbreviations. Avoid technical terms if possible. If they have to be included, explain them. Concepts that are obvious to you may be completely unintelligible to others. So let someone who is not an expert on your subject read through the text before sending it to a public information officer.
4. Provide contact details
End the press release with "For further information, please contact:" and then write your name, title, telephone number where you can be reached on the date the press release is issued, which can be a mobile number, and e-mail address.
5. Keep it short
The text should be no longer than about 2,500 characters, including spaces. To see the number of characters in Word, select "Tools" and then "Word Count".
6. Say where you come from
Local media love to give coverage to former local residents, for example in connection with the public defence of a doctoral thesis or an award.
7. Include a photo
Good photos with no publication restrictions increase the chance that the press release will result in a larger article instead of a small item. Always include a portrait photo and ideally also an exciting image from your research.
Once the press release is ready
Once the press release is ready, the public information officer distributes it through various channels. All press releases are published on Umeå University's website and are also sent out to various distribution lists, depending on the subject matter of the press release. Feel free to send tips on industry media that you think might be interested in the press release.
Journalists make the selection
A press release does not automatically mean that television, radio and newspapers will pick up the story. Journalists who receive the press release choose which news they believe will interest their readers, listeners and viewers.
It must be possible to reach you on the day on which the press release is issued. You should therefore agree on a suitable date of issue with the public information officer.
Best of luck!