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Writing for Public Relations: Press Releases for Print

  • Press Releases
  • Framing
    • How news articles influence public opinion.
    • The writer selects some aspects of a story and makes them more salient. (Entman, 2004)
    • Assumption: How an issue is characterized in news reports can influence how it is understood by audiences. (Scheufele & Tweksbury, 2007)
      • Framing Examples
          • Presenting a healthcare news story in an ethical frame that emphasized rights and morals can cause an audience to utilize the same frame in interpreting other stories on healthcare issues. (Shah & Domke, 1995)
          • Gain-framed messages are more likely than loss-framed messages to encourage prevention behaviors. (Gallagher & Updegraff, 2011)

    • Ethical Behavior
      • Truth, honesty, accuracy
      • NOT:
        • Falsification
        • Plagiarism
        • Misrepresentation
        • Inappropriate relationships with sources
        • Gifts
        • Too cozy

    • Kinds of News Stories
      • Hard news
        • Event-based stories
      • Soft news
        • Information people are interested in
          • Versus information in the public interest
        • Entertaining
        • Less important
        • Sometimes insight into important matters

    • ABC’s of News stories
      • Accuracy
      • Brevity
      • Clarity

      • Accuracy
        • Spell names correctly
        • Quote accurately, especially direct quotes
        • Confirm from more than one more source
        • Do the math

    • Press Release Format
      • Headline highlighting the main news point
      • Release time (usually immediate)
      • Lead
      • Source
      • Essentials: 5 W's & H
      • Quotes
      • End (More at bottom of page 1 of 2 or more; end, ###, or -30-)
      • Notes to editors
      • Contact Info
      • Example 1
      • Example 2
      • Example 3

    • Writing News Stories
      • Nut graf

    • Inverted Pyramid
      • Helps organize thoughts quickly, on deadline
      • Most important information first
        • Details later (such as how and why)
      • Get reader into the story
      • Lead makes a promise.
        • Then you follow through,
          • from main point to lesser points
          • Test: If paragraphs can be cut, one by one, from bottom

    • The Lead
      • Has evolved to concise, short paragraphs
      • Unifying theme of story
        • Set by lead
          • Sets tone and direction of story
          • Pulls reader into story
        • To find theme, ask:
          • What happened (or is going to happen)?
          • Why does it matter?

    • Press Release Lead

      Rare 655-pound Sea Turtle Rescued on Cape Cod

      A 7-foot endangered ocean-going sea turtle, which rarely strands alive, is clinging to life at the New England Aquarium’s Marine Animal Care Center in Quincy, Mass.
      The seven foot long, 655 pound leatherback sea turtle was found just as darkness fell Wednesday night on a mud flat in Pamet Harbor in Truro, MA, near the tip of Cape Cod.

      New England Aquarium, Sept. 21, 2012


      Rescued 655-Pound Sea Turtle Released off Cape Cod

      The New England Aquarium in Boston say it's released a 7-foot-long, 655-pound leatherback sea turtle back into waters off Cape Cod after it was treated for dehydration, trauma and shock.

      The turtle was found stranded near the tip of the cape Thursday. Experts at the aquarium say the male turtle was underweight and lethargic, and a large portion of its left front flipper was missing because of some kind of trauma.

      Associated Press, Sept. 23, 2012

    • Our Example

      New University of Florida students will have an opportunity to learn about involvement on campus and to identify their own unique leadership styles at the second annual Involve Lead Succeed conference this weekend.

    • Kinds of Leads
      • Straight news lead
        • Hard lead
      • Summary lead
      • Blind lead (delays identification)
        • Soft lead
      • Direct address lead
      • Question lead
      • Direct quote lead

    • Hard and Soft Leads
      • Hard lead
        • Most common
        • States in a direct way what happened
        • Tells the reader what’s coming in story
        • The lead most used in hard news & breaking stories
      • Soft lead
        • Delays the main news
        • Most frequently used on depth and feature stories, as well as broadcast
        • Can top hard news to pique readers’ interest

    • Hard Lead
      • Readable, straightforward statement
        • Information the writer has decided is most important
        • Usually answers some of 5 W’s & H.
        • Tells reader why story is being singled out for news coverage.
        • Try to limit to 30 words.

        WHO urges national leaders to fight against industry attacks

      GENEVA — On World No Tobacco Day (May 31), WHO is calling on national leaders to be extra vigilant against the increasingly aggressive attacks by the industry which undermine policies that protect people from the harms of tobacco.

      Tobacco kills almost 6 million people every year and is one of the leading preventable causes of illness and death around the world.

      WHO, May 30, 2012


    • Blind Lead

    TREEVILLE — A professor at the Best University in Florida won a national teaching award Wednesday.

    • Quote Leads
      • Can paraphrase:

      Enterprise Minister Nicol Stephen said renewable wave and tidal energy could provide up to 10 percent of Scotland's electricity production. About 7,000 jobs could be created by such projects.

      BBC, Sept. 7, 2005

    • Constructing a Lead
      • Choose the most important or interesting information
        • List the 5 W's and H of the story (likely won’t use all).
      • Build into a single core sentence
        • Subject, Verb, Object
          • Braney won award
      • Flesh out the bare-bones core so it reads well, adding significant detail.
        • Best University in Florida Professor I.M. Braney won a national teaching award Wednesday at the American Scholars Society annual meeting in Chicago.
          • 23 words: Who, what, when, where. (Why and how delayed.)
          • Who and what are usually first in sentence. Very seldom when.

    • Avoid Dangling Leads

      The BUF Student Senate voted 10-9 Wednesday to suspend student body President I.N. Trubbelle pending an investigation into charges that she violated campaigning rules to get elected.
      The Senate also authorized $100 for flowers for graduation ceremonies in May.

    • In-class exercise
      • Using the facts given in class, write a hard-news lead; consider using a blind lead.
      • Use AP style (bring your AP style guide to class)
      • Write for the Treeville Times, circulation 150,000
      • The story will run Saturday, June 1.
      • Self-correct
      • Write second paragraph for submission

    Back to top

    • Developing the Story
      • Build the story, paragraph by paragraph, from most important information to least important.
      • Link each paragraph with transitions

    • Establishing the Thread: Transitions
      • Transitions establish relationships between pieces and the central theme
        • Connectors: mostly conjunctions
        • Hooks: repeated words or phrases
        • Pronouns: he, she, it, they, that, this
        • Associations: different words for one idea
        • Chronology: timeline or references
        • Enumeration: number items (First, second)

    • Direct Quotes
      • Correct order is quote, speaker, verb.
      • Introduce speaker first, so the attribution is said simply.
        • Then follow the quote, speaker, attribution order

          Daphne Rose runs a bed-and-breakfast in Glastonbury.
          “I love doing this, because I meet so many interesting people who come from all over the world to visit the Glastonbury Tor,” Rose said.

          Our example

          Thirty participants attended the first Involve Lead Succeed conference. Blair Smith, a 19-year-old advertising student, was one of those participants.
           “I really enjoyed the breakout session where we made a dream board. It was an interesting way to reflect on the different parts of my life,” she said.

          Public hospitals are postponing non-urgent operations because their wards are clogged with dengue patients.
          Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan fears the situation may get worse. The delays for such surgeries now run to days and weeks, but could go up to months if the number of people infected remains at over 500 a week, he said.
          “This means that more than 400 beds — the size of Alexandra Hospital — are used for just dengue patients,” Khaw said on Wednesday. “That‘s why you hear of overcrowding problems at hospitals.”

    • Attributions: Said
      • Said is most common, preferred: modest
        • Explained (made more understandable)
        • Related (absence of opinion)
        • Pointed out (call attention to FACT—not opinion)
        • Stated (formal, speeches or announcements)
        • Declared (formal)
        • Added (Afterthought)
        • Revealed or disclosed (something previously unknown or concealed)
        • Exclaimed (surprised or emotional)
        • Asserted (formal and intense)
        • According to (documents)
        • Continued (continuing quote)

    • Short and Simple
      • Short paragraphs
      • Short sentences

    • Third Person
      • Important, to reduce bias
      • Also don't directly address reader
        • Exception is the direct-address lead (rare), which quickly follows through with third-person story.

    • Conclusions
      • Avoid unjustified viewpoint ending

    • Writing Your Press Release
      • After all that research (interview, quotes from source, background research)
        • Put down your notebook
          • Ask what is worth telling
        • Without notes, write quickly (xxx for details)
        • Organise this core (list): Put “nut graf” up high (the lead)
          • Best in transition from the introductory section, lead
        • Then use notes
          • Add quotations, examples, anecdotes to support points
          • Add details you couldn’t remember without notes
          • Correct spelling, grammar
      • Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite!

    • Press releases
      • Typed, double-spaced & wide margins if printed
        • Usually one to 1-1/2 pages (500 words)
      • I.D.: Source name, email, address, phone number
        • Identifying source is matter of ethics
      • Contact name & number for more information
      • Release date (usually “Immediate”)
      • Follow style of medium:
        • AP, UPI or Reuters style for broad applicability
        • Or adapt to style of each outlet
        • We are using AP style
      • Photo if relevant
      • Content:
        • Write from audience perspective, not organization’s
        • Accurate, truthful, complete yet concise
        • Easy to read and use; avoid wordiness
        • No jargon, inside language
        • Compelling lead
        • Facts support lead.
        • Short, direct sentences.
      • Write to achieve objective(s)
      • Organizations put boilerplate at end; keep up to date
        • Boilerplate: Information about the organization that can be reused in similar documents.
      • Headline
        • Skeletonized sentences in present tense
        • Subject, verb, object
          • Most articles dropped (the, a, an)
          • Conjunctions dropped for comma; no period
            • Storm knocks out power, transportation in Miami
        • Quotes are rare
          • Said dropped for colon or dash
          • Single quotation marks
          • President Machen: ‘I quit!’
          • ‘I quit!’ — President Machen
      • Slug or label — use on second page, if any

    • AP Style
      • Capitalization
      • Abbreviations
      • Punctuation
      • Honorifics
      • Numerals
        • Ages
        • Dimensions
      • Spelling: adviser, judgment, percent.
      • Dates
    • Pitch letter & Press Release
      • If your organization is having an event for members only, target that audience with specialized publications.

    • Assignment 4
      • Write a press release for your organization
      • Follow guidelines in this lecture
        • AP style
        • Inverted pyramid
        • At least one direct quote, as instructed in lecture
        • All features for ethics and professionalism.
        • Double spaced; 400 words
        • Make yourself the contact person.
        • Extra credit: headline, boilerplate, objective

      • Press Release Checklist
        • Is this really news? Is it newsworthy, or an attempt to get free publicity?
        • Does it have a good news lead? Does it emphasize the news — not the organization?
        • Does the lead grab attention? Does it summarize the story?
        • Is the story written in inverted pyramid, answering who, what, when, where, why and how?
        • Is it written like news? Is information factual, to the point, in simple language and active voice with no hype or fluff?
        • Is it concise, clear and free of errors in spelling, grammar or punctuation?
        • Does it adhere to Associated Press (AP) style?
        • Are all proper names spelled correctly?
        • Did you include a quote or two and introduce the speaker(s) first? Did you use the preferred attribution?
        • Is it formatted correctly, containing the name and address of the organization?
        • Is the contact person (you) identified by name, title, email and phone number?
        • Did you include both a sent and release date?
        • Did you use an end mark?
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