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Revision as of 20:47, 14 September 2009 by Lcafiero (talk | contribs) (added tips for writing and distributing releases and timing of PSAs)

written by Mel Chua, 2009-09-13

You'll notice the HOWTO isn't in true HOWTO/walkthrough format. I'm hoping the next person to work through this can help fix that. ;-) Mel Chua 02:53, 14 September 2009 (UTC)

A press release is a “written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media for the purpose of announcing something claimed as having news value. Typically, they are mailed, faxed, or e-mailed to assignment editors at newspapers, magazines, radio stations, television stations, and/or television networks... the aim of which is to attract favorable media attention… A news release provides reporters with the basics they need to develop a news story.” In other words, it’s one way professional PR folks Spread The Word.

I’m going to illustrate this by example. Ian Weller created a first draft of the "we’re CC-BY-SA licensed!" press release. To see what’s happened to it since, compare the edits in the history of that page, and then read on; here’s how I explained my edits on the mailing list.

I added:

  • The standard “this is a press release!” headers (”FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE”, location/date before the body text)
  • A headline (Fedora Project relicenses content to CC-BY-SA)
  • A boilerplate snip of org info at the bottom, yanked from
  • A shiny quote from Ian (this just in from IRC)
  • A contact info section
  • ### at the bottom, which is PRspeak for “end of press release”

Other things you'd need:

  • filling in of contact information at the bottom
  • nice quotes (for this particular example, quotes would be things like "This relicensing effort will enable us to $list_of_awesomeness, we’d like to thank $these_people," said $name, $impressive-sounding-title. “$shiny_media_soundbite!")
  • copyediting

Hopefully this helps explain things a bit. For an example of a beautifully finished press release, check out the Fedora 11 press release, which is professionally done, and you’ll see all these elements in there. It’s not magic – it’s just PR. ;-)

<shameless plug>Do you want press release help for your project? Send the Marketing team a ticket! (FAS login required) Do you want to help with press releases? (We can teach you!) Join the Marketing team! </shameless plug>

Should you want to go it alone: In addition to the items above, you should make sure that

  • The release has contact information of folks who are available. If there is more than one person, all the better.
  • Press contacts (those on the release): Be available, by phone, cell, e-mail, smoke signals, whatever. If you are contacted and have a message left for you (by phone or e-mail), follow up as quickly as possible.
  • Write clearly and use proper spelling and grammar. Have another person (or more) read it over to make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors.
  • Feel free to follow up with the person to whom you sent the release with either a phone call (if you have their number) or an e-mail, just to confirm they received it.
  • With the state of the news industry being what it is today, some well-written press releases are sometimes used verbatim or close-to-verbatim. Rather than this being "doing the press' job for them," what's happening here is you are successfully doing YOUR "job" in promoting Fedora.
  • Having said this, if you do have a release run in an outlet (newspaper, magazine, etc.) and it is close to verbatim (if not completely), then chances are you have earned a spot of trust with the reporter/editor and he/she appreciates your efforts.
  • Broadcast Public Service Announcements (PSAs): 30- and 60-second spots should be timed by reading the texts aloud, clearly but not necessarily slower than normal, for timing purposes. Generally, 29 and 59 seconds are good times to shoot for.