Top 10 tips for writing successful press releases for small charities


Categories: Communications, Grant holder guidance, Guidance, Learning, Small Charities
12 July 2022

Introduction

Writing a press release when a project is launching, when running a new fundraising campaign, or simply when you want to showcase the progress of a specific project you are running, can be daunting for small charities without expertise in-house.

Some small organisations worry they don’t have the editorial contacts to make their time and effort worthwhile, or fear rejection from a perceived lack of relevance in their work (especially when they are perhaps ‘competing’ with other local charities).

However, with the current cost of living crisis being felt across the world, publicising your organisation’s good work, contributing to the positive dialogue about international development, and making your stories resonate and relevant, has probably never been so important

In Part Three of our Communications Toolkit for Small Charities series, we provide you with our top tips for writing successful press releases in your local media and a checklist for creating an engaging press release.

Top 10 tips for writing press releases

  1. Think carefully about the audience. Choose your target media wisely and consider the relevancy of your press release to that audience. Shape your release until you can imagine a reader of that newspaper or publication reading it as it is. Local newspapers love to have ready-made content.
  2. Consider pitching your press release so it reads more like a story. Would it grab an editor’s attention and therefore the readers of the newspaper?
  3. Look at the kinds of articles that have gained coverage in the publication previously and consider mirroring the good ones
  4. Think about your angle and steer away from depressing stories, even if you urgently need to raise funds for your organisation. For example, explore The Narrative Project principles; highlight independence, shared values, partnership, and progress.
  5. Find out who the journalists are (by looking through the publication or scouring the website); get to know what they write about / are interested in; and when you are ready with your story, contact them via Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn too (they often list their email address on their bios or in the profile on their outlet’s website)
  6. Create a media list – a document with information on each publication and journalist you contact as well as summaries of conversations you have had with them. This will help you each time you go through the process and support you to develop the relationships.
  7. Link your press release in with your website, your social media channels, your supporter newsletters so there is a common thread / feel / sentiment running across your platforms
  8. Get a friend who doesn’t work for your organisation to read your release before you share it and ask them what their take-homes are from your press release. If they miss the central point or say it’s too technical, make some changes.
  9. Don’t attach your press release to an email. Copy it into the bottom of an email. It’s easier for a journalist to copy and paste, and your headline will be seen when they open your email. Include two or three bullets summarising the story at the top of your release.
  10. If you want a story to be featured within a certain timeframe, remember to send it in a minimum of a week in advance.

We’ve also written you a checklist to reference before you submit your story:

10-step checklist for your press release

Available to bookmark or download as an infographic and listed below.

  1. Do you have the name of a specific individual to send it to (and a follow up phone number) and not a generic email address?
  2. Does your press release have a catchy headline? Put the most newsworthy bit of your story at the beginning of the release.
  3. Are your sentences concise, without acronyms (of if you must use acronyms, ensure they are spelt out in full at the beginning) or too much technical terminology?
  4. Is it relevant? Have you found a good hook? Is it no more than one page long? Shorten it if ‘yes’!
  5. Have you included some statistics? Publications love statistics!
  6. Have you included an example of someone whose life has changed because of your project / your campaign / the work of your organisation?
  7. Have you included quotations from experts in your field which support / back up your work?
  8. If you have been supported by high profile individuals, companies, or government, have you included it in your press release. Include a quotation from them if you can get one also.
  9. Have you included logos of any partners you are working with also? This is especially important to consider if you are working with or received funding from governments or foundations / trusts / big companies as it adds some weight.
  10. Do you have a couple of good photographs or videos to share (include credits if possible), and have you included your contact details, website address / social media channel handles within your release?

UK Aid Direct Communications Toolkit for Small Charities series

 Other relevant resources