How to Write and Distribute a Press Release for Your Nonprofit
Posted May 3, 2023 | Updated 4 weeks ago
Press releases are an important marketing tool to incorporate into your nonprofit organization’s communications strategy.
They are a means of getting a little free press, in addition to maintaining public awareness around your organization and sharing information about important developments and achievements.
In comparison to paid media, like print and digital advertisements, and even the news section on your own nonprofit website, press releases can be a bit of a wild card. You may send your release to various local news outlets, and they get to choose whether or not to publish the content and how much.
However, you can increase your odds of getting into the news cycle by carefully crafting your press releases, including compelling imagery with your text, and building relationships with personnel at news outlets.
When to Use a Press Release for Your Nonprofit Organization
The terms “news release” and “press release” are often used interchangeably, although some hardline media and public relations professionals will delineate between the two based on small differences. You also may hear the term “media release” as an umbrella term for any type of content that is prepared by a business or organization and distributed to outlets for publication.
As a nonprofit organization in Colorado Springs, you can prepare and distribute press releases about any topic that you think the public needs—or would like—to know about. Sometimes, press releases are about providing transparency and public accountability. Most often, though, nonprofits utilize press releases for things like:
- Announcing upcoming events and fundraisers
- Sharing about new programs or programmatic changes
- Informing the public about leadership/board/volunteer opportunities and changes
- Highlighting new partnerships
- Announcing a rebranding or a change of physical location
- Spreading the news about positive outcomes from your organization’s work in the community
When you distribute a press release, a couple things can happen. For example, the outlet may share it in print or online just as it is, or they might have their journalists follow up to do more coverage, using the release as a starting point. They also might trim the content to fit a tight spot or pull out relevant information to include in an event calendar.
If you’re able to compel media outlets to distribute your press release, you’re not only able to reach a larger audience than you would by posting it solely on your organizational website, but you also foster relationships with local outlets and save a little money on advertising costs.
What are the Key Elements of a Press Release?
Theoretically, since nonprofit organizations and other companies develop their own press releases, you could include any information you want.
In general, though, there are a few best practices to follow to enhance your press release, make it more interesting, and encourage its publication. Here are a few key elements of a nonprofit press release:
1. Start with a Catchy and Informative Headline
Headline-writing is truly an art form and not an insignificant task for journalists and page designers. Press release headlines should be short, succinct, and catchy, sharing all the relevant information in eight words or fewer. The advent of digital news platforms has alleviated some of the need for brevity, but long, clunky headlines are still unappealing for readers. Additionally, while the outlet might change your headline in order to fit a particular space on the page, you’ll have a better chance of catching their attention and conveying—from the get-go—the relevance of your content.
A few examples of press release headlines include:
- Hospital Foundation Taps [Person’s Name] as New Executive Director
- YMCA Pairs Fun and Philanthropy at Annual [Event]
- Local Symphony Spotlights Beethoven and Bach in Upcoming Season
2. Use the Inverted Pyramid for Information
With longer feature stories, writers can take more time getting to the main theme of their article, and even save some of their best content to assure a strong ending. Not so with press releases. Since there’s always the risk that the outlet will cut your content, adopt an inverted-pyramid style to organize your content. That means all of the most critical information should be in the first couple paragraphs, so that if your release is trimmed, it will still be effective.
For example, within the first 100 words, you should convey the who, what, when, where, and why. It can be helpful to have a press release template for events that you use consistently. It could be something like this:
[Nonprofit Name] invites the community to share in [Attribute of Your Event] during its upcoming [Name of Event and/or Type of Event] on [Date of Event] at [Location].
The [Name of Event] will start at [Time of Event] and feature [A Few Additional Highlights of the Event]. General admission is [Cost of Admission], with proceeds going to benefit [Fundraising Cause]. Tickets are available [Online/at the Door/etc.].
If you have a good hook for your first paragraph (the lede) that is tailored to a particular event or announcement, use that as opposed to a generic lede. In general, however, you don’t want to waste too much space with fluff at the risk of burying the most important information. You might only have a reader’s attention for a few seconds, so make it count.
Also, your press release should include the name and information of your organization’s media contact who will handle inquiries and follow-up questions from journalists.
3. Include Images and Assets for the Outlet to Use
Visuals are crucial. Combining written content with a photograph or other visual element makes it three times more likely that people will read at least a portion of the text. When sending a press release, include a couple high-definition photographs (at least 300 pixels per inch); your organization’s logo and other brand assets; and any other assets, such as graphics designed specifically for an event or infographics that relay data. Media outlets appreciate when they don’t have to hunt down these resources on their own, making them more likely to run your content and give it a prominent placement.
Distributing Your Nonprofit Press Release
Every nonprofit organization should have a list of media contacts to use for various purposes. Generally, this is a one-size-fits-all list of key outlets to whom you can disseminate all press releases, regardless of topic. This list should include the main digital/print newspapers and magazines, as well as radio stations, in your service area. For events, you also would want to include chambers of commerce, business associations, and other community groups that regularly share about local activities.
Additionally, have a list of larger statewide media outlets to include when you have major news with a more far-reaching impact.
Most of the time, especially as you’re first starting to develop your list, it will consist of a general email address for each outlet (i.e. editor@XXX.com or info@XXX.com). But as you get to know individual reporters and bloggers, add their names to the list. Consider sending out your release directly to them with a personalized message. You’ll have more success getting coverage for your events and other news if you know the right person at the media outlet who will help push for it internally.
Developing Resources for Your Colorado Nonprofit
Press releases are a commonly used and valuable resource for nonprofit organizations in the Colorado Springs area. You can use them along with other marketing and advertising materials to stay connected with your community, build positive public perception, and garner new volunteers and financial support. To get assistance with your organization’s marketing efforts and materials, connect with our team at Third Angle. We help a variety of nonprofits grow their presence and achieve their goals with our suite of design, print, and marketing services.