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Writing a Press Release

A press release is a short article (rarely more than one page long) written in a style similar to a news story, typically publicizing important information or research. Press releases are intended to give reporters and editors the highlights and background of an issue or subject so they can decide whether to publish a story about it or perhaps further investigate the information or research.

If you ask 10 people to write a press release about the same information or research, you will likely get 10 different documents. Everyone has a different way of writing and phrasing.

In terms of press releases on research, they can be pre- or post-publication; that is, they can be about a forthcoming study or they can be about a study that has recently been published. For pre-publication releases, you must have a final copy of your study that you can share with reporters under embargo. When you use an embargo, you provide your research to reporters before it is published and establish a date—usually the date the research will be published—when they can run their stories. Pre-publication releases are more likely to generate press coverage.

There is no one best way to write a press release, but there are a few guidelines or best practices you should follow.

Final Thoughts: Press releases are meant to inform reporters and editors. Reporters generally prefer to write their own stories rather than publish press releases verbatim. Also, reporters and editors constantly receive story pitches and are more likely to respond to sources who they have relationships with or who they view as reputable (i.e., university public information officers, publishers, or ASA Office of Public Affairs and Public Information staff members). Keep in mind that spamming or inundating reporters with releases may turn them off to you and to sociology.

For more information, contact the ASA Office of Public Affairs and Public Information at (202) 383-9005 or via email at pubinfo@asanet.org.