Disability Awareness in Action
Resource Kit No. 1
Download the Media Information Kit as a PDF file (60 KB)
8. Press Releases
Who, What, Where, When Why?
A press release must always answer these five questions, preferably in the
first one or two paragraphs.
Remember, local press and radio receive many press releases each week -
yours must stand out. It must be immediate, interesting and intelligible.
You must also make clear why the story is of interest to a particular audience.
The release must be brief, getting quickly to the heart of the news story
or event, provide all the relevant facts, and give the necessary contact
to follow up.
If you check radio listings, you may be able to find the producer or other
person in charge of a programme. For local papers, address the release to
a specialist reporter if you can find a relevant one; if not, to the editor.
To write a press release, think of an upsidedown pyramid. The broadest part
is at the top, and this is where all the most important information goes.
At the bottom are extra facts, which if never printed or broadcast won't
mean readers or listeners miss what is essential. Editors often start cutting
stories from the last paragraph.
If your first two or three paragraphs contain all the most relevant information,
and the following paragraphs add more and more supplementary information,
your release is more likely to be used whatever space or airtime the editor
or producer has available. Remember, make it easy for people.
Hard News Releases
Hard news press releases announce a specific piece of news. Most often,
they are written in a way that will allow the printing or broadcasting of
the content as it is written, or in a way that can be easily edited by journalists.
A hard news press release may also stimulate media people to research the
subject and produce an in-depth story on an issue-related event or subject.
You might use a hard news release to announce cutbacks or increases in budgets,
reactions to changes in laws relevant to disability, expression of outrage
at lack of action on key issues, launching of programmes or projects, the
special honours or achievements of group members.
Soft News Release
Soft news releases are intended as teasers, containing enough information
to stimulate journalists or producers of TV or radio shows to write a feature
story or conduct an interview.
The feature news release doesn't aim to provide all the information. It
outlines the issue, gives examples of people who might be suitable for interviews,
and describes what personal or unusual stories they might have to tell.
These are not intended for publication or broadcast. They are intended as
invitations to the media to attend certain events, such as a press conference.
Your aim is to interest editors, so that, after reading the release, they
will assign a reporter to attend, and ultimately to write or conduct interviews
for print or broadcast on the subject announced at the actual press conference.
Keep a copy.
- Listen to the output of the station and read your local press to get
an idea of their programmes and style.
- Before you start, it's a good idea to write down key ideas, words
or phrases. You can then draw up an order of importance for the main facts.
- Now try stating to yourself in a sentence or two just what the whole
piece is about. Write it down as quickly as possible. Don't worry about
spelling or grammar; just spill it out on to the page. It's much better
to have a draft to work on than a blank page.
- Now look carefully at what you've written. Have you been specific
enough? If you've mentioned a large crowd, say how large: 1,00 people or
- Keep your writing simple and clear. Don't fill your sentences with
adjectives ("amazing, fantastic, awful") or superlatives ("the
best, worst, biggest"). Extra words take up space and air time. Delete
them. Facts will speak for themselves.
- Break the release into paragraphs of about six sentences. This makes
it easier for journalists to identify which bits they want to use. Each
paragraph should deal with one point and communicate one vital major piece
of information. Make sure that the paragraphs follow each other in a logical
- Always include a paragraph stating the name and purpose of your group
or organisation. Put this at the end or at about paragraph three.
- Provide background as well as the implications of the event or story,
announcement or problem.
- If something is a first, say so in the first sentence.
- Check and double check every fact... names, dates, times, places and
- Revise and correct it if necessary. Let someone else read the release
and ask them to tell you what immediate impression it made on them.
- Type double-spaced, with wide margins and on one side of the paper
- Put a descriptive title or headline at the top of the press release,
leaving about one-third of the page blank at the top. Editors rewrite headings,
give typeface designations and other instructions here.
- Don't break a paragraph at the end of a page, even if it means leaving
a lot of white space at the bottom.
At the end of the release, type -30- or five asterisks (*). This is to let
journalists know that they have reached the end.
Make follow-up phone calls. Check receipt of the press release. Be brief
and specific. Busy reporters and editors won't have a lot of time to spend
on the phone. State your name and organisation and the subject of the release.
If your release is used, send a note to thank the relevant editor, reporter
or producer. You have now established a contact with that person and it
may well be possible to encourage them to publicise a future event.
[Sample press release layout]
6 October 1992
Press Contact - [First Name, Last Name, Phone Number]
Readers'/Listeners' Contact - [First Name, Last Name, Phone Number]
Disabled People "Speak Up" About Their Lives
On the 12th of October, disabled people in [your area] will join others
around the world to speak up about what their lives are like.
At the same time, at the United Nations in New York, Disability Awareness
in Action, a one-year international public education campaign, is presenting
a collection of statements made by disabled people from all over the world.
These include letters, poems, diaries, pictures, photos and cartoons, in
every language, including braille and sign.
[Name of your organisation] is holding a public reading of statements written
by local people as part of this international event. Disabled people will
be telling the stories of their lives; letting non-disabled people know
about the difficulties caused by inaccessible buildings and transport, segregated
education, poor employment prospects and poverty.
[You might include details of some of the letters you have collected, putting
the emphasis on the physical and social barriers which prevent the full
participation of disabled people in society.]
The presentation to the United Nations is to mark the end of the UN Decade
of Disabled Persons (1983-1992); to assess what has been achieved and to
plan for a Society For All by the Year 2000.
Please come along to the "Speak Up" at [venue] on [date] at [time].
For Further Information, Contact:
9. Press Conferences
Press conferences should be held at times convenient for press deadlines
because reporters will try to report the news on the same day as the conference,
or for next day's newspaper. The best time of day is usually about 10 am
or 10.30 am on weekdays, the earlier in the week the better. Remember that
TV reporters need time to process and edit film, usually to meet a 6 pm
Try to make sure that your conference doesn't conflict with other major
news stories. If you can, call a friendly editor and find out what else
is scheduled for the date you have in mind.
Send out an invitation press release, announcing the press conference, giving
the who, what, where, when and why of the conference. Give an indication
of what the subject will be, but don't give everything away. You want to
encourage the media to come along to find out the full story at the conference
If possible, your conference press release should hit journalists' desks
a week to ten days in advance of the date fixed for the conference. Two
or three days before the event, call to ask if the invitation has been received
and whether a reporter will be assigned to attend. Busy editorial offices
receive many press releases, so telephoning will jog people's memories.
Make a note of the names of anyone indicating interest, as this will give
you an idea of how many people to expect. You can then make sure that you
have enough press packs.
In addition to the initial press release, you might want to prepare written
information to hand out at the press conference itself. This might include
brief biographies of the speakers; copies of research studies, the results
of which are to be revealed at the conference; details of grants received,
with the name of the funding organisation.
Choose a place that's convenient for all media, with good parking facilities.
Sometimes what you are announcing will determine the site. If you announce
the opening of a new centre, for example, you should hold the conference
A large, simple room is all you need - perhaps a school room or a room in
a community centre or church hall. If there is a parking fee charged by
the owners of the site, try to arrange for media to be admitted free of
charge by showing a press card or invitation.
If the room is inside a large building, arrange for signs pointing the way
to the conference. Check that TV crews, carrying camera, lighting and other
equipment, can find their way to it easily. Check that the room has good
lighting, a neutral decor, and isn't next door to a noisy event on the day
of your conference.
Make sure the room and building are accessible to disabled people. If possible,
provide an induction loop and sign language interpreters.
Check that there are enough electrical outlets to let TV crews plug in extra
lighting equipment, if they need to.
If the press conference is small, normal speaking voices will be enough.
For a public meeting or event where you expect larger numbers of people,
it's sensible to provide a microphone. Some places, such as hotels, may
provide amplification equipment. Otherwise, you may be able to rent or borrow
Speakers usually have either a stand-up microphone or sit at a table with
a microphone in front of them. For conferences featuring a panel, or more
than one speaker, more than one microphone may be needed.
If possible, have your speakers arrive early enough to speak into the microphones
and test their voices out for sound level. This will give you a chance to
check the equipment for interference before the press conference begins.
Your group may have supporting photographs, graphics or posters available
to depict the theme or goal of your organisation. If so, it's helpful to
set these visual elements up, either behind the speaker or in a separate
area where post-conference interviews can be conducted by reporters. Visual
elements appearing in the background of any coverage can add enormous impact
to the words you choose to convey your message and will attract TV people
to the conference.
Depending on the news or story, try to anticipate what questions will be
asked by the media. Help your speaker to plan the factual content of appropriate
answers. Things will go much more smoothly if there is time for a practice
question and answer session before the conference.
On the Day
When members of the media arrive, they should be given copies of any back-up
materials. It may also be helpful to give them a list of the names of people
speaking and any people or organisations mentioned during the conference,
so that print journalists can ensure correct spellings.
Give tags with names, titles and the name of your organisation to speakers
and other representatives, or put a name sign in front of them if they are
seated at a table. Make the writing as large as possible.
It's normally the task of the person who has taken responsibility for contacting
the media to introduce the speaker. Keep this brief and factual. Provide
the names and titles of the speakers and a brief summary of the reason for
the press conference.
The speaker usually begins by reading from a prepared statement, giving
the facts and implications of the news being announced. If you are speaking,
try to keep your voice as natural as possible. Speak clearly, slightly slower
than normal and, if you make a mistake, begin the sentence again.
After the prepared section of the press conference, ask for questions from
members of the media. This part of the conference can take up to about half
an hour You need formally to bring it to an end when questions seem to be
slowing down. Some reporters may then want an opportunity for a brief one-to-one
interview with speakers. It is usual to allow TV the first opportunity,
followed by radio people and finally by print reporters.
Though conferences, workshops, seminars and public meetings are intended
more for group members and the public, the media should be encouraged to
come along, and to report on the subjects discussed, decisions reached or
new findings announced. In this way, you can continue and broaden the debate
begun at these events, and gain publicity for your organisation and the
issues that concern it.
- Issue a press release inviting journalists and describing the theme
of the conference, seminar or public meeting. List speakers and the topics
on which they plan to speak.
- If speakers are best-selling authors or authorities in their field,
people who hold controversial views or have led extraordinary lives, let
the media know in advance. State the date, place and time of the event.
- The invitation press release should be circulated at least ten days
in advance of the date of the event.
- Contact speakers to ask if they plan to use a prepared text. If so,
ask them to provide copies for the press pack. Also, if speakers are prepared
to have their speeches released to the media in advance, you can include
them with the invitation press release. Make sure you place an embargo on
it: "Not for release until [date of conference]".
- For a full-scale conference, include the full programme of the conference
itself. Reporters may not be able to attend every thing, but can at least
determine which of the events they are most interested in.
On registration or arrival, members of the media should be given identification
tags with "Press" written on them, and their name and publication
Someone from your organisation should greet the media, offering whatever
help may be required and providing background material and information.
Reserve special seats or a press table where reporters can see and hear
easily. You could reserve front row seats or set up a press table on one
side of the platform.
If the event lasts a full day or longer, members of the media will appreciate
having a room to themselves. This will give them a quiet place where they
can look at their notes or study the programme and other background materials.
Extra copies of texts of speeches, programmes and research papers should
be available in the press room. Try to make sure that there are telephones
nearby. You could make coffee and light snacks available as well.
It might be worthwhile to issue a press release after the event. If you
are writing a release after a conference, seminar, workshop or meeting,
remember that the release isn't being written to describe the conference
or meeting in the order of what happened there.
- List the most important decisions reached, the most newsworthy announcements
made and the most quotable highlights of what speakers said.
Your aim is to interest an editor, reporter, researcher or producer in a
story that you (or someone associated with your organisation) knows a lot
In an interview, you have the chance to put your point of view on an issue,
make that issue known to readers, listeners or viewers and gain publicity
for your organisation. Interviews usually set up a degree of tension between
the interviewer and the person being interviewed. Audiences like this tension;
are more alert as they listen to what is essentially a conversation with
a structure and an aim.
Study the print media and get to know the bylines and subjects covered by
specialist writers, columnists, and special sections of publications. Think
about radio and television programmes for your area. What programmes are
interview shows, community or public affairs-related programmes, issue-related
shows? What audience is the show aimed at? Learn to distinguish national
programmes from those that originate locally. In most cases, you will want
to aim for the latter.
You can approach media people by post, telephone or in person. In all cases,
have a letter or press release outlining the story idea written in advance.
For a print interview, you can approach an editor in the hope that he or
she will assign a reporter to develop the story. Or you can approach a reporter,
who may in turn propose the idea to the editor and ask to be assigned to
research and write it. If you've already made a contact, this may be the
best approach. For broadcast, the Producer of a particular programme is
usually the person to approach. If you're not sure, phone the station and
You might prefer to telephone and present your idea briefly, then offer
to send written material. Or you can send written material and follow it
up with a phone call. When you do, try asking for an appointment to discuss
the idea in person.
Ask if print reporters or broadcast researchers want to conduct interviews
by telephone and be prepared to provide them with the phone numbers of people
willing to be interviewed. Alternatively, offer to bring interviewees to
a location of the reporter's or researcher's choice - after making sure
that it is accessible.
If you don't want to be interviewed yourself, choose someone who will enjoy
the process and can relax. In broadcasts, hesitation creates "dead
air" - a few seconds silence which sounds like forever.
For radio or TV, choose someone who can deal with the subject concisely
in a two-minute interview, or expand on the topic if needed. Two minutes
may not sound like much, but a lot can by conveyed in a very short time
During a print or radio interview, when you aren't being seen by the public,
it can sometimes be useful to note facts, figures and information on small,
file-size cards that can be held in one hand and glanced at from time to
The best way to ensure that an interview goes well is to be well-prepared.
Whether you are being interviewed by a print reporter or a broadcaster,
the most important thing to do is to guess which questions that are likely
to be asked and to plan possible answers. This isn't as difficult as it
sounds. Although you've got to be prepared for anything, on the whole, interviewers
will ask the obvious questions, though they may do so in interesting ways.
Use your knowledge of your organisation and its activities to pinpoint areas
of interest and controversy. Write them down and beside them add possible
Only prepare answers in a general way, however, so you can be flexible if
things don't come up in exactly the way you thought they would. You want
your answers to sound spontaneous, not pre-written to a formula. You can
prepare some quotable quotes or catchy phrases to sum up your theme. If
you can say something in one or two sentences, that is snappy and succinct,
yet sounds sincere, it will be remembered. These are called "soundbites"
and are becoming increasingly popular with people who appear frequently
in the media.
Studios vary from small, enclosed rooms with microphones on tables or hanging
from overhead, to large halls for studio audiences. Before the interview,
you'll be asked to speak a few phrases into the microphone to allow technical
staff to take a reading of your voice levels and make any necessary adjustments
On most occasions, the interviewer will discuss the scope of the interview
before the broadcast: the areas to be covered, although not the exact questions;
the duration of the interview; the context, format and time of day of the
Listen to the questions carefully and answer calmly and deliberately. If
you know ahead of time that there is a particular piece of information or
message you want to convey, and the questions don't let you do so, try to
redirect a question or phrase your answer so that you can include what you
want to say.
Be aware that the interviewer may put questions to you that are highly critical
of your views and aims. Try not to get annoyed. These may not even be his
or her own views. Remember that it is the interviewer's job to put obvious
criticisms to you and to allow you the chance to answer them. Recognising
the existence of an opposite view will make you appear more human and more
credible. Professionalism, personal experience and a sense of humour always
come over well.
Ideally, the interviewer won't ask questions that require a simple yes or
no answer. You want to get beyond this to your argument or to the most important
- Check in advance that the studio is accessible.
- For a TV interview, don't use notecards. Even brief glances at notes
will make you look inattentive or insecure. TV's strength lies in the immediacy
of its connection with the audience.
- Recognise the constraints of time. A lot can be said in two or three
minutes, but you must get straight to the point and make that point clearly
- Talk towards, not directly into, the microphone.
- Speak as fluently and naturally as possible. Use simple, conversational
- Try to keep gestures to a minimum. Be aware of what your hands are
doing; they can betray nervousness even more than your face. If you can,
keep your hands folded in your lap.
- Keep eye contact with the interviewer and listen carefully to each
question. It helps to make things come across naturally.
- Be aware that more than one camera may be in use. The camera with
the red light on is the one filming. If you want to speak directly to the
audience from time to time, look at the camera with the red light showing.
- Expect the lighting to be bright. You may feel very warm, as TV lights
generate a lot of heat.
- Wear clothes with plain colours, not patterns. Avoid shiny fabrics
and lots of white. Both of these reflect the light and can be very distracting
continue...12. Printing, Circulation and Distribution
for Media Information