- It lets media and the public know what you’re doing
- It might get media to show up and interview you
- It gets our issue and your chapter in front of peoples’ eyes
WHEN TO WRITE ONE:
- Any time you are hosting a large event (expecting more than 50 people to show up)
- Any time a drug policy bill is introduced/voted on in your state legislature
- Any time there is drug policy news in your area and you want your commentary to be included in the story, for example:
- New school drug testing policies
- Medical marijuana patient arrested
- Local news coverage will want commentary from local experts. Be those experts.
HOW TO WRITE ONE:
- Get as much of the who, what, when, where, why as you can in the first two sentences. That is probably all the reporter will read when deciding whether to cover the story or not.
- If the release is for an event: include who, what, when, where, why
- If the release is for a bill that was introduced: what happened, why you’re in support or opposed to it, what you’re doing about it, why it’s important and timely
- Utilize our template available on ssdp.org/resources/press-releases
- USE AP STYLE. If a story is written, much will be copy and pasted from your release so using AP style is crucial. Any students in public relations, journalism, advertising etc should have a copy of the style book. It is only about $10 and extremely useful for writing for the press.
- Make sure you have a powerful quote from a chapter leader or prominent member of the community / issue you are dealing with. The quote is possibly the most important part of the press release.
- Do not send a mass email to all of your outlets, individual emails take a little more time, but are much more effective. You don’t want them to assume another station will pick it up.
- Email your Outreach Director for guidance, edits, revisions, suggestions, etc.
WHERE TO SEND IT:
- School newspaper(s), radio station, TV station
- Local news outlets (aim for at least 5)
- News desks, reporters who have covered related issues in the past
- Be timely – if your press release is too late, it’s no longer newsworthy
- If the release is for an event, make sure you send it out at least two weeks prior to the event
- Press releases should NEVER be longer than one page at the most.
- If someone in your chapter knows someone at the news outlet personally, have them contact that person. A story is MUCH more likely to be run if the journalists really want to write it.
- NEVER send a release as an attachment, many news outlets filter attached messages out to avoid spam and viruses so paste it directly into the email.
- Make sure your contact info is legitimate. Reporters will try to call once, twice if they truly care about the subject, to get in touch with you. After that, they will move onto another story because their deadlines are driving them. If you aren’t going to answer a call from an unknown number, find a chapter leader who will.
- Remember a “call to action” at the end of the release, something the reader can do or a website they can visit. Ex “For more information on Students for Sensible Drug Policy, visit SchoolsNotPrisons.org.” (If you have a chapter website, use that. Facebook pages are acceptable).
EXAMPLE PRESS RELEASE
University of Tampa to Host Marijuana Legalization Debate on Monday
Students for Sensible Drug Policy Executive Director Aaron Houston will debate former White House official Kevin Sabet
For Immediate Release: February 13, 2013
Contact: Evan Eisenberg, (813) 892-4414
TAMPA, Florida — Leading drug policy reform advocate Aaron Houston will debate Kevin Sabet, former senior advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, at the University of Tampa on February 18. The debate will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Fletcher Lounge, Plant Hall and is free and open to the public.
Houston will debate the pro-marijuana legalization position and Sabet will debate the anti-legalization position. The debate will be moderated by Keith Cate, a co-anchor of WFLA News Channel 8, and Sarah-Beth Hopton, a former political journalist at the Pentagon and a current Ph.D. student at the University of South Florida.
Sabet was called “Legalization Enemy #1” by Rolling Stone Magazine in January 2013. Prior to coming to Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Houston served as the only full time marijuana lobbyist on Capitol Hill for five years.
“I’m looking forward to a vigorous exchange of ideas with Kevin,” Houston said.
Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) is the largest organization in the world dedicated to ending the war on drugs, with chapters on more than 200 campuses around the globe. At heart, SSDP is a grassroots organization, led by a student-run board of directors who oversee the work of our professional staff in Washington, D.C. We create change bringing together students of all political and ideological stripes to have honest conversations about drugs and drug policy.
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