Better Press Releases
How do I...
Headlines should be short and provide a basic roadmap to the story, without necessarily telling the whole story. Examples: “Apply to host Harry Potter’s World”; “ALTAFF to host Quiz-Show Fundraiser.”
The number of characters permitted will be limited to 120 to leave room for the shortened URL in tweet. Press releases are automatically posted to American Libraries Twitter account and we hope to implement automatic tweeting for the ALA News twitter account in the near future. Currently, anything longer than 120 characters is simply truncated, which is not optimum.
Best Practice: Shorter URL = more retweets.
A shorter URL (107 characters) leaves room for people to retweet the press release without having to rewrite the message.
Tweet =140 characters;
Space for URL: http://www.ala.org/news/pr?id=10398 (19);
Space for retweet: RT @amlibraries (15) or RT @alanews (11).
Use sentence case. Capitalization of headlines should be lowercase unless the word begins the sentence or is a proper name, official title or publication title.
If your announcement concerns news about one or two individuals, the recipients of an awards or a staff change, for instance, please include the name(s) in the title.
Tip: For an example of how to make your text and headlines more concise, compare how your news appeared in a past issue of AL Direct with the original press release.
Important reminder: Changing the title of your press release or member news item will cause the URL to change. Therefore, if you change the title of your press release or member news item after it’s published, you MUST uncheck the box “Automatic alias” under the “URL path settings” tab (see screenshot below). Then the system will not generate a new URL.
Check all links before publishing your news item.
Format links correctly:
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Screen reader users often navigate from link to link, skipping the text in between, so links should make sense out of context. Phrases such as "click here," "more" and "website" are almost completely meaningless when read out of context.
When possible include images.
Images are for reuse by your intended audience. Most images for the Web are low resolution (72px per inch). If the audience for your press release includes print publications, a higher resolution (300px per inch) may be necessary. A higher resolution photo may also be more useful to bloggers and online publication, because it can be resized to fit their specifications without data loss which blurs an image.
Use Alternate text, Description and Title fields!
Provide a good text description. Name and location of event, names and titles of those pictured (left to right).
Please note: Units are responsible for getting permission to use an image from partners, libraries, event attendees and others present in images.
Tips on Writing for the Press
- Use concise language that speaks to the average person, using terms everyone can understand. One book that spells out how to do this is Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style.”
- Avoid jargon. What may make sense to a specialized audience may mystify, confuse and ultimately cause the reader to stop reading.
- When writing a press release that will attract the attention of journalists, it is important to stress angles in the opening graph or two that will make the reporter or editor feel this is a story worth pursuing. And, once again, that will mean addressing reporters and editors in everyday language that will appeal to readers.
- Use the inverted pyramid, starting with the most important items and following them with items of diminishing importance.
- Determining where information stands on the inverted pyramid can be done by looking at the basic elements of the news story: who, what, where, why, when and how. Which of these elements is more important will determine their ranking.
- If technical terms are used, they must be defined.
- Keep paragraphs short (2-3 sentences). Sentences should also be short. Put the longer version (with full bios of award winners, for example) on your website/blog and link to it. The longer the release, the less likely it is that is it will be read.