Local Organizing

Press Releases, Media Advisories, and More



Press releases, media advisories, and statements are formal communication tools that your group can use to get its messages out to media. Think of them as the type of communication you have with reporters that goes out on your organization’s nice letterhead stationery.

Ideally, they’re just one way that you’re in touch with your media contacts. Pitching stories in more conversational emails and staying in touch in other ways are key to building relationships. (See: Tips From Journalists: How To Build Great Connections with Media.)

Reporters and media professionals have different feelings about these conventions. Some reporters kind of dislike them. Their inboxes are already swamped with so many press releases, they prefer a quick personal note more than anything. Some reporters really appreciate them; the press release puts all the information they need in one place, so they can grab quotes and background from them quickly for their story on a busy day. As you build your relationship with reporters, you can get a sense from them what they prefer.

Either way, these are great tools to have your toolbox.

Here are the tools we’re going to cover in this training:

  • Press releases
  • Media advisories
  • Statements
  • “Available For Comment” emails
  • Using social media to communicate with the press
  • Important tips to make your releases and statements go far

Examples: We’ve included real-life examples throughout from the Indivisible Project and from Indivisible groups, because these things rarely end up following a neat template in real life, and we wanted to reflect that.

PRESS RELEASES

A press release is a communication, no longer than one page, that gives a reporter some of the basics they’d need to write a story about something: background about what’s happening, quotes from relevant people, and contact information they can use to find out more.

Here are a few times where a longer traditional one-page press release is the right choice:

  • Announcing an ongoing series of events or unveiling something;
  • Reporting back about the highlights of something that’s already happened;
  • Announcing a new program or partnership;
  • If your goal is to invite media to attend an event, you’ll want to send a media advisory. (See below.)

If your goal is to be quoted in a story about breaking news, you’ll want to send a statement or an “available for comment” email, or both. (See below.)

Here’s the most basic structure of a press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Date that the release was sent out

Contact: Name / Email / Phone

Title

Optional Sub-title

CITY WHERE AN ARTICLE THIS ABOUT THIS WOULD BE TAKING PLACE - Summarizing sentence about what’s happening.

Paragraph of 1-2 sentences of background.

“First sentence of a quote,” said Person. “Second sentence of a quote.”

Paragraph of 1-2 sentence of more background, making the argument more that the topic is important.

[OPTIONAL] “First sentence of a quote,” said Person #2 (or Person #1 again.) “Second sentence of a quote.”

Paragraph of bigger-picture context about the topic, including your organization’s history of involvement on this issue.

###

ABOUT Group: 1-2 sentence boilerplate description

 

Here are some real examples from us at the Indivisible Project and from Indivisible groups:

INDIVISIBLE & NEXTGEN AMERICA RELEASE VIDEO GUIDES FOR AUGUST RECESS CIVIC ENGAGEMENT
The five-part video guide will provide practical tips for constituents to make their voices heard, take action, and keep up the pressure on their elected officials

WASHINGTON, DCThe Indivisible Project and NextGen America today released a five-part video guide encouraging constituents to keep up the pressure on their Members of Congress and make their voices heard during the August recess. As part of both organizations’ ongoing work to empower citizens to resist oppressive policies and political agendas, the videos provide a range of simple, practical, user-friendly tips to hold elected officials accountable.

Each video explains a specific accountability tactic Americans can use to best exercise their constituent power and show their representatives that they will hold them accountable for their actions. The videos demonstrate how to ask tough questions at a town hall, how to organize a town hall if a Member of Congress refuses to host one, and how to shoot compelling videos that can get press coverage and go viral.

“Thanks to months of sustained, organized constituent pressure, Trump’s agenda has ground to a halt. August recess is constituents’ biggest moment to demonstrate their power and make their voices heard,” said Leah Greenberg, Co-Executive Director of the Indivisible Project. “These new videos build on tactics in the Indivisible Guide that nearly 6,000 grassroots groups have been using to remind their members of Congress who they work for. By following the tips in these videos, constituents can make sure their members of Congress know that, no matter where they are back home in the state or district, you’re always there to hold them accountable to you.”

“Though many elected officials may be hoping for a break during August recess, there will be no break for the Americans who are suffering under Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s assault on our fundamental rights,” said Tom Steyer, President and Founder of NextGen America. “Indivisible has done extraordinary work mobilizing grassroots activism. NextGen America will partner with Indivisible to provide tangible tools that can empower each constituent to effectively participate in our democracy. Our representatives ultimately report to us, the people, and there will be no recess in our movement to protect American democracy.”

ABOUT THE INDIVISIBLE PROJECT:

The Indivisible Project is a registered 501c(4) nonprofit. Our mission is to cultivate and lift up a grassroots movement of local groups to defeat the Trump agenda, elect progressive leaders, and realize bold progressive policies. Across the nation, over 5,900 local groups — at least 2 in every congressional district — are using the Indivisible Guide to hold their members of Congress accountable.

ABOUT NEXTGEN AMERICA:

Founded originally as NextGen Climate by businessperson and philanthropist Tom Steyer in 2013, NextGen America acts politically to prevent climate disaster, promote prosperity, and protect the fundamental rights of every American.

To view the complete video series, please visit https://www.indivisibleguide.com/resource/make-the-most-of-august-recess-videos/ and for individual video links, please see below:

 

Go Out and Do It: Making Yourself Heard Over August Recess:  Click Here

Seeing is Believing: How to Shoot a Video to Advance Your Cause: Click Here

Make Your Voice Heard: How To Ask A Question At A Town Hall: Click Here

Exercise Your Rights How To Hold A Constituents’ Town Hall And Invite Media: Click Here

A Little Help From My Friends: Ask A Neighboring Rep To #AdoptADistrict: Click Here

 

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CHICAGO-AREA CONSTITUENTS PROTEST TRUMPCARE WITH MOBILE BILLBOARDS AND RALLIES
WHEATON, IL — A mobile billboard truck that holds our representatives accountable and spreads awareness about the harm of the American Health Care Act makes its final stops Thursday at rallies in the Chicago suburbs and the city.

After debuting in Springfield earlier this week and making its way through the state, the tour arrives in Rep. Peter Roskam’s district for a rally at 11 a.m. in Wheaton’s Central Park, 600 S Main Street. From there, it will go on to Rep. Roskam’s Barrington District office. The final stop on the tour’s 1,100-mile trek is at a rally in Chicago’s Federal Plaza at 2:30 p.m ( speakers start at 3 p.m. ).

As the Senate vote looms, a coalition of local Indivisible groups are protesting local representatives’ support for an unpopular bill that would raise health care costs for some of the state’s most vulnerable residents. Residents are asking their senators to filibuster-by-amendment and do everything they can to stop TrumpCare. We are also asking Gov. Rauner to speak out strongly against the bill.

“Congressman Roskam has forgotten that he works for us. Cutting 23 million people off from healthcare is not working in the best interest of his constituents,” said Jax West, a leader of Friends Who March. “He claims that the ACA needs to be replaced, but why would you rush something this important without getting the CBO score? Congressman Roskam is out of touch with the wants and needs of his district.”

“We want to hold Illinois Republicans accountable: the congressmen for their AHCA votes and Governor Rauner for his silence. As a small family business owner who can only afford coverage thanks to the ACA, I’ve been working tireless to stop TrumpCare from devastating families like ours across Illinois. Before the ACA, my sister fell and broke several bones. We couldn’t afford the emergency care she needed,” Clare Duggan, organizer at Indivisible 123GO. “We don’t want to go back to the days before the ACA. Congress needs to heal, not repeal our healthcare system. Unless Governor Rauner speaks out and TrumpCare is stopped in Washington, our state budget crisis will get much worse, Illinois families will lose healthcare and jobs, and rich people like Bruce Rauner will get huge tax cuts.”

Indivisible Illinois has crowdfunded nearly $19,000 for billboards that call out our representatives and encourage Gov. Rauner to speak out as part of the fight to protect our healthcare. The billboard truck has made stops at rallies in Springfield, DeKalb, Peoria, Campton Hills and Rockford this week. Key facts listed on the billboards include:

— Under TrumpCare, parents of children born with conditions such as asthma could pay twice as much as those with children born without pre-existing conditions.

— More than half of births in Illinois are covered by Medicaid, and TrumpCare would cut Medicaid by $834 billion.

— Under TrumpCare, companies would not be required to cover their employees’ prenatal care.

About Indivisible Illinois:

Our mission is to fuel a progressive grassroots movement to defeat the Trump agenda. Across the nation, over 5,800 local groups ( at least 2 in every congressional district ) are using the Indivisible Guide to hold their members of Congress accountable.

MEDIA ADVISORIES

A media advisory is an invitation to media to attend something. Just like an invitation to a party, it might have a few sentences of text about what’s going on and what will make the event exciting to attend, and then it spells out very clearly the details. The convention is to literally write “WHO: WHAT: WHEN: WHERE: ”

Media advisories are especially useful for broadcast TV and radio newsrooms, who get heaps of them every day and need to be able to sort through them fast to decide where to send people to cover what.

Here’s a real-life example:

MEMBERS OF CONGRESS, IMMIGRANT YOUTH, ADVOCATES, CALL ON CONGRESS TO PASS A CLEAN DREAM ACT NOW
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 7, 2017

Media Contacts:
Bruna Bouhid | email | phone
Helen Kalla | email | phone
Tara Tidwell Cullen | email | phone

ADVISORY
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 8 – 1:00 PM ET
House Triangle, Washington, DC

Members of Congress, Immigrant Youth, Advocates, Call on Congress to Pass a Clean Dream Act Now

Shocking news of historic immigration raids planned for this month contradict Trump’s assurance that immigrant youth have nothing to worry about

Washington, DC – In the same week that Trump decided to kill the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), putting immigrant youth and families in danger, reports surfaced that the Department of Homeland Security has planned massive immigration raids for later this month. Called “Operation Mega,” the raids are set to be the largest in the nation’s history and are sure to send shockwaves of fear and terror through immigrant communities.

In spite of Trump’s effort to deflect criticism with assurances that immigrant youth have “nothing to worry about,” immigrant youth and allies of immigrants have put increasing pressure on Members of Congress to pass a clean Dream Act – without harmful border and deportation add-ons.

What: Members of Congress, immigrant youth, and allies call on Congress to pass a clean Dream Act now.

Who:

  • Greisa Martinez, Advocacy Director – United We Dream
  • Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)
  • Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
  • Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ)
  • Ezra Levin, Co-Executive Director – Indivisible Project
  • Heidi Altman, Policy Director – National Immigrant Justice Center

Where: House Triangle, U.S. Capitol

When: Friday, September 8, 1:00 pm ET

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COLORADANS TO HOLD A CANDLELIGHT VIGIL AT THE STATE CAPITOL
IN PROTEST OF THE HEALTH CARE BILL

*** MEDIA ADVISORY ***

COLORADANS TO HOLD A CANDLELIGHT VIGIL AT THE STATE CAPITOL IN PROTEST OF THE HEALTH CARE BILL

Citizens join together to show solidarity with those whose health is at risk

WHAT:          This Wednesday, June 28, health care-defending Coloradans will gather at Colorado’s State Capitol to hold a candlelight vigil to stand in solidarity with those whose health care is at risk, and to protest the Senate’s cruel and heartless bill. Participants will send the message that this bill does not represent them and that they will tirelessly defend their vision of an America that takes care of its most vulnerable.

Participants will gather at 8 pm on the west steps of the Capitol and will proceed to Skyline Park, just outside of Senator Cory Gardner’s downtown Denver office.

WHO: Indivisible Denver
Indivisible Front Range Resistance (IFRR)

WHEN: Wednesday, June 28, from 8-9 pm

WHERE: Colorado State Capitol at 101 E. 14th Avenue in Denver, followed by Skyline Park at 17th and Arapahoe

Map

– more –

WHY: The Senate is likely to vote on its version of Trumpcare as early as this Thursday, June 29. If the bill passes, millions will lose their health insurance, protections for pre-existing conditions will be at risk, and Medicaid will be devastated, potentially affecting 1.4 million Coloradans currently enrolled.

For additional information:
https://www.cpr.org/news/story/how-coloradans-are-taking-stock-as-senate-releases-obamacare-repeal
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/22/us/senate-health-care-bill.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur
http://www.npr.org/2017/06/22/533947844/senate-republicans-reveal-long-awaited-affordable-care-act-repeal-bill

STATEMENTS

A statement is typically just a quote, without the additional background information a press release provides. The purpose is to give people something they can cut and paste into an article quickly. These are the right choice when you are reacting to breaking news, and you don’t need to present a lot of extra context about what’s going on.

INDIVISIBLE STATEMENT ON DEFEAT OF “SKINNY REPEAL”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JULY 28, 2017
Contact: Helen Kalla | email

Indivisible Statement on Defeat of “Skinny Repeal”

Washington, DC — Today, Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg, co-executive directors of the Indivisible Project, issued the following statement on the defeat of a measure to partially repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“Trump and his Republican allies in Congress thought repealing the ACA would be quick and easy. But something amazing happened — millions of hardworking, everyday Americans from coast to coast and everywhere in between rose up, raised their voices, and reclaimed their political power. Today’s victory belongs to them.

“For six months, grassroots Indivisible groups have been demanding that their members of Congress stand up for them and protect their access to quality, affordable health care. For six months, constituents have been making calls, staging die-ins, and showing up at town halls and public events, demanding to be heard. And it worked.

“What has been Republicans’ number one priority for seven years has been stopped in its monstrous tracks — for now. But if past is prologue, we know that congressional Republicans will continue down this reckless path of sabotage and repeal as long as they have the majority — and constituents will be ready to keep them accountable.”

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The Indivisible Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to resisting Trump’s agenda by empowering local groups to hold their Members of Congress accountable.

STATEMENT: INDIVISIBLE WILL KEEP THE PRESSURE ON REICHERT THROUGH THE END OF HIS TERM – AND ON HIS SUCCESSOR
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 6, 2017

Statement: Indivisible will keep the pressure on Reichert through the end of his term – and on his successor

Following Rep. Dave Reichert’s announcement that he will not seek re-election, Indivisible Washington’s Eighth District released the following statement:

“After months of pressure from his constituents, Rep. Dave Reichert announced today that he will not run for re-election. Indivisible Washington’s Eighth District is grateful for the congressman’s service, and for the times he reached across the aisle to represent his district.

“Between now and the election of Reichert’s successor, President Donald Trump will cause significant damage to the country. Indivisible remains firmly committed to its mission to block Trump and his shameful agenda. Reichert has an opportunity to lower his “votes-with-Trump” percentage. Indivisible members will continue to call his offices to demand action on behalf of constituents here in the eighth district. And there is still plenty of time for a town hall meeting.

“Indivisible Washington’s Eighth District does not exist to block Reichert. Anyone who holds this seat must understand that Indivisible will remain vocal and committed to standing up for a progressive agenda.

“Candidates on the left, right and in between should take note of the lessons Reichert has learned: constituents will educate themselves, they will call your offices and they will demand representation in Washington, D.C. If you fear your constituents, don’t run for public office. Constituents will march, stage protests, write letters and make their voices heard when you vote with Trump.

“There is a lot of work ahead  – blocking tax cuts for the rich, shoring up the Affordable Care Act and standing up for the long-term rights of immigrants – and Reichert has his work cut out for him. Indivisible understands that the stakes are high, and remain committed to this fight.”

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News Highlights: Indivisible Washington’s Eighth District’s steady pressure on Reichert

Obamacare Repeal Protesters Bring Message To Reichert’s Issaquah Office

Is Dave Reichert getting a bit comfy in his district?

Washington Republican representatives hiding from constituents

Protesters confront Rep. Dave Reichert over health-care vote

Local Activist Group Slams Rep. Dave Reichert Over ‘Tele Town Hall’

Protest At Reichert Issaquah Office Friday Morning

Reichert’s ‘No’ Vote on Trumpcare Came Too Late for Some Indivisibles

Pramila Jayapal To Attend Town Hall in No-Show Dave Reichert’s District

Reichert Disagrees With Arpaio Pardon

About Indivisible Washington’s Eighth District: Indivisible Washington’s Eighth District was founded as a Facebook Group in January 2017. In just a short period of time the group has grown to nearly 1,500 members, patriots united to block the Trump agenda, following the Indivisible Guide. There are multiple Indivisible groups within Washington’s eighth congressional district, all working to hold Rep. Dave Reichert, Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell accountable to their constituents.

Media contact: Chris Petzold, email, phone

Available For Comment / Available For Interview

This is typically used when news breaks and you want to be part of the story fast. It’s often a great way of saying “We’re available!” without taking the time to write out a statement.

This is a good choice if you have a handful of key reporters in your that you’ve worked with before on a specific issue, and are confident they’d be interested in getting your take. This is also a good way to get the attention of a new reporter who covers this issue but that you haven’t worked with in the past -- by sending a personalized note as opposed to BCCing them on a statement.

Send these emails ASAP after a breaking news event. Let reporters know why they should want to talk to the person you’re making available, what their hook is to the breaking news, and provide the spokesperson’s availability with as much detail as possible, as well as a reliable point of contact to arrange an interview. Link to a bio or previous coverage of the person.

Some reporters may prefer to talk with you over quoting from a press release or statement because they’re more likely to get unique content from your conversation, while multiple reporters could get the same quote if they just use your press release. Even keeping this in mind, note that it’s OK to read something over the phone if you’re not comfortable giving an in-depth interview. It’s OK to say that you are ready to share a comment about this situation, but aren’t prepared to talk about other topics right now.

EXAMPLE AVAILABLE FOR COMMENT/AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW EMAIL
SUBJECT:

Hi [reporter],

I saw you were tweeting about Rep. Jimmy Duncan’s announcement that he won’t be seeking re-election.

Indivisible East Tennessee’s founder is online and available to comment any time today or tomorrow.

[Contact name] [Email] [Phone number]

Indivisible East Tenn has been lobbying Duncan persistently for several months to hold town halls and listen to constituents on health care and other issues — which is what he may have been referring to when he mentioned “recent attacks against me from the far left” in his statement about his decision to leave office.

Let me know if you’re interested. Thanks!

USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO MAKE STATEMENTS FOR MEDIA

As we said, all these communications are just conventions. The fact is, today, statements made on Twitter and Facebook are starting to often serve a similar function as a way for getting information out to the press. (See: our current president.)

This is a double-edged sword.  

On the one hand: reporters will often happily cover statements that you post on Twitter and Facebook. That can be a good approach when you have something longer or more casual to say, and it has the advantage that there’s no need to reformat and reinvent the wheel. If your group’s going to run with this strategy, just make sure you’re reaching people on your press list who aren’t big social media users. (For example, you can send an email saying “FYI, we just posted this reaction to the President’s DACA announcement on our Facebook page.”)

On the other hand: as a reminder, reporters may be checking your social media accounts, whether you’d like them to or not. Periodically, in addition to whatever policies and privacy settings your accounts have, it’s a good idea to scroll through your account and think about what a reporter would see, checking for any distracting or negative material--including the comments section. Definitely do a check like this before directing reporters’ attention to an announcement you’ve made on your social media accounts.

TIPS TO MAKE YOUR RELEASES AND STATEMENTS GO FAR

Here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • Timing matters: When will reporters need to have this information in order to be able to use it?  A beautifully crafted press release that comes in too late doesn’t do much good.
    • Before you start writing, give yourself and your teammates a deadline for hitting “send,” and stick to it. Build in time for teammates to look at it, as needed.
    • If you’re getting the word out about upcoming an event, check out the example timeline in this training on pitching events.
    • If you’re reacting to breaking news, a reporter may be working on publishing a story online within the hour, so getting a statement to them quickly could mean the difference between being included or not. Consider sending a quick email to specific reporters you’re in touch with to let them know “FYI, we’ll have a statement coming shortly.”
  • Make your press releases user-friendly:
    • Paste the text of your release into the body of an email so that reporters can easily cut-and-paste the text into their stories. If you’d like to attach a PDF version also, that’s fine: PDFs often look nicer and more consistently formatted.  But make sure a reporter can grab what they need easily.
    • Be careful of sending big attachments. A few photos are OK. To send a whole album’s worth, send a link instead. To send a video, upload it to Facebook, YouTube or another site and send a link. You can mention in your email that the full original file is available on request.  
    • Consider adding a press releases section to your website. It can be handy for reporters to have as a reference.
    • Have a friend do a last editing check for typos.
  • It’s OK to add other content that’s essential to telling the story: While it’s nice to be able to know how to put together a simple press release in a traditional format, it’s OK to add attachments, links and other additions to your release if they’re relevant. (Keeping the main body of it to one page is a good goal.)  
    • Will you be holding a vigil in an especially beautiful spot, with significance to your story? Include a photo.
    • The moderator of your candidate forum isn’t a famous name, but runs a really great podcast? Include a link to a cool recent interview.
    • Let’s say your group is visiting your MoC’s office to talk about health care, and a couple parents will be bringing their kids along. Is that too small a detail? Not at all! -- think about including that in the “WHO” section of your media advisory.
    • Let’s say your group is issuing a statement reacting to a naive thing your MoC said about North Korea. The group leader who is being quoted in the statement has a family member who’s serving overseas in the military? Definitely, mention that in there.  (If they’re OK with it.)

Before you hit send on a press release, think about how you’d explain the events going on to a friend, and the details you’d highlight to them. Is there something missing? Don’t let the formality of the format get in the way of telling an interesting story.