A press release is a piece of communication directed at media outlets to announce something newsworthy. Press releases are usually sent to journalists at newspapers, online media platforms, radio stations or television networks.
Consider who you want to reach as this will determine which publications you target and how you address them. For example, if you are crowdfunding towards a new science lab, you might send information to national science journals as well as to local radio stations and newspapers.
Ideally you want the hyperlink to your campaign page to be easily clickable for potential donors, so digital media outlets should be your primary target. But local papers can be a valuable way of reaching an older (and often more affluent) audience, who may well have past connections to your school. Add a link or button to the homepage of your school's website as people are more likely to search for the school than type in a long crowdfunding address link.
Don't send your press release when your campaign is on 0%! People are more likely to donate when a project has momentum and looks likely to be successful. For that reason, an ideal time to send your press release is when your fundraising campaign has already reached around 21% of its target. However, it is worth contacting print publications in advance to request details of their schedules – monthly magazines will need content at least three weeks before publication, and newspapers ideally at least a week before going to print.
Journalists receive tons of press releases a day, and will likely only skim-read the opening sentence, so you should keep your press release short (no more than one side of A4) and punchy, and aim to convey the essence of your story in the first paragraph. Avoid making any political comment and keep your language active and positive.
National magazines: Publications connected to the subject matter of your campaign, e.g. history magazines if your project is about history, tech publications if it is for virtual reality resources. The more specific, the better; there are niche publications out there about pretty much every topic you can think of!
Local press: The national press will only be interested in extremely newsworthy campaigns, so it's likely to make sense to focus your efforts locally. Positive and/or unusual local-interest stories can be hard to come by for editors, so make sure your press release has a 'hook'. Online journals: Online-only magazines and local news websites can be a useful way to get your message out quickly.
Make sure you have the name, phone number and email address of the person you're contacting (it's good practice to phone the person after you have emailed them).
The most important thing is to know the person's name – so start by looking at articles that are in relevant publications/websites and find the names of the journalists who wrote them. Failing that, call the main editorial desk and ask who the best person to contact is – someone who covers general education stories, or, if your project falls into a particular subject area, perhaps they have a specialist journalist. Small, local publications or niche magazines are unlikely to have more than one or two in-house editors, so if all else fails, write to the editor.
It's best to include the press release in the body of an email, not as an attachment. Even if you include an image in the body of the email, also add your images as attachments. See below a suggested email format:
Remember that journalists receive a lot of press releases, so there's no guarantee they will open, let alone read your email! Send your email on a Monday or Tuesday at around 10:30am. This is the optimal time for people to open emails. By researching similar articles that the publication covers, and tailoring your subject line and introduction accordingly, you will increase your chances of being featured. The less work that the journalist needs to do to follow up on a story, the better, so use short sentences that can be easily cut and used to fit a particular space or word count.
Once sent, make sure someone is available to answer questions. At 2pm on the same day, follow up your email with a call to ensure that you stand out from other press releases. Ask the journalist if they received your press release and offer any additional information they require.
Christina Pashialis (@christina_p) is a freelance content marketer and formerly worked for ed-tech company
Hubbub. There, she supported both students and education professionals on their crowdfunding journeys; advising them on how to plan, promote and execute crowdfunding campaigns.