While a press release for a law enforcement agency follows many of the same rules governing press releases in general, there often is a need for a greater understanding of citizen privacy laws and a clear chain of command to approve the final version of the release. Ongoing investigations can be compromised by press releases that are sent out too soon, and the department may face lawsuits when names are printed before they've been verified. Conversely, public relations officers need to know how to write a press release for law enforcement to build community support and avoid negative scrutiny.
Learn the basics of a press release. A press release that gets noticed and receives the intended publicity clearly states the facts of the event or announcement in the first paragraph. Dates and times are clearly identified in the second paragraph, followed by background and a brief statement about the agency sending out the release.
Make sure that contact information is clearly printed on the top and bottom of the release and the press release is dated. Put the direct phone line number of the person whom you want to be contacted, and make sure that person is available to take the calls when they come in. If you are the agency contact, consider including a cell phone number for immediate access.
Find out who gives the final approval for the release of the information. Every case may require a different set of eyes on the writing to ensure its accuracy. While a law enforcement public relations officer may have the authority to release statements to the press, it's worth the small amount of effort to run the piece by the chief or other managing officer in the agency before sending it out.
Consult the department's legal advisor if you have any questions about privacy issues when writing a press release. In addition to federal laws that protect minors and others involved in sealed litigations, every state has various laws to protect its citizens. Private law firms specializing in privacy laws can be secured if you are a private law enforcement business without access to governmental authority. Proskauer Rose, LLP provides a slate of articles and blogs regarding public privacy laws.
Offer to provide interviews and access to public records to the press. If you want to receive positive publicity, utilize the press release as an invitation to the media to cover the issues that you want covered. Use the press release to woo reporters and overcome the ubiquitous "no comment" response they often receive.
Find out which reporter covers your agency and send the press release directly to that person so the piece won't get lost in the piles of press releases sent to the newsroom every day.
Do not expect to write the article for the reporter. While the media relies on press releases to keep them informed of law enforcement activities, they also are free to write whatever angle they deem appropriate. Be prepared to answer every question revolving around the topic you are presenting.
- Find out which reporter covers your agency and send the press release directly to that person so the piece won't get lost in the piles of press releases sent to the newsroom every day.
- Do not expect to write the article for the reporter. While the media relies on press releases to keep them informed of law enforcement activities, they also are free to write whatever angle they deem appropriate. Be prepared to answer every question revolving around the topic you are presenting.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."