Even in these days of new media and Web 2.0, the press release remains a tried-and-true way of getting your political message out. By writing a press release for a political campaign, you can reach both the traditional news media, and a network of bloggers and webmasters sympathetic to your candidate or your cause. Send your release to the right audience(s) with the right message and it can have an even greater impact than was possible before the Internet. Follow these tips to effectively create and distribute a political press release.
Target your audience --- create a list of news outlets you want to reach. Take the time to discover the names and e-mail or snail mail addresses of the person likely to cover your campaign. If it's a local election, target your community newspapers and local radio stations. For statewide issues, look to the largest media outlets in the state. For national campaigns, reach out to major urban dailies, news magazines, and radio, cable, and broadcast TV networks. Of course, the larger the media outlet, the tougher the competition for coverage.
Remember the blogosphere --- whether it's state, local or national politics, odds are there's more than one blogger or web site dealing with similar issues. You could find you get your most effective coverage in this manner.
Adopt a professional presentation for your release. A number of advocacy groups offer online advice for formatting a press release. See Resources.
Write to the 5 W's. This is the formula taught in basic journalism classes --- whether publicizing an event or making a statement for your candidate, make sure your release covers the Who, What, Where, When and Why. Who is involved? Who is affected? What will take place? Where will it happen (or did it happen)? When will it happen (or did it happen)? Why did it happen? Why is it important?
Find the news value in your content. Your release can state that your candidate has an opinion, or your organization is holding an event. Bloggers and print editors will want to know why that matters to their readers. The same holds true when you respond to another candidate or organization's statements. While you can point out weaknesses in your opponent's position, it's more important to explain why the issue --- and your position --- matters.
Focus on the facts. Few if any editors will be interested in opinion. Provide facts, statistics and examples to bolster your organization's goals and statements.
Keep it simple. Try to keep your press release to one page. For complex issues, offer (and prepare) fact sheets that provide more details.
Prepare for quick responses. Be sure to include contact information with your release. Have someone available 24/7 to respond to media inquiries. With a heated race or hot political issues, expect your opponent(s) to respond to your release with their own views. Consider possible responses to your release and prepare counter-arguments ahead of time. This will allow you to make a speedy response when the opposition --- or the news media --- questions your position.