We recently focused on using earned media to bring attention to your political campaign without spending money, and writing a political campaign press release (and distributing it to the right newspapers and media outlets) is the first step in the process. Political campaign press releases, if done the right way, make it easy for reporters, bloggers and news people to grasp the newsworthiness of your announcement, envision it as an interesting story, and share the information with their audience.
Distributing a political campaign press release is a topic that we will focus on in a future article, but first let’s talk about how to write a great release. I’ve been lucky enough to be a political reporter, a political consultant and a political candidate for office, which means I’ve experienced the press release process from all sides.
The first thing that many new candidates ask about political campaign press releases is what they should write them about. While it’s not a good idea to put out a press release about every little thing (media outlets can start to get tired of hearing from you, after all), there are probably more opportunities than you realize to put out a legitimate release over the course of your campaign.
I like to plan press releases ahead of time when I am laying out the overall strategy and benchmarks for my campaign. If you plan your political campaign correctly, then you’ll identify several important milestones that are key to your victory: launching your campaign; knocking on 1,000 doors; making 1,000 phone calls; having your first fundraiser and etcetera.
Each time one of these milestones is reached, you should put out a press release to the media. Even a smaller local political campaign should have at least half a dozen opportunities to trumpet about reaching a milestone in a press release. As for frequency of your press releases, I wouldn’t distribute them more than once every two weeks for maximum effectiveness.
The biggest bit of advice I can give you about how to write an effective press release is to keep it as short as possible. Remember: the less you write, the more the media outlets will read. Sending a two-page-long, wordy and bloated press release will only get it tossed in the trash.
As a former reporter, I can tell you that I always appreciated it when political campaigns tried to write the story for me in their press releases. Reporters have very busy schedules, and your press release is much more likely to get published if it is already in proper news format and includes all of the necessary, brief and well-written details.
Give your press release an interesting heading that is written in the form of a newspaper article title, too, to catch the media’s immediate interest. It’s fine to include a couple of quotes from the candidate, as well, but remember the most important rule: keep it brief. At the end of the press release, include information about how your campaign can be contacted for more information and your campaign website address, if applicable.
Here’s an example of an actual press release that I put out for my first city council campaign (feel free to use the same format for your own political campaign press releases):
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 27, 2009
Van Treuren Completes 400 Miles of Door-to-Door Campaigning
Amherst — City Council Candidate Phil Van Treuren is pleased to announce that he has walked his 400th mile as part of his seven-month “Amherst Service March.”
In April, Van Treuren said that he would wear the same combat boots he donned in Army Basic Training while knocking on doors in Amherst.
“One of the things I learned in the Army was the value of hard work and tenacity,” Van Treuren said. “I know that most candidates don’t start knocking on doors until later in the year, but I’m starting in April to introduce myself to as many voters as possible.”
Since then, Van Treuren has knocked on more than 4,000 Amherst doors, shaken more than 2,000 hands, made phone calls to more than 1,000 residents, and sent 3,500 personal, hand-written cards to voters.
Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009. You can learn more about Phil Van Treuren and his campaign by visiting www.PhilVanTreuren.com.
For more information, contact Phil Van Treuren at (440) 555-5555.
One last thing to keep in mind about political campaign press releases: expect to be disappointed about how few news stories you get out of them. Even if you put out a slew of spectacular press releases, you’re going to get far fewer mentions in the newspapers than you think you will. The only earned media coverage that you are guaranteed to get is when you announce your candidacy and the day after the election, when you either win or lose the race.
That shouldn’t stop you, however, from distributing political campaign press releases on a regular basis. Occasionally the press will bite, and a sending out a steady stream of positive press releases will help your campaign in other ways even if they don’t generate a lot of free press.