How to Write a Press Release for Astronomy Outreach Events
If you experience the dilemma of a writer in front of a blank piece of paper when having to write a press release for your astronomy outreach event, here are a few tips to help you get the ball rolling.
1. Answer three questions
Q1 What is the objective of your event?
Is it a hands-on activity, a star party, a competition or a conference? What are you trying to accomplish in the end?
O2 Who is your target?
Students, amateur astronomers, young people or lay people? You can easily determine your target by defining the objectives mentioned in the above question. Knowing your target is the most vital information you need because everything will be tailored to the person you are talking with.
Q3 Where does your target take information from?
The web, social media, teenager’s magazines, newspapers? This will be the channel through which you will distribute your information, adapting the texts style accordingly. Neutral and informative for newspapers, fun and attractive for magazines, short and teasing for social media.
Once you have outlined the answers to these questions, it’s time to actually start writing. There are a few rules to guide you in the construction of a press release.
2. Press Release components
When writing a press release communicators use the Inverted Pyramid. You start with the most concise and vital information at the top (title + lead) and end with more background information (boiler plate).
Title: short, concessive and very attractive. One single phase of maximum one row and a half that would make you read further out of curiosity, interest, bewilderment. This is where you start “selling” your story.
Lead: or the first paragraph of the press release, usually in bold. Consider it the resume or a modern telegram. You have only one paragraph to say everything about your event. Include therefore the answers to the 6W, who are actually 5: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
Body: the rest of the paragraphs, but no more than five. The whole press release should definitely not be longer than at the very max 2 pages. The body should start with detailing the How? and therefore giving more information about what happens at the event: the program, who is invited, special guests, activities happening.
Quote: include in the body a quote from a relevant person, preferably an important or attractive person for the media. Make sure he says something catchy. This is the only part of the press release where you have almost total freedom of style.
Boiler plate: this is the last paragraph of a press release and it describes the organiser of the event. It is made of 2-3 phrases that summarise the mission of the organisation and a few more key information about it. It is also advisable to use this paragraph unchanged in every press release (unless some of the information needs updating).
Contact information: give the phone and email of a person that is always reachable, that is capable of talking to journalists and knows the project/event well enough to have all the information or at least make the right connections between the journalist and the relevant person from the organisers.
- The style is preferably neutral and fact-oriented. No self laudatory phrases, exaggerations, exclamations signs, rhetoric questions. However, this style loosens up if your press release is aimed at an adolescence magazine or a glossy magazine for example, where you should try and write as much as the journalists usually do there.
- Use pictures in good quality with caption and credits.
- Always spell out an acronym when first written in the text. Try to avoid them as much as possible though.
- Use short, powerful phrases, avoiding passive mode of speech.
- Don’t try to explain everything in the press release. It is not a paper, but just a short text to get people curious and involved.
- For examples, check the Events & Campaigns page.