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6: 2012 PRESS SECRETARY SURVIVAL GUIDE Introduction

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Chapter 1 Getting Started  Planning Ahead  The Press Plan  Press Lists  Press Packets

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Chapter 2 Effective Press Relations 11  Basic Rules of Engagement  Differences Between Small and Large Newspapers Chapter 3 Writing for the Press  Op-Eds  Letters to the Editor  Press Releases  Press Advisories  Talking Points

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Chapter 4 Television and Radio  The Basics of TV News  Understanding How TV News Works  Getting it Right  The Basics of Radio  Radio Actualities

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Chapter 5 Effective Press Events  Earned Media Events: Setting Up  Covering Opposition Press Events  Editorial Board Meetings: An Overview  Tips On Effective Editorial Board Meetings  Earning Media Coverage From Paid Media

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Chapter 6 Record Keeping & Archiving  Newspaper Articles  Newspaper Mastheads  Press Releases and Advisories  Direct Mail  Television and Radio Ads

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Chapter 7 Crisis Communications 49  Tips for Handling Crises


Press Releases The purpose of issuing a press release is to help your campaign build a case on a certain issue and, in the process, get media coverage and increase the visibility of your campaign. But a news release can also be an effective tool to outline and update your position on different issues to reporters and, in turn, voters. Press releases are the foundation of any successful earned media program, but they can become ineffective when overused. Releases should be succinct, easy-to-read, and they should only be issued when you have a substantive point to make. [Note: Sample press releases are included at the end of this chapter.] The following are several “must observe” rules to remember when writing your press releases: Press Releases Must be Newsworthy: Before you even start writing, ask yourself if what you are about to prepare will help advance the central theme of the campaign. Don’t write releases on topics that nobody cares about. Be Timely: Making news means distributing timely information. Release statements to the press before noon. If you’ve been in regular contact with your reporters, you should have a pretty good idea of which reporters prefer to have releases e-mailed and which reporters prefer to receive releases via fax. If faxing the release, double check to see that it was received. If a release was sent at noon but the reporter doesn’t regularly check his/her email, you’re out of luck. It’s up to you to make sure that reporters are on the lookout for news generated by your campaign. Keep it Focused: Press releases should focus on a single point. You can use one or more issues to make this point, but don’t write a release focusing on your opponent’s position on taxes and then wander into a topic like fundraising. Keep it Interesting: Remember that reporters are busy people. If they see your candidate’s name tied to a boring press release every time they look at their inbox, it won’t be long before they stop looking altogether. Only send interesting releases. If your news release is compelling, it will merit attention and reporters will remember you. Keep in mind that the definition of “interesting news” isn’t necessarily the same for all news outlets. A story highlighting your opponent’s history of supporting partial-birth abortion may be newsworthy in a large market paper, while a local weekly may reject it. Weekly newspapers are generally more interested in local events (e.g. rallies, campaigning at a local coffee shop, etc.). Research is Critical: Make sure your candidate’s statement is well documented. Include pertinent facts and figures. Double-check your facts to make sure that they are, in fact,


accurate. And make sure that any supporting documentation you use is up-to-date. Exercise Good Mechanics: The press release itself should be easy to read, and it should convey a message—even at a glance. •

Good Releases have Brief, Punchy Headlines—The headline should capture the essence of the release in the fewest number of words, and it should leave the reader wanting to read more. It should appear centered on the page, in bold type with capitalized first letters. Follow the main headline with a more descriptive sub-headline.

Create a Strong Lead—The opening paragraph should concisely convey the key point of the press release. Answer who, what, when, and where in the first paragraph. Reporters should understand the point of the release from reading only the title and the lead paragraph.

Avoid Single Spacing Paragraphs—A press release that looks like a term paper isn’t as likely be read as one that is double spaced, or spaced at one-and-a-half lines.

Keep it Concise—If it takes more than one page to say it, you’re trying to say too much. It’s fine to include attachments, but keep the release itself short. Reporters are far too busy to take time the time to read a three page release. Occasionally, a release will merit multiple pages (e.g. healthcare proposal, major speeches, etc.), but these are the exception rather than the rule.

Stick to Short Sentences—Short sentences make the release easier to read. Model your paragraphs after those in the local newspapers.

Use Active, not Passive Tenses—The active tense will give life to the release and the candidate. Rather than writing: “Today, a progressive education proposal was unveiled by John Q. Candidate,” try “John Q. Candidate today announced a comprehensive education proposal.”

Quote the Candidate—Your release should include at least one substantive and quotable remark that is attributed to the candidate. Write in sound bites. Visualize the candidate’s quote in an article.

Double-check your Claims: If you can’t confirm the accuracy of what you write, do not write it. Credibility is easy to lose, but very hard to regain. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread: There is no excuse for grammatical or typographical errors in a press release. Read the release slowly, and seek out errors. Have at least one other person review the release prior to sending it. The more eyes that have looked over


your release, the less likely it is to contain a mistake. Make Sure your Releases are Read: Items that are sent to newsrooms unsolicited (this includes press releases) often get overlooked or lost. Make an effort to ask each reporter how he or she prefers to receive news from the campaign. Most reporters prefer email, but there may be some who still prefer faxes. Generally, press releases that are e-mailed directly to a reporter are noticed more quickly.

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[“For Immediate Release” or “Embargoed until (a specified time)”] [Date]

Contact: [Name of Press Secretary] [Contact Number]

PRESS RELEASE

[TITLE] [Subtitle] [CITY AND STATE OF ORIGIN]— [The lead paragraph should explain who, what, when, where. This paragraph should clearly and concisely convey the point of the release]. [This paragraph should contain a quote either by the candidate or another figure close to the issue.] [This paragraph should expand on the lead paragraph. Any background information or supporting documentation should be contained in this paragraph.] [This paragraph should contain a final quote either from the candidate or from someone close to the issue at hand.] [press releases are traditionally ended with either “###” or “-30-”; however, “###” is preferred as “-30-” is generally considered outdated.]


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For Immediate Release September 19, 2012

Contact: [Name of Press Secretary] 800-555-5555 press@candidate2012.com

Smith Has Some Explaining To Do Democrat Joe Smith Under Pressure to Explain how his Support of Marriage Tax Penalty Squares with “Helping Working Families” Campaign Theme FAIRVIEW, USA " Supporters of congressional candidate John Q. Candidate today stepped up pressure on Democrat Joe Smith to publicly reconcile his 2001 vote in Congress in support of the notorious Marriage Tax with his current “commitment” to “helping working families,” one of Smith’s main campaign themes. “Joe Smith’s say-anything-to-get-elected campaign strategy has hit a brick wall,” remarked Fairview Taxpayer Forum President Michael McDonald. “Voting taxpayers and families across this district are scratching their heads as they try to make sense of Smith’s contradicting positions on family-friendly legislation. Joe Smith has some serious explaining to do.” Last year, Democrat Joe Candidate voted against the Marriage Penalty and Family Tax Relief Act of 2001 (H.R. 6). The measure, which passed despite Candidate’s opposition, represents a 13.3% cut, or $1,531 savings for a family of four with an annual household income of $80,000. A family of four with a combined annual income of $40,000 pays 6.76% less, or $218, in annual taxes as a result of the bill’s passage. More than 60,000 couples in the district had been negatively affected by the erstwhile tax. “Like Joe Smith, I believe Fairview’s next Congressman should help working families,” remarked Candidate. “We just happen to strongly disagree over whether or not a $1,500 annual tax on working families helps achieve this objective.” ###


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For Immediate Release September 19, 2012

Contact: [Name of Press Secretary] 800-555-5555 press@candidate2012.com

Candidate Earns Business First Endorsement Republican Candidate for Congress John Q. Candidate Wins Backing of Region’s Largest Not-For-Profit Business Advocacy Organization FAIRVIEW, USA " Congressional candidate John Q. Candidate today earned a major backing as Business First officially endorsed him. “John Candidate understands that America’s businesses hold the key for creating jobs and spreading economic prosperity,” remarked Business First Vice President and Political Director Dan Smith. “Business First believes John will be an effective legislator who will vigorously support businesses, small and large, on critical issues like taxes, trade and legal reform.” Business First, which represents over 12,000 businesses, is the region’s largest not-for-profit business advocacy group. More than 96 percent of businesses represented by Business First are small to mid-sized businesses, which employ fewer than 100 employees. “I’m extremely pleased to have earned the support of the small business community,” remarked Candidate. “I intend to work in Congress to bring new investments and more private-sector jobs to our district and our state. Our businesses deserve a Representative who will fight to streamline burdensome regulations, and support real tax relief as well as meaningful education reform initiatives.” ###


NRCC 2012 PRESS SECRETARY SURVIVAL GUIDE  

NRCC Documentation Guidline

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