Press Release Tip 22
Use Your Press Release To Tell a story
This is the first lesson in Module 4 about how to write press releases readers love. Today’s tip is devoted to story-telling.
Some of the most talented press release writers have learned how to use their releases to tell a story. In fact, their press releases sound exactly like stories that you’d read in a newspaper. Good stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. They have drama. And characters.
The release below was written by Valerie Wigton, director of public relations for Badertscher Communications in Marion, Ohio. It’s about Amy Pencil, a student at TRECA Digital Academy, a small non-profit public online school for Ohio students in grades K-12.
Online education is a viable alternative for students who, for whatever reason, don’t “fit” the traditional brick-and-mortar school model.
“Each year, the school holds a graduation ceremony, with students meeting their teachers face-to-face for the very first time,” Valerie says. “Rather than the traditional ‘Students graduate from TDA’ news release, I worked with my client to identify students with unique situations who were able to earn their high school diploma in an online environment.”
Why write 2 releases?
Valerie sent two different press releases, each featuring a different student from the 2006 graduating class, to editors of two major metro newspapers, the Springfield News Sun and the Dayton Daily News. That was a smart move.
Both newspapers did their own interviews, printed stories at the top of the front page, and ran the entire story in their online versions. If Valerie had written only one version of the press release, both newspapers probably would have ended up with the same story and wouldn’t have been pleased.
At the end of the release, Valerie also included a list of people, complete with contact information, who the reporter could call to expand the story.
This press release sounds like a newspaper story because it has a beginning, a middle and an end. It shows the conflict between Amy and her disease and explains how she reached her ultimate goal–to graduate on time.
No medial terminology
Valerie skipped all the cumbersome medical terminology that would have bogged down the story. Instead, she used interesting details about Amy’s life, punchy quotes from Amy and a school administrator, and a happy ending–Amy’s hopes of becoming a child psychologist and working with kids who have had childhood diseases.
Isn’t this a lot better than a boring press release that could have said “Treca Digital Academy today announces the graduation of…”?
By the way, Valerie is a former newspaper reporter. I’m not surprised.
Here’s the release:
(Contact information follows at end of article)
Springfield TDA Student Has
‘Determination’ in Her Blood
MARION, OH (05-11-06) — Amy Pencil has determination in her blood. Despite all odds, the high school senior from Springfield is determined to graduate in June.
It won’t be with her classmates at Shawnee High School, but with her “virtual” classmates at TRECA Digital Academy.
An avid volleyball and basketball player, Amy was diagnosed in 2002 with a blood disorder–phorasic outlet syndrome complicated by antibody phospholipid syndrome–after collapsing on the gym floor. Doctors found a blood clot in her shoulder. More were discovered. Complications followed.
Last year, Amy spent 180 days in Columbus Children’s Hospital.
Yet not once has her determination to graduate “on time” faltered. That’s because she discovered TDA, Ohio’s only non-profit online public school, serving K-12 students with unique education situations like Amy’s.
“I just couldn’t keep up with my work at Shawnee,” explained Amy after recently (May 11) returning home from a weeklong stay at Children’s Intensive Care Unit. “And I didn’t want to be home-schooled or taught by my parents. TDA has been the perfect fit for me and my family.”
TDA allows students to learn at their own pace via computer at home. “So if I feel really good I can get a lot done and move ahead,” Amy explained. “Or if I’m having a crummy day or I’m in the hospital, I can take a break.”
Amy is finalizing online school work in chemistry, advanced math, English 4, U.S. Government, and geography in anticipation of TDA’s June 4 commencement ceremonies. “My family has really been helpful in keeping me motivated,” says Amy. “I’m going to do everything I can to graduate on time.”
TDA’s Damon Osborne, dean of academic education, has been working
closely to help Amy reach her goal. “We’re here to provide that flexibility for families with students like Amy,” he explained. “That’s why we exist.”
Amy plans to use TDA’s online Elluminate© curriculum support rooms to finish her senior year. With Elluminate©, she can literally raise her hand, turn up her microphone, and talk “live” to her teachers, verbally communicating homework assignments. Two more blood clots prevent her from using a keyboard, the
traditional mode of completing online lessons at TDA.
Well spoken and “very in touch” with her medical disorder, Amy was recently selected to represent Children’s Hospital at the statewide “Blood Clots Seminar” (May 13). She’ll join speakers from the National Alliance for Thrombosis and Thrombophilia, and physicians from Ohio State University’s Thrombosis Program and the Hemostasis/Thrombosis Center at Columbus Children’s Hospital to discuss how her life has changed.
“I went from being a normal, healthy teenager–a 90% free-throw shooter, in fact, to having a blood clot in my jugular vein, the scariest thing yet,” notes Amy, who receives daily injections of clot-busting medicine in her stomach. “But thanks to TDA, I’ve been able to stay in school. That’s very important to me because I want to start college this Fall.”
Amy must first undergo yet another surgery to remove two more clots discovered in her arm and shoulder. “After that, I’ll start college at Clark State, then I hope to transfer to Ohio State,” says a determined Amy. “That’s my dream.”
Her career aspiration? “I want to be a child psychologist and work with kids who have had childhood diseases. That would be amazing.”
The following individuals have given consent to be contacted to pursue this story:
Amy Pencil, age 18, senior, TRECA Digital Academy
Daughter of Rhonda and Ricky Pencil
1341 Buck Creek Lane, Springfield OH
(937)408-4200 (cell – Rhonda Pencil)
Damon Osborne, Dean of Academic Education
TRECA Digital Academy
1-888-828-4798, ext. 252
Linda Casto, Social Worker
Kay Monda, Thrombophilia Nurse Coordinator
(614)722-3250, ext. 4
Elizabeth Varga, Certified Genetic Counselor
OSU Department of Internal Medicine
Board Member, National Alliance for Thrombosis and Thrombophilia
Opportunity #22 to write a press release: Fundraising kick-off
Raising funds for a worthy cause? Write a press release. Explain the benefits of contributing. And include a call to action telling people what to do if they can’t donate but want to volunteer their time.
Fund-raising projects can get a real boost if you can convince a newspaper to support the project by writing an editorial about it. “Special Report #33: How to Win the Support & Respect of Newspaper Editorial Boards” explains how to approach an editorial board about your cause or issue, present a convincing case, ask for their support, and how to follow up once you get it.
Or grab my entire Value Pack of 52 special reports for only $97, a savings of $267 if purchased individually. See the entire list of titles and order here.
Next: Create a Top 10 list.