How to write a transformational press release for your nonprofit

Press releases can reduce the best nonprofit writing minds to pools of wet, sticky Jell-O.

It is of course possible to effortlessly compose a rather poor press release that no media outlet in their right mind (other than the community coupon papers) would ever dream of picking up. This is our nonprofit birthright.

But a good release that garners coverage?

Ah, a rarity.

And a transformational press release?

One may see one posted on the World Wildlife Fund Endangered Species page.

I’ve been mentoring Generous Mind and .W don Jon Hirst on this subject, and, as is always the case, the student is rapidly surpassing the teacher.

My two top resource recommendations on nonprofit press release writing are David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of PR and Marketing (which you can pick up through amazon.com here or get a free summary PDF download here) and Knight Communications Press Release Workshop here.

Jon quickly synthesized these resources and produced a “TG Press Release Ten”, which I would wholeheartedly recommend as a pre- and post-writing checklist against which to review any release you dream up:

1. Press releases have to be content that can stand on its own, not just for media professionals to consume.
2. Press releases define the ministry, not just reflect it.
3. Press releases are opportunities for authentic communication of ideas instead of simply defining distinctive and impact.
4. Press releases should engage traditional and social media outlets and give them the opportunity to connect and discuss.
5. Press releases need to be champion-driven and not organizationally-driven.
6. Press releases need to connect with a single person instead of focusing on mass media.
7. Press releases need to end up as content in the places where our partner’s champions are looking for a way to connect and engage a cause.
8. Press releases are successful if they result in new champions being engaged.
9. Press releases need to be created in a way that is seen as valuable to the potential champions.
10. Press releases accomplish the goals that traditional marketing and PR have accomplished and those objectives can no longer be separated.
  1. Press releases have to be content that can stand on its own, not just for media professionals to consume.
  2. Press releases define the ministry, not just reflect it.
  3. Press releases are opportunities for authentic communication of ideas instead of simply defining ministry distinctives and impact.
  4. Press releases should engage traditional and social media outlets and give them the opportunity to connect and discuss.
  5. Press releases need to be champion-driven and not organizationally-driven.
  6. Press releases need to connect with a single person instead of focusing on mass media.
  7. Press releases need to end up as content in the places where our ministry’s champions are looking for a way to connect and engage a cause.
  8. Press releases are successful if they result in new champions being engaged.
  9. Press releases need to be created in a way that is seen as valuable to the potential champions.
  10. Press releases accomplish the goals that traditional marketing and PR have accomplished and those objectives can no longer be separated.

Nicely played, sir!

For a sample of what it all looks like in real life, check out this release regarding Christian Resource International’s Operation Bare Your Bookshelf program. Note, however, that this press release is not the one that was done by Jon and his team for Christian Resource International (CRI) but rather one localized and released by a CRI champion to the media in her sphere of influence. Now the champion-centered release has exceeded the circulation of the original.

Which is what transformational PR is all about.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is also the International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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