Writing a Press Release
An entire communications network that needs ideas and information exists in each community in this country. The editors–the people who receive the notices of events happening in the community–will view you as a reporter in the field, but there are contact formats and skills that one must understand in order to gain coverage. If you send a correctly constructed, properly worded press release, you increase the chances of obtaining publicity for your organization and spreading the message to the public.
The press release is the announcement of your new organization, its intentions, and information concerning its first meeting. It should basically follow the format of the sample release below, but there is plenty of room for variation in the body of the copy. Tell the editor what is happening–when, where, and why. Then follow this information with some background or facts.
The person who is listed as the contact in the upper right-hand corner should be accessible, available, and able to speak articulately about the group and early-onset bipolar disorder should an editor call for more information or for an interview.
If your new group has letterhead stationery, the release should be typed double-spaced on it; if not, a plain bond paper will do as well. It can be duplicated on a copy machine. The release is typically mailed out six weeks before the scheduled meeting, but it’s always a good idea to check the deadline requirements for each publication.
To compile a list of the editors and announcers you should contact with the release, call the general numbers of the newspapers and radio and television stations (check your local Yellow Pages under “Newspapers,” “Radio” and “Television–Cable”). Explain that you wish to publicize the starting-up of a support group for parents of children with bipolar disorder and that you need to know who handles articles on health-related topics and who handles calendar listings for the community events. Send each of these people a copy of the release (don’t forget to get email addresses for email press releases also).
Don’t let it stop there. Follow up within a few days with a telephone call to see whether that editor received the release and to find out if he or she needs any further information. You can be warmer and more immediate on the phone and can tune the editor in, and you might just stir up enough interest to persuade the editor to do an article about your group. This would be a great coup as many people in the community who might really benefit from your efforts can read about the group in the local paper, give you a call, and get involved. Interested physicians and mental health professionals will also know how to get in touch with you and will refer parents, as well as possibly offer their services to help launch the group.
Once the group is launched, send monthly email announcements to the calendar listing editor of each paper so that each meeting is noted by the community.
Sample Press Release Below
Contact: Janice Papolos
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SUPPORT GROUP FOR PARENTS OF BIPOLAR CHILDREN TO HOLD ITS FIRST MEETING–SEPTEMBER 20, 2002
A newly-formed support group for parents of children who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder will hold its first meeting in the auditorium at St. Luke’s Hospital, 230 Maple Avenue, Newtown, at 8:00 P.M., the 20th of September, 2002. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.
Bipolar disorder in children is thought to affect over one million children in this country alone, but, it is often mistaken for ADHD or depression. It is estimated that one-third of the children who are being diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder with hyperactivity are actually suffering from early symptoms of bipolar disorder. A recent study that examined children who first had bouts of depression reported that almost 50% went on to manifest the bipolar form of the disorder.
The cardinal symptoms of early-onset bipolar disorder are rapid shifts in mood: the child can veer from irritable, easily annoyed, angry mood states to silly, goofy, giddy elation and then just as easily descend into low energy periods of intense boredom, depression, and social withdrawal, fraught with self-recrimination and suicidal thoughts. These abrupt shifts in mood can occur several times a day. Temper tantrums–rages– that go on for protracted periods and during which the child can become very aggressive are also common, as are grandiose thinking and behavior, racing thoughts, and a decreased need for sleep. These children are very often oppositional and defiant and may also suffer severe separation anxiety, night terrors, distractibility, and impulsivity.
The disorder is thought to be highly genetic, but is eminently treatable with mood stabilizers, therapy and accommodations at school.
Families dealing with such an ill child can quickly become exhausted, traumatized, and isolated, and this new group intends to provide support, friendship information and referrals to the parents and siblings, grandparents and friends. Monthly meetings will feature psychiatrists, researchers, and health professionals who will provide the most current information about the disorder. In addition, there will be smaller “rap” sessions in which parents can tell their own stories, trade information, and give and gain support.
For further information about the group and the meeting please call (203)555-4321.