Creating a Press Release for Your CAC
(And How to Stand Out in a Sea of Emails)

By Amanda Jarrett, Communications and Marketing Director at NCAC
Hitting the Send button on my first press release was more stressful than I ever anticipated. I broke out in a cold sweat with thoughts of all the things that could go wrong. My anxiety surprised me. After all, I had read countless press releases during my 15 years in television news. Being on this end of it was totally foreign to me.

It also made me realize how many people may not know the best practices and insider tricks to get a press release to the top of the digital pile.

Engaging the media is important for many reasons. It helps us inform the public about upcoming events, like fundraisers. It also gives us a platform for our cause. And on a broader level, it gives us the opportunity to frame the narrative concerning child sexual abuse in our communities. Most meaningfully, lasting relationships with the media start with the press release. The press release gets the reporters to your event or campus. Think of it as the beginning of a relationship: you want to give just enough information to pique interest without overwhelming the reader.

Develop Boilerplate Text that Describes Your Agency

Before you sit down and start typing your press release, you need a boilerplate for your agency. The boilerplate is a quick synopsis describing your agency. I have multiple boilerplates for the National Children’s Advocacy Center, but this is the one I use most often:

  • The mission of the National Children's Advocacy Center (NCAC) is to Model, Promote, and Deliver Excellence in Child Abuse Response and Prevention through Service, Education, and Leadership. The NCAC was the first Children’s Advocacy Center in the world and serves as the model for the multidisciplinary response to child sexual abuse investigations and interventions, which has revolutionized our nation’s response to child abuse. Since opening its doors in 1985, this innovative model has now been implemented in more than 950 cities throughout the United States, and in the past ten years has also been implemented in at least 34 countries throughout the world. The NCAC provides forensic interviews, victim advocacy, medical evaluations, evidence-based mental health services, at no charge, to children in Madison County, including the cities of Huntsville and Madison. In addition to providing direct services to victims of abuse in the community, the NCAC provides abuse prevention programs for children and adults, and the NCAC Training Center is internationally renowned for training child abuse response professionals across the globe. Since 1985, more than 158,000 professionals in 179 countries have benefited from NCAC Training Center programs. 

Your agency’s boilerplate can be as short as 100 words or as long as 250. You can include information such as the number of employees at your CAC or the different agencies within your MDT.

Prepare Your Press Release: What to Include

Once you have your boilerplate written, it’s time to move on to the main event – preparing to release your press release. At the very top of the release you will want to include the date you send the release and a contact name and phone number, and you will want to tell the reader if this information is okay to be released now or if the information is for planning purposes. As a rule, I say the information is “for immediate release” unless I am hosting a news conference. In the latter case, I say the information is “for planning purposes.”

I often add a title to my press release, but that is not necessary. I always include the location of the NCAC before starting my first paragraph. That first paragraph should include the 5 W’s of journalism – Who, What, When, Where, and Why. You will want to include enough information that the reader could write a story from your press release. If you are hosting an event like a news conference, fundraiser, or open house, be sure the particulars of that information stand out. I have included two examples below – feel free to use either as a template.

Send Out Your Press Release

You will want to send your release twice when possible. Send it the first time 7-10 days prior to the event and send it the second time the night before or morning of the event. It is also okay to call newsrooms the day of the event to see if they will send a reporter. You can also call the newsrooms to get the best email address to contact. The web form on media outlet websites will work, but having a direct newsroom email contact is better if you can get one. If you have a relationship with a reporter, producer, editor, or other newsroom employee, copy them on the release as well.

Here are a couple of insider tips: do not send the news release as an attachment. Most reporters are working in the field and reading this from their phones. Copying and pasting the release into the body of the email will help get you to the top of the pile. Also, give some detail in the subject line of the email. I will usually format the subject line one of two ways:

  • MEDIA RELEASE: NCAC preparing clients for new school year
  • MEDIA ADVISORY: NCAC to introduce new facility dog

This gives the reader important information. Media release signals “read now.” Media advisory says “put this on the calendar.”

Finally, if a media outlet does not get a reporter to your event, snap some pictures on your smart phone and send them in to the newsroom! Trust me, newsrooms need content and sometimes they are too short-staffed to get everywhere they need to be. This will give the newsroom the content – and they will remember you helped them the next time you have a media event.

Engaging with your local media can be so beneficial in educating your community about what services your CAC provides and your mission. Feel free to email or call me with any questions! I am happy to walk you through any concerns or problems you may encounter!

Amanda Jarrett is the Communications and Marketing Director at the National Children's Advocacy Center.

Welcome to Oklahoma's New State Chapter Director!
The Children’s Advocacy Centers of Oklahoma (CACO) welcomes a new Executive Director, Carrie Little, in March 2020.

Little brings with her more than 19 years of experience in the social work field including leadership roles in child welfare and domestic violence prevention in the states of Oklahoma, California, and Colorado. She has experience in non-profit leadership, and left her role as Vice President of Administrative Affairs for The Parent Child Center of Tulsa to join CACO.

Little has lived in Tulsa for over 10 years, and served as the Executive Director of the Child Advocacy Center in Canadian County before moving to Tulsa in 2009.
Core Training Schedule for 2020
Medical/Legal Training Academy
May 5-7, 2020
Designed for medical professionals and prosecutors who work on child abuse cases, this training will focus on understanding both roles within the MDT model, understanding the significance of findings and documentation, and preparing witnesses for court.

Registration Deadline: April 7, 2020
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
August 19-21, 2020
TF-CBT will train mental health professionals on the evidence-based psychotherapy approach designed to treat traumatic stress in children and adolescents.

Registration Deadline: July 22, 2020

Our two newest trainings, which debuted in 2019, are returning in 2020. If you are located from within the Southern region, you may be eligible for travel assistance of up to $350.00.
Cultivating the Role of Team Facilitator
May 19-21, 2020
This training was created to support current MDT facilitators and their managers in understanding, developing, and sustaining the role of team facilitator.

Registration Deadline: April 21, 2020
What Executive Directors Need to Know About Direct Service Provision
September 1-3, 2020
Led by NCAC staff, this training will cover the essential information that CAC EDs need to effectively develop, manage, and expand direct services, particularly when EDs may not have the subject matter expertise in all these areas.

Registration opening soon.
Over 200 people have enrolled in the Board of Directors Blueprint since its launch.
The Board of Directors Blueprint is an online, self-guided course for those who serve on a CAC Board. Four modules, each approximately 30 minutes long, cover topics such as the CAC model, supporting the Executive Director, the roles and responsibilities of the Board, and addressing Vicarious Trauma in the organization.

This publication is funded through grant #2019-CI-FX-K003 from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Neither the U.S. Department of Justice nor any of its components, operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse, this publication (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided).