Preparing a press release

At the end of this module you will find a case study on the coincidental death of a girl in the UK following HPV vaccination. The case study illustrates how communication with the media can be handled effectively even in a highly pressured situation.

Frequent press releases from the authorities concerned in investigating the death ensure that journalists are kept informed of the facts as they become known. This prevents adverse and ill-informed speculation from growing about the cause of the tragedy. In preparing an appropriate press release, you should consider two aspects: the title and the content. Move your mouse over the diagram to reveal these two aspects.

The title should be short and to the point – but it should also arouse interest, as in this example. The content of the press release should be clear and simple – short sentences are best.

Click here to view the full press release.

  • Present all the relevant facts in a logical sequence, getting your main points in at the beginning – get help from your colleagues to design your press release.
  • Include a quote if you can get one from a well-known person or someone with a prestigious job title.
  • If the press release is in response to "bad news" (e.g. a cluster of AEFIs) – do not avoid the negative or controversial issues; if you do not deal with them, you will leave room for misinterpretation.
  • Two pages of text are the most you should write (less is better) – anything longer risks getting cut back by an editor who may change the intended message when your press release is shortened.
  • At the end, give your name, title, organization, telephone number(s) and email address if you have one for journalists to contact you for interview requests or more information.

Interactive excercise

Below are various parts of a press release which have been mixed up by your assistant. Bring the information units into the right sequential order by entering numbers 1 – 4 in the corresponding boxes beside the press release.

Try to describe the situation, outline which follow up action has been taken, provide additional background information and close with an action statement by the Ministry of Health.


AEFI death in Lukurna, Lisusistan: Initial findings

A.  Following standard procedures, the Ministry of Health of Lisusistan appointed a high level team of experts to promptly investigate the child's cause of death.
The investigation revealed no link between the death of the child and the vaccination. According to the experts, the probable cause of death was asphyxia.
B.  So far, no other serious adverse event has been reported. Our officials will continue to monitor ongoing immunization activities to ensure the safety of children in Lisusistan.
C.  Every day, an estimated 20 children die from non-vaccine related causes in Lisusistan. Consequently, it can be expected that some death cases can coincidentally occur in short temporal relationship following vaccination.
D.  Pentavalent vaccination was introduced 2 months ago and about 50,000 doses have been administered by today.
Two days ago, the death of a three month old boy from Lukurna Health Centre was reported.
This child had received a dose of pentavalent vaccine 4 days ago together with 23 other children. Of these other children, none had an untoward reaction to the vaccine.


Sequence: D: 1, A: 2, C: 3, B: 4

(other sequences are possible)