University Communications oversees the writing, editing, distribution and promotion of university-side news releases (as well as news tips and most op-eds). Communicators in this office do this in close coordination with schools, programs and units, and in accordance with the following guidelines.

Before You Write a Release
Ask yourself: Is this newsworthy to the public? Does it probe and/or answer questions about societal issues, policies, practices and science? If yes, then contact University Communications to talk about your release idea. Karl Bates and Robin Smith are your contacts for science releases; Steve Hartsoe, Greg Phillips and Eric Ferreri handle all other topics. (Note: The health system has its own news office for releases generated there.)

We will also talk about how to promote the faculty member’s work, including social media options. Incorporating video, graphics, photos or audio is a must, whenever possible, to ensure stronger pick up by media. We avoid the use of stock art. Our office will work with you to develop and produce these ideas.

For releases about research with a pending publication date, it’s important that you/we begin work on a release in advance of that date — the sooner the better. We want to have the release ready to send to reporters on the day the research publishes or even earlier, under embargo. This makes it timely for reporters and improves the chances for coverage.

Writing the News Release
Our news releases are primarily for the media, so Duke chooses to use a news style, with a compelling lede and headline, rather than starting by naming the unit, school, endowed professor, etc., like bad press releases often do. It’s crucial that it mostly follow AP style and read like a news story. In other words, no jargon, unfamiliar acronyms, unnecessary capitalizations, 30-word sentences, etc. Typically, 700-750 words is enough, though science releases sometimes need more words.

With news rooms so short-staffed, a well-written release that follows AP style has the advantage. Reporters don’t have to waste time trying to understand your release because it’s written for them – clear and compelling. They can also copy and paste portions into their stories if so desired, and a well-written release helps ensure respectability for Duke.

Headlines are bold, proper nouns and words with four letters or more capitalized. We use Verdana, 10 pt.

Format Example:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020

CONTACT: Eric Ferreri

In Trump Era, More Progressive Churches Get Politically Active

DURHAM, N.C. — The willingness of left-leaning religious congregations to engage in political activity has spiked in the Trump era, new research shows.

Before submitting to University Communications for editing, ask:
• Is my headline and lead paragraph both accurate AND strong enough to get a reporter or editor’s attention?
• Have I written an interesting release that delivers news and valuable information, insight or an interesting angle for reporters?

DURHAM, N.C. — Engineers at Duke University have devised a model that can predict the early mechanical behaviors and origins of an earthquake in multiple types of rock.

The model provides new insights into unobservable phenomena that take place miles beneath the Earth’s surface under incredible pressures and temperatures. It could help researchers better predict earthquakes — or even, at least theoretically, attempt to stop them.

The results appear online on Jan. 17 in the journal Nature Communications.

BURBANK, CA, February 12, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ — Experienced dentist in Burbank, Dr. Edward Joseph, is committed to providing only the most current, state-of-the-art dental procedures, materials, and equipment to his patients. With the introduction of the practice’s newest technology, CEREC, patients can receive a dental crown in just a single appointment.

Burbank CEREC 3D technology combines a camera, computer and computer-controlled milling machine to quickly create a detailed digitized mold of your damaged tooth. CEREC one-visit crowns are natural in appearance, compatible with other tissues in the mouth, anti-abrasive and plaque-resistant, making them a superior alternative to traditional crowns, which often require two or more visits. Restoring a single tooth with CEREC typically takes less than one hour with this Burbank family dentist.

(jargon, hyperbole, SEO-heavy)

Copy Flow
In nearly all cases, Duke stories that are written for the media come through University Communications for editing and distribution, regardless of what unit they started in. We edit for style and readability and will often try to improve the headline and lede for maximum effect.

Writers in the schools of medicine, engineering, environment, the natural sciences division of A&S and several of the institutes are edited by Karl Bates (research communications). Social science, non-research (including guest speakers) and occasional humanities releases are edited by Alison Jones, Steve Hartsoe, Eric Ferreri, Amanda Solliday or Greg Phillips. Distribution to the media comes from University Communications, except for Medicine, which does its own distribution.

Distribution and Beyond
Every release sent to us should be accompanied by the cover sheet (AKA blue sheet) that specifies which Cision lists to send to and what the multimedia assets are. It should also contain pre-written captions and tweets for editors to review, because these are so important to your story’s success.

University Communications maintains dozens of media lists in Cision of reporters at news outlets around the world. Each is targeted to segments of the media best suited for a particular topic, from domestic politics to health policy to video gaming. Let us know which lists are best-suited for your release. We do not use PR-Newswire or Newswise. Research releases also are posted to the EurekAlert! news service, in addition to distribution on Cision.

After we send the release, we either post it to Duke Today and/or our news site, or if it is posted on an academic unit’s site, we will link to the story there. Writers are encouraged to share their stories on social media channels, as well. Our office can help promote some releases through “Big Duke” Twitter, Instagram and Facebook sites, though posting to these university channels is very selective due to the volume of material to consider.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

Steve Hartsoe (
Karl Bates (