Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Press Release Pointers

To keep the public aware of and well disposed toward your work, you need positive media coverage. Customers are more likely to trust businesses that have other ways of getting attention besides buying it through advertising.

However, you can’t always rely on the media to notice you on their own; it pays to take an active role in keeping them up to date. The traditional press release, also called the news release or media release, is still an effective tool for getting your name in the papers or on the major Web sites. It’s normally written in a format similar to the following:


One- to four-sentence summary

City, State, Preferred Date of Release [if none, “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE”]

Main news story.

About [sponsoring company and/or release writer]: [one short paragraph]


Full contact information for the best person to answer any questions.

### [or “-30-” or “END”] [centered]


Correct format won’t get you far, though, without good writing and newsworthy content. To earn your release the best chance of being published:

Address your release directly to the editor of Business News (or whatever department publishes articles on your topic). And write to the person’s full name or “Mr./Ms. Smith,” not just a position title and definitely not a first name alone.

Gear your submission to the recipient’s convenience, not your own. Follow any specific instructions from the paper/Web site/media service on how, when, and where to send releases.

Choose “news” that’s interesting to potential readers, not simply to your own office. (See last two posts for hints on judging this.) Strangers are not interested in what your business does unless it affects them directly, offers something they want or need, or is intriguing or funny enough to entertain them.

Make the title short (no more than 80 characters) and descriptive. Study published news headlines to get the right feel.

Keep the whole thing to a maximum of 800 words. One of the best ways to reduce word count is to change adverbial phrases (“walks proudly”) to verbs (“struts”) and adjectival phrases (“luxurious car”) to nouns (“limousine”).

Put the most important information first; the further into a release a paragraph is located, the more likely it is to be cut before publication (or go unread after).

Include at least one direct quote (“‘This will give our customers an extra hour of daily free time,’ said CEO Craig Johnson”); rewrite your own best thought in quote form if necessary. Readers like to hear real people speaking.

Never use a five-syllable word when a two-syllable synonym is available.

Don’t overload the text with technical details, but do include your contact information for the benefit of interested potential clients.

Be extra careful to get all facts—especially contact information—accurate. And remember that typos hurt your professional image. Once you think the release is finished, let it sit for a full day and then proofread it.

Be certain, as with an ad, that you can keep any promises you make!

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