10 Tips For Better Press Releases

Follow these guidelines for more effective press releases.

1. Think Big.

Sadly, the fact that your company exists is not news. What is newsworthy is how your business will effect and help a lot of other people.

Unless you are really the first, or you actually stand a chance of displacing the first or front runner, getting press won't be simple. Think how your business will affect other businesses, spur trends, change the way people do things.

2. Keep It Short.

Most press releases should be one page. Two are acceptable. If an editor is interested, he or she will ask for more info.

3. Follow Journalistic Style.

Write in the third person. Use last names, not first names on the second reference to a person. "John said," is not acceptable. "Smith said," is.

Tell the story in the headline and the first paragraph. When your release is sent out on some news services only the headline and first paragraph are shown. If they don't make editors want to see more, your whole effort is for naught.

Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Don't editorialize (offer opinions) in a release, i.e., don't say "this is the best, most amazing service. . ." Tell your story in simple terms and let the editors decide if it's amazing.

Get yourself an Associated Press Stylebook. Learn to properly abbreviate words and numbers and the correct way to refer to formal names.

4. Post Photos and Art on a Web Page for easy access.

Include a special URL with the press release and post your release, photos and art on that page.

5. Don't Call to Ask Did Ya' Get It?

Editors hate PR people who call to ask Did You Get It? However, you simply must call if you want to get placement. It is a good idea to hold some information out of the release so you can call with additional information.

6. Ask Yourself 'Who Cares?'

Before you send out your release, boil the idea down to one sentence and ask yourself "Who Cares?"

If the topic relates to a lot of people, is timely and genuinely helpful, you're likely to get a good response the appropriate editor (assignment, financial, home editor, etc.) at an online or traditional print or broadcast medium.

7. Spend The Money For An Online Clipping Service.

It is a waste of money and effort to send out a release and not use a clipping service.

Do not assume that editors will call you if they are running your story. An announcement, a description of a service and the majority of other releases don't require an interview. Many times the story will run without anyone telling you about it. Don't be penny wise and pound foolish.

8. Use More Than One Online Distribution Service.

When budget allows, use BusinessWire and Internet News Bureau or another distribution service. Each service has its own way of presenting your story. It's worth the extra money to have another shot at being noticed.

9. Know To Whom To Send It, Not Just Where.

If you are making your own list, find out the name (and spelling!) of the editor or reporter who covers the section where you want your release to appear. Don't just send to "Business Editor" with no name. Your results go up incrementally when your list is up to date and your spelling is correct.

10. Be Able To Pitch The Idea In One Sentence.

Editors are busy people. Decide how you will explain your story in 30 seconds or less before you call.

Here are some guidelines for what IS news:

  • A story needs a hook. It should contain some drama, sense of importance, appeal to human interest, local pride or connection with a celebrity.
  • Embrace what is topical by focusing on something that is already prominent in the news. For example, connect to an important trend, a congressional controversy, a holiday or an important event.
  • Conduct a survey and issue a report. You need a respectable sample (generally 1,000 or more people) and a topic of broad interest.
  • Buck a trend. If everyone in your industry is jumping on the same bandwagon, go the opposite route. But be sure you can back up what you say you are doing.
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