The press release is the most common communication tool used in PR efforts. It is an informational letter describing a newsworthy fact about your company. Written correctly, the press release can be very effective in promoting your business.
Also, unlike advertising, which can be very expensive, magazines and newspapers do not charge for editorial coverage. That means you pay only for the cost of postage (and photography, if you choose to include a photograph).
A press release is one of the primary ways you can communicate news about your company to the media.
Reporters, editors, and producers are hungry for news, and they often depend on releases to tip them off to new and unusual products, company trends, tips and hints, and other developments.
In fact, much of what you read in newspapers, magazines, or trade publications, hear on the radio or see on television originated in press release form.
Unfortunately, the average editor receives as many as several hundred press releases each week, the vast majority of which end up getting “filed.” Your challenge is to create a release that makes the journalist want to know more and discover that your story is one they must tell.
Of course, editors receive many press releases, and there is no guarantee that yours will be printed. Therefore, you must try to make your release stand out from the crowd.
How? Be professional. Remember these 15 tips when issuing a press release:
- Keep your target audience in mind: The worst thing you can do is to inundate all publications on your mailing list with the same press release. Research the publications first. Make sure you tailor your release to their respective markets.
- Start with the most important information: Publications rarely run press releases word for word. Editors usually cut from the bottom up, so make certain you’ve included all the necessary facts in the opening paragraphs.
- Keep it factual: The fastest way to diminish your credibility is to put gushing, biased copy in your press release. Editors want the facts, not your opinion.
- Make sure it’s news: Editors want to create publications that are interesting to their audiences. Find the angle. Is your company new, unique or unusual? Tell them how running your release can benefit their readers.
- Photos help: Editors love photos. Supply a caption, identifying any individuals pictured, and type it on a separate sheet of paper. (Never write on the back of a photograph.)
- Use an active headline to grab the reporter’s attention: The headline makes your release stand out. Keep it short, active, and descriptive; in other words, use something like “Rajdeep Named Man of the Year” instead of “Rajdeep Gets Award.”
- Put the most important information at the beginning: This is a tried and true rule of journalism. The reporter should be able to tell what the release is about from the first two paragraphs.
In fact, chances are that’s all they may read. So don’t hide good information. And remember the “5 W’s and the H” – make sure your release provides answers to Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.
- Avoid hype and unsubstantiated claims: A writer can smell a sales pitch a mile away. Instead of making over-inflated statements, provide real, usable information.
Find legitimate ways to set you and your company apart and stress those points. To promote your business, write a release that answers questions about your business, rather than one that provides only general statements about how great or interesting your business is without saying why.
- Be active and to the point: Use language that will get the reader as excited about your news as you are. If your release is boring or meandering, they may assume that you will not be a good interview.
- Keep your release to two pages or less: On the rare occasion, you can opt for a third page if it is necessary to provide critical details. Otherwise, if you can’t state your message in two pages, you’re not getting to the point.
- Include a contact: Make sure your release has a person the journalist can contact for more information. This person should be familiar with all the news in the release, and should be ready to answer questions. And issue the release on your company letterhead – it looks professional and gives the writer another way to reach your firm.
- Keep jargon to the minimum: If you’re in a technical field, try not to use technical terms. Many reporters are not as intimate with your company or your industry as you are. Real English, not jargon, best communicates your story.
- Stress benefits: This falls into the category of “don’t say it, show it”.Avoid saying something is “unique” or “the best.” Instead, show how people will benefit – i.e. save time, save money, make their life easier, etc.
- Be specific and detailed: Marcia Yudkin, author of “Six Steps to Free Publicity” calls this “Yes, but what IS it?” syndrome. The reader needs to be able to visualize a new product, or know how a new service works.
If in doubt, have someone unfamiliar with your product or service read the release and asks him or her to describe what you trying to publicize. And it’s better to use too many details than too few.
So, as Yudkin notes, “Instead of ‘Shekhar’s new book contains information designed to benefit any stock market investor,’ write, ‘Shekhar’s new book contains seven principles of market analysis that enable even casual investors to choose profitable stocks.’
Even better, describe two of the seven principles right in the release.”
- Proofread: When you’ve finished your press release, remember to proofread it for typographical errors. If you don’t have a good eye for spelling or grammar, give the release to a friend or colleague who does.