Posted Tuesday, February 15, 2005
One study found that as many as 90% of the stories you read every day in the newspaper came about because someone sent a press release. Why aren't some of those stories about you?
When people see you in the media, you become familiar, even famous! And it gives you credibility. When you are written about in the newspaper, or interviewed on TV or radio, you are news; and that's better than any advertising you can buy.
Anyone can learn to write press releases. It just takes a little knowledge and a lot of practice. To write a good press release, put your editor/producer hat on. What will the people who read this publication, watch this television program, or listen to this radio station want to know? What are their interests and concerns? The editor or producer's job is to figure out the answers to those questions and present interesting news. Your job is to make the editor or producer's job easier.
The headline is the most important part of your press release. Make it count! You have only a few seconds to grab the attention of an editor or producer, who may receive hundreds (or thousands) of releases every week. If the headline doesn't interest them, they won't read the rest.
Promise something of interest. Instead of ''New Book Tells How to Make a Budget and Stick to It'', describe the benefits of having a budget—getting out of debt, retiring comfortably, putting your kids through college, etc. Sorry, but no one cares that you wrote a book. Don't even mention it in the headline. Describe the benefits of using your information. A hot topic is one parent quitting a job to take care of the children. Can you show the audience how to do that? There's your headline: "You Can Stay Home With Your Kids!"
Use the inverted pyramid style of news writing: The most important information goes at the beginning, with the least important at the end. The first paragraph should deliver on the headline. Start with a question, a statistic, a provocative statement or a powerful benefit. Subsequent paragraphs back up the first by providing background information, quotes, and other relevant details. Keep it to about one page.
When I edit press releases written by clients, I usually end up rewriting the headline and taking out the first two paragraphs. That's because the headline and first two paragraphs are usually about the person who wrote the release. If your press release is "me" centered and doesn't promise benefits to the audience, scrap it and start over.
While there are no guarantees that your story will run, there are several things you can do to help it along:
* Make it newsworthy. This isn't about you—it's about the audience. What's more important: that you know the tax code, or that you can help them save money on taxes?
* Make it timely. Media love something new and they also love tie-ins to events, holidays, other news stories, etc.
* Make it accurate. If there are typos and misspellings in your release, it will get tossed. Make sure phone numbers, dates and addresses are correct. If they can't trust it, they won't run it.
* Make it easy to read. The release should follow one of the standard formats for press releases. If you're not certain of your language skills, have someone else proofread it.
* Make it objective. Don't use hyperbole and advertising language, such as "Greatest Software Ever!" They won't believe your inflated claims and they won't do a story that sounds like an ad.
* Make it easy to follow up. Include a name and phone number(s) the media can call for additional information.
Don't be discouraged if you get coverage in only a couple of places, or not at all. Keep working on your press releases, keep sending them, and you will get results.
The most important thing to remember about writing press releases is this: The press release is not about YOU; it's about your media contact's AUDIENCE. Write with that in mind, and you will soon be getting lots of free publicity for yourself and your business.
Copyright Cathy Stucker. Learn more about how you can attract customers and make yourself famous with free publicity at (http://www.IdeaLady.com/pr.htm).
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