Getting Press: 4 Steps For Writing An Effective Press Release

As a rule, I believe most press releases are not worth the time it takes to write them.

Newspapers, magazines, and online news outlets publish articles, not press releases, which means publishing your news will require extra steps for them. And we all know how quickly extra steps can derail a close!

But that's not to say a press release is never appropriate, particularly for announcements that editors aren't likely to devote much space to.

For business owners, press releases are great for announcing upcoming events, awards, or reaching a milestone. There is a chance your release will catch the interest of a reporter or editor who then decides to interview you and write a story, but the odds aren't great, which is why my public relations company doesn't use them as part of our standard operating procedure.

You can boost your chances of securing at least a mention in a newspaper or online news site by sending your release to the editor of an appropriate listing. Many local and regional newspapers and national magazines run lists of events, brief news items about promotions and business awards, and other such announcements. Being included in such a list will likely mean you'll also be included in the publication's list online, which adds to your visibility.

Remember, to increase you chances for success, do your homework: Check your local and regional publications and learn what types of lists they run and to whom you should send your release. For events, be sure you know on what days the list runs and send your release in plenty of time for it to publish beforehand.

Here are some other tips for writing a press release:

  • Get the facts up front - don't beat around the bush! Put the basics in the first one to two sentences. For an event, you might start with "Go Garden is offering a free floral arrangement workshop from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23. Follow that with the rest of the "five W's" - who, what, when, where, and why. Editors and reporters don't read press releases for entertainment, so a flowery first paragraph of prose will not make them want to read more. It just might make them throw it away! They want to get the pertinent information quickly so they can decide if, how, and where to use it, and the less rewriting they have to do, the better.
  • If you believe your announcement is newsworthy, say so in the first paragraph. An editor or reporter might decide this will make a good story if you provide a news hook. That's not always possible, but don't overlook the obvious! If the floral arranging workshop is being held because local wildflowers will be at their peak in mid-October, or because you've noticed an uptick in the number of brides-to-be visiting the shop, that would make a great news hook! Your press release might look like this: "With fields of lavender approaching their peak bloom time in mid-October, Go Garden is offering a free floral arrangement workshop."
  • Put the contact's name, phone number, and email in the upper lefthand corner. The contact information is vital, and it's easier to see when it's not buried in the text of your release. Ideally, include a phone number that you can access after hours, and an email you check on a regular basis. It might look like this:

    CONTACT: Frannie Pani, CEO
    (555) 222-1212
    FrannieFlower@gmail.com
  • Add the boilerplate - or short bio - describing your business. At the end of the release, share the basics about the franchise, including information about you, the owner. Detail what the business produces or the service it provides, how long it has been in business, and how long you've owned it. You might also mention how many other franchises you own, their names, and where they're located. For example: "Frannie Pani owns 14 Go Garden shops throughout the Southeast, and four Luv Your Pet shops." Include your website! If the release focuses on a person at your business, the bio can also briefly describe who he or she is, including some credentials.

Before you send your release, carefully read back over it. Is it more than 400 or 500 words? It may be too long. Is all the relevant information provided right up front? Did you remember to include contact information?

Finally, make sure you send it to the appropriate editor.

Marsha Friedman is a 23-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com), a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to businesses, professional firms, entertainers, and authors. Marsha is the author of Celebritize Yourself and she can also be heard weekly on her Blog Talk Radio Show, EMSI's PR Insider every Thursday at 3:00 p.m. EST. Follow her on Twitter: @marshafriedman.

Published: November 13th, 2013

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