17 Tips to Creating an Effective Press Release
By Jeffrey Dobkin
There’s nothing better than free publicity to help promote your company, products and services. A simple press release is the best and lowest cost way to get media exposure. Keep on alert for a product launch or upgrade, and company news that can be created or announced with a timely press release. Then follow these helpful tips to get the best results for your efforts.
A press release is a short, crisp one-page document you send to a magazine or newspaper editor. If published, it appears as if written by the editorial staff. Here are 17 tips to help you create a great press release, and also increase your chances of getting it published.
1. Editors are busy. Let them know it’s a press release at first glance. In the header, print “Press Release,” “News Release,” or “For Immediate Release” in a large, bold typeface.
2. If you need the release to coincide with other media announcements, indicate a “Start Date” in the header – the top portion of your page that appears before the body or “news” section of the release. For example, if you are releasing information about a new product launch and would like all your publicity to appear at the same time across all media, type “Release date: September, 2015” to let each publisher know. Event releases should also have and “End date” shown in the header after it occurs and the release is no longer appropriate.
3. Spend the most time on your headline. Spend an hour or two creating that one line that will make the editor think it will be a great must-read story for their audience and draw every reader into the story.
4. Write your press release with the important elements first. Just like a newspaper story, press releases are created in a pyramid style of writing with the most important elements at the top. To shorten your release editors know to traditionally cut from the bottom.
5. Don’t use fluffy words or lots of adjectives. If it sounds like an ad, as opposed to sounding like a news story, it will be rejected by the editor, and not selected for publication.
6. Keep it to one page. You’re not writing War and Peace. Two-page press releases are much harder to get read, let alone get placed.
Use Courier style type, 12 point, and double-space your body copy. If it runs long (over a page) or you need slightly more white space, go to 10 point. If you still need more room go to a more condensed face like Bookman, Century Schoolbook or the really tiny Times Roman. If you still need more space, take out a big red pen and cross out half of what you’ve written.
7. Proof your work carefully. If your work has typos, mistakes and poor grammar, it will reflect poorly on you, your products, and your company. Editors will feel your literature – and your products – are filled with the same. If their reader purchased your product from an article in their magazine it will be a poor reflection on them. Result: your press release won’t get published.
8. The last paragraph of your release should contain a contact name, company name, address, phone, fax and email. If you hope to get any direct sales, the price should be included. If your price is really high, leave it out and ask readers to write or call for more information.
9. A tight cover letter should go with every release. There are no exceptions to this rule. And no, the letter doesn’t say “Here’s a press release… blah blah blah.” They can see that. It offers additional points that wouldn’t fit into the release that the editor should know about. A great cover letter will increase your chance of publication, and at the same time give points an editor will pick up and run in the story.
10. Find media contacts in the media directories published by Cision (formerly Bacon’s) and by Oxbridge Communications, and the PR Pitch Book (from Bulldog Reporter). Their directories of magazines, newspaper directories, radio directories and cable and broadcast TV directories make finding the media and personnel easy and fast. Their on-line services, as the on-line services from Burrelle/Luce, are awesome.
11. In A Hurry? Have a breaking news story? An alternative to sending out traditional press releases by mail is to use an online press release service like PR Web or PR Newswire. Although the response is MUCH lower than traditional releases, online press release services are less costly and make it easy to get your release out in the fastest possible time frame. So if it’s really timely news you offer, this might be an effective way to transmit it instantly.
12. Besides a tight list of your most important trade publication editors, don’t forget to send your release to additional contacts: industry VIPs, association management, newsletters, customers and prospects. While a well-written release isn’t necessarily a sales vehicle, when accompanied by a great cover letter and a brochure it can be an additional way to promote your firm, especially if the news is timely or interesting TO THEM (not just to you.)
13. Keep in touch with the editors at the top publications where you’d really like to have your releases published. Most editors are helpful (although they can get a little frantic around the closing date of the magazine). Find out if they’re “on deadline” before you ask to chat with them about industry news, products, people and gossip.
14. Send press releases every few months. A single press release is not a campaign. Grooming the press and getting consistent publicity is a continual process.
15. Be sure to thank editors when they run your release. This is important because when you send them your next release…
16. The response to your press release campaign can help you learn which magazines bring in results and sales for you. Place ads in the top publications that published your release and you received good response. Although there shouldn’t be a link between advertising spending and publicity, most editors are keenly aware of who their advertisers are and may be more willing to talk with you about upcoming company news.
17. An effective press release campaign is an important part of any intelligent overall marketing plan. To plan an effective campaign, write 25 headlines of interesting sounding news releases. Then select the 6 to 8 best ones for press releases you’d like to send this year and plan a release schedule to send them. You can then back into the body copy of the releases later. Hope this is helpful.
Jeffrey Dobkin is a fun speaker. His humorous presentations are filled with practical direct marketing tips and specific techniques on how to triple your response. Dobkin has written six books on direct marketing, and his articles on marketing have been featured in over 300 magazines. Dobkin is a graphic artist and talented copywriter specializing in direct marketing: letters and direct mail packages, direct selling ads, PR and collateral material. He also analyzes marketing campaigns and offers recommendations for making them more effective. For additional information please call him directly: 610-642-1000 rings on his desk.