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Press Releases: The Top 17 Tips for Creating Effective Press Releases

A Press Release is the most valuable single sheet of paper in all of marketing.

The Top 17 Press Release Tips for Creating Effective Press Releases

by Jeffrey Dobkin

A simple press release is the best and lowest cost way to get media attention. There’s nothing better than free publicity to help promote your company, products and services. New products or innovations can be made newsworthy, and interesting company news can be announced with a formal press release. Follow these tips to get the best press exposure.

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’s how to create a great press release and increase your chances of getting it published.

17. 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.

16. For Events: An “End date” should be shown in the header after the event occurs and the release should no longer be considered for publishing.

15. Spend the most time on creating your press release headline. 
Spend an hour, two, or more creating that one line that will 1. make the editor think it will be a great must-read story for their audience and 2. draw every reader who may buy your product into the story.

An advanced strategy for writing a press release may make it less attractive to anyone outside your target market — so you don’t waste $$$ on sending your $$$$$ literature to people who won’t actually buy your product (consultants, literature collectors) when they call and ask for it.

14. 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 parts at the top. Editors traditionally shorten press releases by cutting from the bottom so the important information at the top won’t get cut.

13. Don’t use fluffy words or lots of adjectives.
If it sounds like an ad instead of sounding like a news story, it won’t be edited, but rather will simply be rejected by the editor, and not selected for publication.

12. Keep it to one page.
You’re not writing War and Peace. In this news-bite and fast-read Internet society, two-page press releases are much harder to get read, let alone get placed.

11. Use Courier style type, 12 point, and double-space the body copy.
I know, I know… you’ve got a lot of fonts in your computer. But Courier is traditional and the word count is easy for an editor to figure out at first glance.

If it runs long (over a page) or you need slightly more white space, go to Courier 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.

10. Proof your work carefully.
If you don’t, the publisher’s staff won’t be so kind. If your work has typos, mistakes and poor grammar, it will reflect poorly on you, your products, and your company. Editors will think that your literature – and your products – are filled with the same poor quality, and if your products are purchased from an article in their magazine it will reflect poorly on them. Put simply: correct mistakes or your press release won’t get published.

9. Your contact information is listed LAST. Last paragraph of your release contains a contact name, company name, address, phone, web address, fax and email. If you hope to get any direct sales, a product price has to be included. Marketing tip: if your price is really high, leave it out and ask readers to call for more information. When they call, then YOU sell the product and overcome any reader price objection.

8. A tight cover letter should be sent with EVERY press release. 
No exceptions. And no, the letter doesn’t say “Here’s a press release… blah blah blah.” They can see there’s a press release included. Your letter is written to build credibility, and 2. offer additional features and benefits that wouldn’t fit into the release. These should increase your chance of publication, or offer points an editor may pick up and use in the story.

7. Find media contacts in the media directories published by Cision (formerly Bacon’s), by Oxbridge Communications, and the PR Pitch Book (from Bulldog Reporter). Directories of magazines, newspaper directories, radio directories and cable and broadcast TV directories make finding media and personnel easy and fast. There are also on-line services from these firms that are awesome.

6. 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. If your press release is timely and really newsworthy, this might be an effective way to transmit it instantly.

For most campaigns, I DO NOT recommend online news service distribution. Media coverage in print is much less likely.

5. Besides a tight list of your most important trade publication editors, don’t forget to send your release to additional contacts: industry association newsletter editors and consumer publications.

You can also send to potential volume purchasers. While a well-written release isn’t necessarily a sales vehicle, when accompanied by a great cover letter, a brochure and maybe a special coupon it can be an additional way to promote your firm, especially if the news is timely or interesting TO THEM (not just to you.)

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4. I’ve always heard you should keep in touch with the editors at the top publications where you’d really like to have your releases published, but I’ve never found this likely unless you are a professional media junkie. So just try to be nice to them on the phone when you call. 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 your new products, industry news, products, people and gossip.

3. 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.

2. Be sure to thank editors when they run your release. This is important because when you send them your next release they’ll remember you. Almost no one does this.

1. Here are the most effective 11 words in all of PR:
Here’s a technique created and developed by Jeffrey Dobkin that can be found in his first book, “How To Market A Product for Under $500!” (Danielle Adams Publishing, Call the editor before sending your release. Ask this specific question: “Are you the person I should send this press release to?” These are the most valuable 11 words in all of PR.

This question sets up a ‘Can you help me’ relationship in under a minute. If the editor says yes, give your 30 second pitch, then send your press release to him or her. In the letter you include with your press release, write on the FIRST LINE: “Thank you for receiving my phone call, it was a pleasure speaking with you,” even if it wasn’t. This will remind the editor you called and will increase the chance of your press release being published by 80%. 80%!

If they point you to someone else, call and say the same 11 words.

The inquiries to your press release campaign can help you learn which magazines bring in response… and sales. Place ads in the top publications that published your release with good response.

Although there shouldn’t be a link between advertising spending and publicity, editors are usually keenly aware of who their advertisers are and may be more willing to talk with you about company news.

An effective press release campaign is a most important part of any intelligent 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 — upfront — a press release schedule to send them. You can then back into the body copy of the releases later.

Jeff Dobkin will now take your questions…
Jeffrey Dobkin is a speaker whose humorous presentations are filled with practical direct marketing methods to increase your response. He‘s written five books on direct marketing, direct mail and PR. His articles on marketing have been featured in more than 300 magazines. Dobkin also writes direct mail letters, direct selling ads, brochures and press releases for clients. Call him directly with questions on PR and marketing: 610-642-1000 rings on his desk.  Hey, don’t just sit there, buy something: visit our STORE.  New Audios just posted.