Journalists do the same thing with most press releases they receive, whether sent by snail mail or email. As I wrote the other day, I’m planning on writing a series of posts on how to put news about your business into press releases, how to get people to read them and (one hopes) to act on them. I’ve already written about the benefits of writing press releases for your site to promote your business and for your client.
Let’s begin with the begin–i.e. the fundamentals. Here’s a quick run down on how to format your press release whether for print or electronic media:
1. “For Immediate Release” goes at the top, flush left (omit the quote marks here and everywhere else). Some people will write things such as “For Release on X Date” or “Not for release until X Date.” I say if the news is not for the here and now, the journos will toss it.
2. Follow with a “Contact Information” title and complete info. Complete means everything: Name of primary contact person, title, address, phone number, fax number, email address–everything.
3. The next part of your press release is your headline. Use sentence case for your headline, which is easier to read than using initial caps on every word. I have to follow this site’s style, so please don’t write and tell me that I’m not practicing what I preach! Include your company’s name. Please, don’t write anything in all caps. Use bold. [I'm planning on a post about how to write killer headlines, so sit tight.]
4. Follow your headline with a subhead in italics that amplifies the headline. Don’t repeat or echo the words in the headline–complement the head and compel the reader to want to know more.
5. Now, write the body of your press release. [Yes, I know I haven't written about how to actually write the body of a press release. What I want to do here is give you the format and the process.]
Don’t write a single word more than necessary. Be concise and on point. Edit scrupulously until your release is somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 words. Your objective is not to provide an article for publication–you want to provide info that will prompt journalists to call you, or at least want to lift a paragraph or two from your release.
6. Add your boilerplate. It’s the proverbial elevator-pitch about your company’s products/services and anything else that journos (not you) would consider relevant about your company. Keep the hyperbole to a minimum. No one really believes you’re the world’s best-known, fastest-growing and industry-leading Web designer. Everyone says that.
7. Some people end their releases with ###. There are various explanations for ###. One is that it stands for “30″ and it was once used to let newspaper printers know where the copy ended. Another tale is that telegraphers ended their messages with “30″ back when people were still riding ponies. Heck, I don’t know what it means for sure. Write “End” and all will be right with the world.
Here are a few extra tips specific to electronic releases.
1. Nearly all news publication Web sites have editorial contact info. and PR submission guidelines. Address your release specifically to the person who covers your industry.
2. In the subject line write, “Press Release: Compelling headline goes here.” That will help the journo figure out that it’s not an offer from a Nigerian prince looking to give away a fortune. Again, use the sentence case.
Put your release into the body of the email. Make it even shorter if you can.
3. It’s a toss up whether you should send attachments. Increasingly, recipients view them as potential security threats and won’t open them. Conversely, some journalists want the complete package, especially if your attachment is a photo or other image. I touched on how journalists are having to do more with less yesterday.
4. Include links in the body copy to your company’s home page, the landing page for the release in the newsroom on your Web site, email addresses, social networking pages and any other links you need. Links also grab attention.
5. Use free and paid Web sites to distribute your release to as many people as possible–not only journalists but also consumers and customers.
Coming up over the next few weeks:
–Know what is newsworthy and when not to publish a release
–How and why to write a search-engine friendly release
–Why you should always include multimedia with your release
–How and where to distribute your release: Paid vs. free distribution sites