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How to Write an Effective Press Release

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					How to Write an Effective Press Release
Adapted from Effective Press Release Writing by Gerald S. Schwartz published by the American
Marketing Association

Press releases should be written in a direct, straightforward manner. Short and terse is good. Long,
drawn-out, superfluous is not. One to three pages is probably an ideal length unless you must convey
a large amount of information.

Don't overstate your case. Just convey the key, basic information to the media—and ultimately to
your audience.

Cover all the bases and provide them with essentials, but remember it is not necessary to provide
every little detail. You are trying to generate attention and interest for your client. If this means
follow up questions from a reporter or editor, so much the better. It will give you a chance to
develop more media opportunities for your client.

Attention Grabbers
The headline is your first opportunity to grab an editor's attention. It should transmit the core
news/message so that the editor immediately knows what the story is about.

It should be informative, but not necessarily sensationalized. Depending upon the nature of the
news, some headlines attract more notice than others. A cancer cure will garner more interest than
the naming of a new CFO (unless that individual is some well-known personality).

Leading Off
The most important part of any press release is the lead paragraph. Remember, a press release is a
journalistic document. Your primary target audience is the press. Therefore, make sure you
stringently adhere to basic journalistic tenets as you compose the story. The lead should answer the 5
. . . sometimes 6 . . . basic questions of Journalism 101: Who? What? When? Where? How? and Why?

That is . . . Who did, is doing or will do What to whom? Where and When did they do it? How did
they do it? And, if answerable . . . Why did they do it? Write a simple, opening sentence answering
these questions and your press release is virtually written.

Make Your Case
The body copy of the release should bolster and explain the points made in the lead.
For example, this is where you can fully describe a new product, list its features, the things that make
it better than the competition.

You might include a quote or two from key executives that further define and highlight specific
features, aspects and benefits that are available to substantiate your claims. Including an insightful,
thought-provoking endorsement from a satisfied customer goes a long way to add credibility to your
claims and arguments.

Details, Details, Details
Since a press release represents a corporate or an individual's image everything counts—especially the
details.

Don't assume anything except that your audience knows nothing. You must explain everything to
them and make it as simple as possible for them to understand your message.

If you use acronyms, make sure to first completely spell out the word or phrase, followed by the
acronym in parentheses. Then, you can freely use the acronym throughout the remainder of the
release.

Selecting a type font is important. Choose a font that is simple, clear and easy to read. Some of the
most popular ones being used today include Times New Roman, Arial and Helvetica.
Line spacing is another consideration. Years ago, the general rule was that all press releases were
double-spaced so that editors, working with hard copies of the announcements, would have the
room available on the paper to indicate their editing directions.

Word processors, PCs and digital files have virtually eliminated the double-spacing requirement.
However, it's still a good idea to leave at least 1-_ spaces between lines so that the copy is easy to
read. At the same time, you have provided sufficient work room, just in case you're dealing with an
editor who prefers to print out and edit a hard copy of the document.

If the body copy of the release runs long, it is a good idea to break it up with subheads. These short,
bold-faced phrases are a good way to introduce specific areas of information within the narrative
while providing it with a logical progression of ideas.

Make sure you include contact information of a company representative and/or PR representative—
name, company, phone number, e-mail address—either at the top of the first page or at the end of
the release so that readers can get any additional information they may need.

Begin the body of the release with a dateline that includes the city, state and country of origin (if
necessary), followed by the actual date of the announcement. The dateline is important because it
indicates the official, effective date of the news being announced.

Make sure press release pages are numbered. Include the line-centered word "more" at the bottom of
each page so that the editor knows the story is continued. Let the editors know that they've reached
the end of the release by including the word "END" or the number "-30-" or "###"
(pound/number signs).

If your press release requires any sort of disclaimer or mandated "forward thinking" statement, make
sure that you include it at the end of the release. Sometimes these legal necessities are set off in a
different, or italicized, type face. Sometimes they are printed in a smaller type size.

Timing Is Everything
When is the right time to distribute your news?

That depends upon the nature of your announcement and the kind of coverage and exposure you
hope to achieve. If there is a seasonal aspect to the news, you must consider the time of year for the
release to be distributed. An announcement about new Christmas tree products would probably be
ill-served if it were made in early April.

Reference the editorial calendars of your target publications to see if you can schedule your
announcement to coincide with particularly relevant coverage in these key media. This way you can
achieve the greatest coverage. Other things to consider are the proximity of industry trade shows,
and other events, where you can obtain additional media attention.

Selection of the day of the week for the release is important. Mondays are extremely busy days for
press releases. With all that activity, an announcement could get lost in the crowd. Fridays lead into
the weekend when media coverage is slow and at its nadir.
Even if press picks up the announcement, there is a good chance very few people will see it because
of the "slow news day" aspects of the weekend.

Press Release Pitfalls
Not so coincidentally, the worst missteps in press release writing are the most common ones that
land on editors' desks. Maybe these so-called bad habits have been inbred among PR professionals
who adopt the technique of their colleagues. No matter the cause, here are some key "no no's" to
avoid:

Let the News Do the Talking
Unless your client has truly invented "a new wheel" (maybe not even then) refrain from using
buzzwords like "revolutionary," "evolution," "ground-breaking," "innovative," "strategic," "unique,"
"best-of-breed," "robust," and "leading edge."

Reporters and editors cringe at such superlatives, and at the very least, become cynical and irritated.
Whenever possible, let the merits of your new product or service speak for itself, through specific
example—not hype.

Keep the Writing Clear and Active
Convoluted, passive-voice sentences are difficult to read. Editors often scan through dozens of press
releases each day, and those that are too difficult to follow get rejected.

Also, make sure the descriptions are clear and concise. Often press releases try to avoid details in
order to attract a broad potential audience. For example, a company provides "technology solutions,"
rather than "designs e-commerce Web sites." Editors quickly lose patience with weasel-words like
"solutions." Tell what the company does in plain English.

Where's the News in this News Release?
Just because an announcement is sent, does not always mean that news has been distributed.

An alarming number of companies, mistakenly flood newsrooms with weekly (even daily) press
releases. The goal is usually to show a flurry of activity on news sections of corporate Web sites.
Unless you represent a huge global conglomerate, it is doubtful you could make such frequent,
substantive news announcements.

Chances are, many of those releases would make better pitch letters to a hand-selected group of
journalists. When the time comes to make a valid, big news splash your client may have already
diluted its name and credibility.

Calm Down Those "Excited" CEOs
If you're compelled to write a quote on behalf of a company head, make it meaningful.
Virtually any leader will be "pleased" or "excited" about his own news announcement. A quote
should add a new perspective and greater insight than the body of the release.

It is an opportunity to lend a more subjective angle, not necessarily express boundless joy or stroke
the ego of a new business partner that has a "great company."


The Devil is in the Grammar
Tipos are badd.

A news release serves as a calling card for a company. It is a representation of its business and is
intended to shape its public perception. When the basic elements (grammar, punctuation, spelling,
proper use of symbols, etc.) are flawed, so is the company's image.
Whether a reporter is the only one to catch a mistake, or if the release is re-printed as is, simple,
avoidable mistakes can cloud a message. Some tips:

Have an objective individual with no connection to the client proofread the release. Then have
another neutral party look it over again.

Proofread a release in hard copy as well as on the computer screen. This will double your odds of
finding a typo.

Sleep on it if you have the luxury of time. Sometimes allowing a fresh read the next morning will
highlight things missed when you were in the thick of drafting the release.

Remember . . . Everything Counts

				
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