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Press Releases 101

Press Releases 101 was originally published on Getting Smart.

In the age of the 24/7 news cycle, many wonder the pros and cons of the press release. What is the point of creating a full release if I can just send a tweet to my beat reporter or favorite blogger? There are MANY more pros than cons. Press releases are a crucial component to any public relations strategy. Here are 10 tricks to the trade that get your release more attention:

  1. Your headline is your hook. Think what headlines catch your eye in the newspaper or on a tweet. Your headline should be descriptive, but limited to 100 – 170 characters. There headline should be formatted in title case, which means, capitalize each word except for prepositions and articles that are three characters, or less.TIP: The text underneath the headline is called the subtitle. The subtitle is just that – additional title information that explains the news value of your press release. it is not necessary to include a subtitle.
  1. Put all your eggs in the first basket. If the descriptive and noteworthy headline passes the first step and your release is opened, a quick read of the first paragraph needs to give the 5 W’s and 1 H in 3-5 sentences. TIP: Watch out for run-on and fragmented sentences.
  2. Easy come, easy go. Give every possible opportunity to access the release and share it. ALWAYS include a link to the digital version of your press release. Even better, embed a sample tweet to immediately share. TIP: Watch the character count and allow space to retweet.
  3. Remember grammar school. Proofread., proofread again, and have someone else proofread your release before sending out. There is nothing more distracting from good content than a grammatical error. TIP: Write your press release in AP Style. It is a journalists bread and butter.
  4. Make it flashy. Including multimedia in your press release is almost a requirement in the fast 24/7 news cycle. Humans engage with images faster than text. Consider that a minute of video is worth 1.8 millions words. (Omnivideo, 2009) TIP: Look for images, videos, and other visual data your company already has instead of creating new each time.
  5. Leave the creative writing to the pros. Reporters and bloggers spend their life making subjects engaging. Leave the superlatives to the journalist. Your release should provide key, hard facts and data to support your overall message. TIP: Want to support the creative aspect of your story? Write a blog post.
  6. Quotes provide color. Use a good quote from a high level organizational contact, product user, or someone close to the product to provide the human interest angle to the release. TIP: Even better, provide contact information to the person quotes to allow the journalist to contact them directly for “color commentary.”
  7. Provide your contact information. Seems like a simple task, but so many releases are sent without letting the journalist know who to contact for “more information.” Include your name, phone number, email, and, in some cases, Twitter handle in your release. TIP: Create a press release template with a placeholder for contact information to ensure you never forget.
  8. No one likes spam. You spend all the time writing content, developing and linking multimedia, gather people to quote and interview and when you go to send, you bulk email. You don’t like spam, neither do journalists and editors. Spend the time to create targeted lists to send your releases to, make contact with them, and create a relationship. Not only will this help ensure your release isn’t immediately moved to the JUNK folder, if you have a relationship, it has a higher likelihood of being covered.
  9. More information. A boilerplate is generally one-paragraph company profile placed at the end of the release showcasing who your company is and what they do. This is a great opportunity to make a positive impression of your company. Make it count. TIP: Create a consistent message about your company by using your boilerplate as your social media profile description, website “About Us” beginning paragraph, and elevator speech.
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