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Writing a Press Release That Gets Noticed

Now let's talk about writing press releases. Writing a press release is more art than science. And if you want it to be read, it must be done right.

The biggest challenge is to know what journalists consider genuine news and what they consider fluff. Being so close to your e-business, you can easily lose perspective; what you see as earthshaking news might get an automatic delete from journalists. Issuing too much company fluff as news will eventually result in your future news releases being ignored. (Sort of like the boy who cried wolf.) Make your release newsworthy by pinpointing a problem solved or a need filled. Write the release from that perspective.

Along with making your press release newsworthy, you need to keep the following in mind when writing your release:

  • Create an unmistakable opening. The first line of your press release should read FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE in all caps. This lets the reporters know that the news is authorized for publication on the date they receive it.

  • Write a headline that gets straight to the point. Write a headline using a combination of capital and lowercase letters, keeping your headline to 10 words or less. Remember, what you say here determines whether the reader will read the rest of the release.

  • Create a strong leading paragraph. The first part of your lead paragraph should include the city from which the release is written (or where the event took place), the newswire carrying the release, and the date of the release. It should look something like this: DENVER - (BUSINESS WIRE) - Jan. 31, 2002. All releases must include a date because reporters don't always use releases immediately. Your lead paragraph should then answer the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the event. The lead paragraph is really an abstract or summary of the whole release.

  • Give the journalist the reason why the release is important to his/her readers. Here's where you give a detailed explanation from the reader's perspective. Add all background information, quotes from objective or third-party sources, comparisons with competitors, and so on. If you're sending your release inside the text of an email message, format it in the style of the most common email reader. Stay away from HTML tags, tabs, and columns. These are not read well by text-based email programs.

  • Include a brief company summary. Mention your company's expertise in its niche, location, years in business, and so on. Keep it short. Don't include your annual report.

  • Include complete contact information. Give a contact name, email address, and URL. The contact name you supply should be someone who's available and capable of answering questions from the press.

  • Close the release. Close with the characters -30- or ###, which are style conventions that let the recipient know when he or she has reached the end of the release.

  • Keep it short. No longer than one page in length—about 500 words maximum.

The bottom line is this. Have you designed a press room for journalists working on deadline to easily find the answers they need on your site? If so, then your little stepchild has become a full-fledged member of your marketing and promotion family.

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