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Understanding Press Releases

Understanding Press Releases

By | 07.29.10
Understanding Press Releases

Press releases are a form of publicity that you can use to leverage company news into a marketing opportunity for your business. Your company doesn’t have to be large, either. If you want to generate some buzz, getting the news media interested in your story is an effective strategy.

Here’s How Press Releases Work

Also called a news releases, press releases provide topical information to media outlets about industry innovations, changes or just about anything else an editor might consider noteworthy and interesting to his readers. This last part is critical. Your press release provides you with marketing mileage, but it has to appeal to your intended audience or it isn’t going to get much play.

If you’re launching a product, have added a new hire to your sales staff, opened a new facility, been awarded a prize, or hit a milestone, the news can be worked into a press release. Remember, every day newspapers, journals, local broadcasting stations, and websites have print space or air time to fill, so your release may be more valuable than you think.

You can draft a single release for wide distribution, but it’s a better idea to tweak a number of releases to fit different media venues. With a little rework, the same information can be tailored for an industry publication, a local newspaper, or your own blog.

News releases can be sent as emails, faxes or by snail mail. They can also be hand delivered to create some extra attention.

How to Draft a Press Release

Many news releases are generated every day, so make yours count. Formatting and clarity are important. The material should be presented in the following order and include certain basic information beyond your news story:

  1. Contact – Provide the name, number, and an email address for the contact person at your company who is authorized to answer questions from the media.
  2. Timing – State when the information can be circulated. Most press releases will stipulate, “For Immediate Release”.
  3. Headline – Create a compelling headline and keep it under two lines. Place it in full caps, and bold it.
  4. Dateline – Start your story with a dateline that includes your city and state in caps followed by the date. (e.g., DETROIT, MI, March, 3, 2010)
  5. Body – Keep the body of your release straightforward and lead with the most important information first. Don’t expect the entire text of your release to be used. You want to create interest and keep it. The first sentence should be a killer and not a sleeper. Include the “who”, “what”, “when”, “why”, “where” and “how” in descending order of importance.
  6. Boilerplate – Finish your release with a short paragraph about your company. Consider it an introduction to readers who aren’t familiar with who you are or what you do. You can use this in all your press releases, so be sure to save it.

Press Release Tips and Tricks

  • Start the ball rolling by posting your press release on your website.
  • Keep the entire release under two pages.
  • If you have supporting information, like reports, bios, product sheets or price lists, include them in the packet.
  • If you have good visuals, like photos, maps or graphs, include them too.
  • Your release is more likely to get published if you make sure to focus on how the information is important to the reader. Editors will understand how getting the info out there will help you. The trick is to make it interesting enough to earn a mention. We’ve said this before, but it’s probably the most important press release tip you’ll ever hear.
  • Although it isn’t strictly necessary, adding quotes from customers, expert sources, or industry leaders lends your release credibility.
  • Before you start mailing it out, do some recon to get good contact names and addresses. There’s no law against calling your wish list of media outlets to get the current contact info you need.

Press releases are time sensitive, so begin thinking about all the things that make your company and products newsworthy today, next week, next month, and on into your bright marketing future. They are only one tool in your marketing toolkit, but press releases are a powerful ally, and they’re almost free for the asking.

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