How to Write Powerful Press Releases

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Years ago when my Dad owned a gaggle of local newspapers I spent my school and college vacations working within the editorial office. We wont to amuse ourselves over our sandwiches at lunchtime rummaging through and trashing the endless press releases that might arrive within the mail every day , all beautifully produced with glossy photographs (this was in pre-internet days).

We trashed them because about the odd one or two were ill-considered, highly subjective, barely camouflaged advertising copy that had about the maximum amount editorial news value as last week’s shopping list.

Why am I telling you all this? Because despite the very fact that this happened a few years ago, it’s still happening today. Both offline and now online editors still laugh sardonically at the self-promoting garbage they receive from corporate sources exactly as my Dad and that i laughed umpty-dump years ago. I salivate just brooding about how I could spend the fortunes wasted on those releases and pictures over numerous years.

And why does this still happen? i think it’s because the organizations who send these things – particularly their financial managers – just can’t get their heads round the difference in culture between what they need to mention , and what editors got to deliver to their audiences. Good PR advisers try hard to compensate, but ultimately it is the client who pays their fees, and if the client insists on issuing garbage there’s not much a PR adviser can do aside from resign the business.

Time after time after time I’m called into companies and asked to discuss why the PR coverage they get within the media is so poor. 99 times out of a 100 it’s because they’ve issued press releases that are only of interest to themselves and their bosses. And yet once I point this bent them they can not know it . “But our development team worked 14 hours each day for 3 years to win that contract!” they shout indignantly. “And the CEO had to chop short his vacation in Turks & Caicos with great care he could sign the documents by the deadline! I mean, it is the most vital thing to possess happened to us within the history of the company!”

“I know,” I croon soothingly, “but those points aren’t of much interest to the readers of your regional business press, or your trade press for that matter.”

“Well, maybe not,” they reply. “But they’re very relevant to us, and to our shareholders. That’s why we made such an elaborate issue of these points within the handout .”

Ah, i feel to myself as I gaze out of the window to ascertain if my creatively-parked car goes to draw in the eye of passing traffic police persons. Here is another problem we encounter with press releases. It’s called “when may be a handout not a press release?” the solution is, when a handout is to be wont to impress all kinds of people that aren’t members of the press. Only we would like them to think that this is often what the press will write on us, so we put it during a handout that might be okay as long as that’s as far because it goes.

But the awful truth is that the same document (paper or electronic) really does get sent bent the press. And quite rightly they ignore it, once more because it’s of no interest to the readership of the publication concerned.

For Heaven’s sake, you folks who do that kind of thing, please get older and face reality. If you would like to market your achievements to your share/stockholders or staff or suppliers or whoever, then just plow ahead and roll in the hay and dress it up in “press release” costume if you want to , although i do not think that fools anybody.

But whatever you are doing , don’t send it to the press – and do not kid yourself or anyone else that to use an equivalent document for both purposes may be a thanks to economize. it is a sure thanks to shoot yourself through the foot and indirectly could cost you a fortune.

If you would like to urge coverage within the media then you want to forget all elements of self-congratulation. Whatever information you send has got to have something “in it for them” (the audience) – something new, interesting and relevant. It doesn’t need to be earth-shattering, just worth reading.

If your organisation has done something brilliant and you’re pleased with it, by all means say so; just make certain to emphasize what’s great about it for the audience and/or the remainder of the planet , not merely for yourselves. Let the facts tell the story. If your organisation genuinely deserves to be congratulated, it’ll be.

And you do not simply have the audience to think about during this case, because unlike the sorts of communication you control, with media coverage the choice of whether or to not transmit your message rests with somebody else – usually the editor. Editors and journalists are either very busy or very lazy or both (and don’t chastise me for admitting that, guys. i have been there, done it, got the T shirt and drank an excessive amount of within the brasserie at lunchtime too.)

If you supply them with material they will see has relevancy to their readers and preferably is usable with the minimum of editing, they’re going to consider it tons faster than something which will hold a grain of interest but will take someone an entire evening to rewrite and a number of other phone calls or e-mails to see for accuracy.

Try to match the design and writing approach of the publication. If you’re sending a release bent several publications that circulate among an equivalent readership, then one release should be relevant to all or any . But if you’re aiming at different press groups – say the trade journals and therefore the business pages of the regional dailies – you’ll got to rework the approach of your handout consistent with the various audiences.

You’ll usually find that the essential core of a handout can remain pretty much an equivalent across all media groups, because it consists (or should consist) of the pure facts – the old journalist’s formula of who, what, how, where, when and why. What changes is that the angle, and particularly the lead-in.

That means the headline, which should be short and attention-grabbing, then the primary two or three sentences that support the headline and found out the entire story. Often it’s worth trying to figure during a clever little bit of word-play with headlines, but be very careful – a pun or play on the words that does not work is worse than writing the headline straight.

A good thanks to nail down the acceptable style and approach is to read and become conversant in the publication or publications you’re aiming at. By studying them carefully you will see how they use word-plays in their headlines, if at all, and the way they relate them to the topics concerned.

By far the simplest guidance you will get , though, comes from studying the audience – the people that read the publications. What in your story goes to interest them?

Readers of a trade journal are going to be curious about what’s new and different about your new product and the way it could improve the way they are doing business. Readers of local or regional business sections are going to be interested more in how your new product’s manufacturing and distribution, say, will impact on the local businessmen and economy. Local general newspapers and other media are going to be curious about the human side, i.e. what percentage new jobs the factory producing the new product will create.

And one last tip on the way to get the simplest from press releases – use “quotes” from the key people involved within the story. Not those awful, meaningless corporate-babble quotes you so often see in company press releases… “We are delighted to be ready to announce the new contract at this moment in time and that we have every confidence that our latest investment are going to be of serious benefit to our… ” you recognize the sort of thing. These are usually the primary elements that get chopped out by the editor.

It’s perfectly okay to write quotes for your senior people, by the way. They very rarely give real quotes for love or money aside from TV or radio interviews but don’t seem to mind quotes being written for them, provided they’re given the chance to see them before they’re issued. So, write them quotes that – faraway from being beatific banalities – actually are telling important parts of the story. this is often good for 2 reasons.

One, it makes your senior exec look intelligent and conscious of what is going on on within the organization, which is 100% quite the banality-quote will do for him/her. And two, because it’s a crucial a part of the story and contains useful facts, the publication’s staff are going to be far less likely to edit it out.

Possibly you’re starting to feel that so as to urge press coverage you will have to show yourself, your product and your entire board inside out and the wrong way up you’ll be right, but that’s PR. Remember that press coverage isn’t advertising**.

Yes, it’s free and that is wonderful, but as always there is no such thing as a gift . Editors will only put your stuff in, for free, if it’s genuinely good for his or her publication and their readers, not for you. they are doing not care about your sales figures. They care about their own sales figures. Successful PR people and writers of press releases always, always bear these points in mind; actually that’s why they’re successful.

**An exception to the present is what’s known (in the united kingdom at least) as “advertorial.” just in case you do not already know this is often advertising copy written in editorial style, but the space it occupies is basically a billboard you buy . Advertorial is an unfortunate hybrid that has its roots back within the half of the 20th century when it had been still okay to run press ads that seemed like articles and a few readers were still nave enough to be hoodwinked by them. If you’re obliged to write down it, please just attempt to make it as honest as you’ll . Not easy.

Online tips

Nearly all the idea concerning offline PR has relevancy to the web equivalent – especially in terms of what content is of interest to publishers and what isn’t. Online publishing of relevance to organizations usually falls into one among two pretty obvious groups; one, websites, portals etc that are totally independent and uniquely on the online , and two, those which are the web alter egos of offline publications.

In either group if you would like the publications to require your releases or submissions seriously, it’s extremely important that you simply follow the format and structure of articles that appear on the websites concerned. Whatever you are doing don’t make the error of submitting a general handout to those organizations, albeit you are doing it by e-mail.

Check first how long the teaser paragraph is that appears on the house or section page, and check how they lay out the complete articles. Then submit material that matches perfectly, both a la mode and in word counts. One, you’ll be saving them the difficulty of transforming your piece which makes it attractive within the first place, and two because it fits so perfectly you’ll discourage them from changing anything, which is additionally an enormous advantage for you.

The other point i might make about online press work is don’t assume that simply because you submit a release to the offline publication (and albeit they run it) it’ll be forwarded automatically to the publication’s website. It won’t. a minimum of not necessarily.

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