14 Tips for Sending Effective Press Releases
By: John Hewitt (Visit John's Web Site)
1. Know who to send it to, not just where. Find out who the editor or reporter is for the section you want your release to appear in. Include their name on the release, not just the envelope.
2. Only send the release to one person per news outlet. Any problems that develop, from duplicate coverage and effort, will be blamed on you.
3. Don't just send, call. If you want your release covered, (And you know you do.) Call the person before sending the release, and call a couple days later to make sure they received it.
4. Timing is everything. Don't fax a release out the day before an event and expect it to receive coverage. Give the maximum possible amount of time for the news outlet to decide how they want to cover the story. If you feel the event is so far in the distance that they might forget about it, then simply send another release as the time for the item draws nearer.
5.Know your deadlines. Magazines, even weekly ones, are often planned months in advance. Seasonal events, such as Christmas and Easter, are great examples of this. For calender items, know when the news outlet's deadline for the section is.
6. Keep it short and informative. Reporters and editors are notoriously busy. Most press releases should be kept to one page. Two is acceptable. If they want more information, they'll ask.
7. Write it in a news style. That means putting the prime information (Who, where, what, and when) into the lead (first paragraph). It also means keeping the sales pitch subtle. No exclamation points!!! Many papers will directly reprint a press release, as long as it is written in a professional news style. Use short words and sentences. Make sure what you're saying is very clear.
8. It is still better to mail than fax. Almost all papers have fax machines, and a few of them prefer to recieve their press releases via fax, but the vast majority still prefer mail and even the ones who like fax will still run mail pieces. Only fax in an emergency (Read Crisis). If a client has somehow been implicated in a devastating event (Such as the Jack-in-the-Box meat disaster) then the need to get important information to the press outweighs the nicety of mail.
9. Always include, at the top corner of every page, a two or three word description of the story, the name and phone number of key contact people (No more than two), The page number (if there is more than one page) and the release date (Usually "For Immediate Release" otherwise "Please hold until ?/?/?")
10. If you have good photos, send them or include the words "Photos available upon request" with your information at the top of the page. Only send high quality photos, however, and only when they add to your story. 8"x10" black and white glossies are best. Place photos on top of cardboard when mailing. Don't tape or paper clip. (It can ruin the photo.)
11. Buy an AP stylebook and learn how to properly abbreviate words numbers, and the proper way to refer to most formal names.
12. End a press release with either ### or -30- typed across the center of the page a couple lines below the end of your text. If a release is continued on another page, type -more- at the bottom of the page in the center.
13. Use standard 8 1/2"x11" paper typed on one side only. Never break a paragraph across two pages. Leave plenty of margins for editors to write notes in. 1 1/2" all around should be fine.
14. Don't fold your release like a letter , fold it so that the headline and date will be the first thing the editor or reporter sees upon opening the envelope.
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