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Sunday, April 28, 2013

How to write a press release

Press Releases - The Basics


 

The press release is a valuable tool for getting the word out about what you're doing. It's not a new tool but it's often overlooked. It's a simple printed or digital file that tells your story in a positive manner.
 
One recent development is the digital release. It's often used differently too.
Whether on paper or on the screen, the release must look professional. Be critical about every detail starting with the spelling and grammar. Read it several times before sending it out. If possible, have several other people check it too
 
The Basics:
Write in the third person. Don't use the term "I." Also, the second person (taking the "you" approach) is also usually avoided in news releases.
 
Don't be flowery or cute. There are exceptions. But humor is difficult to bring off in written form.
Write the release in the style of the media receiving it. A serious release goes to a serious publication. An irreverent blog probably requires a different approach.
 
Use the "inverted pyramid" style. The release starts with the biggest news first and ends with the least interesting story points. This allows the editor to cut the off the release at a number of points depending on space and other factors.
 
Releases are usually best kept to one page. Many do go to two pages, some even longer. But use caution in doing so.
 
Use quotes. They bring a release to life. Quote yourself, other employees of your company or customers.
 
News releases, when printed, are usually doubled or triple spaced. That leaves room for making notes. Online press releases are usually single spaced. But they're easily reformatted and printed out.
Formatting the Release Stick with the basics. Use your creativity in the copy itself, not reinventing the format.

Use Company letterhead at the top of the page or a special format developed for news releases. The words "news release" or "press release" are printed below that. A variation puts "Press Release" above the letterhead.
 
A headline usually follows. A summary can be directly below the headline giving a little more detail but using different words. For online releases, format the headline where the beginning of each word is capitalized, in "title case." (In printed press releases, the headline is usually in all caps).
 
Begin the first line of copy with the dateline (where the release is originating from) followed by the date.
Here's one possible format:
PRESS RELEASE
(LETTERHEAD)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: Joe Blow
804-555-5555
"joe@joeblow.com"
Smithfield Man Finds A New Use For Old Pantyhose
An environmentally friendly way to recycle old pantyhose
Chicago, 7/10/11 A new pantyhose recycling plant is opening in Chicagoland.
Headlines
 
The headline captures the story. Good headlines can be hard to write. It's especially so when the writer is trying to be cute. Being humorous in headlines is hard to accomplish. Unless the writer is especially skilled at doing so, it's usually best to play it straight. However, some cute, funny stories beg for a funny, quirky headline.
 
What's Your Lead?
The lead, the beginning of the story, sums it up: the who, what, where, when and why as well as how of the story. It can be one sentence or more. It grabs the heart of the story. After reading the lead, the reader should know the focus of the story.
Let's say you or your client have written a book about the national debt. But starting with the news about the book's release usually isn't the best way to begin. Start with the news angle that best gives your a chance of coverage.
 
Here's a start:
"The rate the government is spending now will put our kids and grandkids into debt they'll never get out. A Smithfield man new book "We'll Pay For It Later" says in 30 years, the average person will face three million dollars in government debt."
Following the lead, additional material fills out the release including quotes of those involved. If you're involved, that could be you.
 
Wrapping It Up
To signify the end of your release, you can use "##" (some use more # than this but it's a matter of style) or "END." Center them.
 
If the release is longer than one page, put "MORE" at the bottom. This is usually centered, sometimes put in parenthesis. After the ending sign (##), many people mention the subject of the release being available for an interview. An example:
 
"Professor John Smith is now available for an interview. Contact Shelby Jones at (804) 555-1212."
Many elements go into a press release. This report intends to offer just a broad overview of the basics.
 
Paul Bottoms, a lifelong journalist now a marketing strategist, helps small businesses stretch their marketing dollars with press releases. This articles can be used on your website as long as this bio is retained without modification. http://www.paulbottoms.com