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Writing a press release

For many businesses, a great cost-effective way of promoting news about your business is to produce a press release for distribution to the media. Today the media not only includes magazines and journals that customers read but also broadcasters and specialised websites.

Here are a few tips about how to produce an effective press release that journalists and bloggers in your target market should take notice of.

Admin and layout issues

For busy journalists who receive hundreds of emails every day, it is useful to indicate clearly that what you are sending is a press release. This should not only be in the subject line of the email but also marked clearly in at least three other places in the email.

In addition, you will need to show the source of the email and press release; this includes all relevant contact details such as your name, title, telephone and mobile numbers, email address and website. Also, show whom they should contact for further information and if someone is available for an interview. Also, indicate that the press release is for immediate release, forget about putting an embargo date on it since this will irritate the journalist who will have a different set of deadlines to you.

It should also include at the end of your press release usually titled notes for the editor section. Here is where you will put information about your business. This will include a line or two about what your business is about and where it is located when it was founded. In addition, brief details of the product or service. In addition, links to your website for more detailed and extensive information about your company and the products and services it provides.

Writing the Press Release

Assemble and Organise Your Facts. A simple rule is to find answers to questions pertaining to the who, what, when, where, why of the event, do not forget ‘how’. Put a date and location on the release and remember, yesterday’s news is not going to go far. Using a structured chart helps!

Identify Your Story’s Angle. A good story angle must have the following three attributes:

  1. It must be the most important fact in your story.
  2. It must be timely, unique, newsworthy or contrary to industry norms and trends.
  3. This story angle must be presented in the first paragraph as well as the headline of your press release.
  4. Create a Catchy Headline. Keeps the headline short and simple using less than ten words. It should convey the key points raised in the opening paragraph in a light-hearted manner that catches imagination and attention of the journalist. Write a strong headline that gets attention but, remember, you are dealing with journalists and they can be a cynical bunch. So do not go overboard.

Press release structure

  • Your contact details and showing it is a press release
  • The short, clear headline tells media what the story is about
  • Paragraph 1: sums up the entire story in one or two sentences
  • Paragraph 2: puts the story in context – why it’s important
  • Paragraph 3: presents details – who has involved how it came about, etc.
  • Paragraph 4: includes a relevant quote to add information, credibility and/or opinion
  • Paragraph 5: shows where people can find more details, buy a product, get involved, etc.
  • Notes to the editor: here is where you will include brief information about your business, products and services. Also, a link to your business website for more details.
  • Your contact details and who to contact for interviews and further information

Remember no sentence should be longer than 20 words!

In addition, always check your press release before submitting it for internal sign-off. Look out for the following including:

1.       Unnecessary words

2.       Spelling or grammatical errors

3.       Contradictions or inconsistencies – particularly if using percentages

4.       Accuracy of any statistics or numbers quoted

5.       Accuracy of dates, times and places

6.       Punctuation

It is often best to print off your press release when you finish writing it and check it through. You will often spot mistakes you did not see on the screen. In addition, it is worth asking a colleague to double check.

Construction

  1. In general, a press release shouldn’t be more than one page long.
  2. The Physical Format, separate the sections clearly to make sure that the recipient can access the information that they need effectively. Use something similar to below and stick to a format:

—BEGINS—

Let the journalist know where they should start.

—ENDS—

Let the journalist know where the release finishes.

—NOTES FOR EDITORS—

Extra information about the topic, company, etc., e.g. summary of the company’s activities, how long the organisation has been established.

—CONTACT—

Name, title, address, phone number, fax, e-mail and websites address if the journalist needs more information or more quotes.

—SENDER—

Most writers will recognise ##### for as the end of a release.

Place you full contact details here – so if there are any enquiries the journalist has a contact to get back to.

As for images

There are several solutions including:

  1. As an attachment
  2. A link to a dedicated page on corporate website or image storage sites like Dropbox, Pinterest, Flicker, http://www.google.com/photos/about/ 

Distribution.

  1. Don’t send your email as an attachment as some recipients do not open files that they think may contain a virus, or may not find attachments acceptable unless they are warned beforehand. Also, target your press release; find out who covers your topic in the organisation you are sending it to. So for instance there is no point sending a press release about luxury food to a motoring journalist.
  2.  Ring the journalist up, you have sent the email press release to, so as to check it has arrived and they have seen it. Always ask if they want further information.
  3.  Always have a photograph available. Do not send it with the original release – only send it when asked by a reporter. Make sure the picture is high resolution and professional. It should be at least 1.5 megabytes in size.
  4.  Make sure to publish the PR to your own website under News or About so the media can see other topics you have written about and are an expert in. They are looking for established experts so you want to portray yourself as one.
  5.  Switch off the email editor facility if your package caters for these. You don’t know what email software your recipient will be using, it is far more effective to send it by email in plain text.
  6.  Remove bold, italics, underlining, and unnecessary formatting, as when it is delivered it is likely to be ignored.
  7.  Most importantly ensure that the release is hitting your target audience and not sent to recipients that are not relevant.
  8. Always put a copy of your press release on your corporate news page and various social media forums such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc.

For press release templates:

http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/templates/?CTT=97

http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/templates/press-release-professional-design-TC102808439.aspx

Is your news newsworthy and of interest to your target market

Typically, it is useful to decide on a theme that will supply useful or interesting information to the reader. It could even be how to solve a problem.

Therefore, before you create a press release, it is important that we consider the following questions. These are:

  1. Is there anything new in my story?
  2. Is there anything unusual or unexpected?
  3. Would it be of interest to anyone outside my business?
  4. Has it any interesting local or national event?
  5. Will anyone care?

If no one will care about your news, then it would be better to wait until you come up with a better story.

It could be useful to see if you can link it with some important anniversary or even the launch of some film. For instance, in Oxford, there are always films being made in the area? Therefore, there can be countless opportunities linking your business to news of the film or TV production, such as you supplied the accounting, electrical or construction services for the film.

How to write good headlines

A great subject line is also necessary. Make sure that a press release headline is only five words long and immediately explains what the topic is about. Here are a few examples:

  • All Roads Lead To McDonald’s
  • How To Win Friends And Influence People
  • Dries Up Your Hay fever Problems
  • 27 Reasons You Should Try This Diet
  • Stop Being An Advertising Victim
  • Staffordshire’s Halloween Fright-fest!
  • Hurry – Final few homes remaining!

But you must remember that journalists do not have much time to spare, so keep your headline clear, short, understandable and to the point. Therefore, as a rule of thumb, a headline should be no more than five words.

Why the first line of your press release is important

The first line of your press release has to grab the attention of the journalist reading it, since if it fails to do so they will not go any further. So as a result, the first line must summarise the whole story in just 20 words and read like the opening of a new story.

Journalists are looking for the following things in a press release. These are:

  1. Why
  2. What
  3. Where
  4. Who
  5. What

So make sure that your press release answers all these key questions. You will often find that a good story in your newspaper will include answers to all these questions listed.

Another trick is to imagine your story will be broadcast on television or radio. The presenter will need to introduce each item in about six seconds. For example:

  • And coming out next is why a local engineering company is investing in 3D printing
  • and coming up next is why a local bus company electric buses
  • And coming up next is why a local company is celebrating its hundredth year of success
  • And why a local café is supporting local charities this month

Being able to answer such questions should give you the first line of your story

The importance of being concise

Today the ideal length of a press release should be only 400 to 500 words. It should comprise just three or four short paragraphs plus at least three useful quotes from someone in the company to add interest to the story. Increasingly, there is a trend by press release writers to include headings, subheadings, and bullet points in their writing. Doing so makes it often much easier to understand for the journalist. This is especially the case when explaining complex information and you are using figures and statistics.

When you are writing quotes make sure that they provide useful, insightful information. They should appear to have been sent by a real person.

Here are a few examples of such quotes:

  • “We believe in being a fully accountable and sustainable business,” said John Smith.
  • Robert James said, “Doing business with XYZ is a great pleasure.”
  • “We have an exciting future ahead of us,” said Andrew Smith.

A few more bits of advice

Increasingly journalists do not have the time to write the complete story from scratch. Therefore, it is important to write your press release well, since the journalist will often tweak your press release before placing it any feature.

How to find journalists contact details

It is possible to get lists of editors and journalists from such databases as response source and gorkana, but this costs money. So instead, you can use such search engines as Bing, Firefox, Google, or Opera to find a list of publications involved in your specialised sector. For instance, use search phrase “energy magazines in the UK” or “energy editors” or “energy journalists.” In addition, you can use LinkedIn to find contact details of such specialist publication and journalists. Another way is to use the web to look up the contact details of relevant journalists and editors. Since many publications list the specific telephone and email addresses to contact. In addition, many such people are on Twitter, so you can approach them that way as well.

A similar approach can be used in tracking down broadcasters and their researchers on both radio and television. In addition, social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn are useful. However, if you are still finding problems it is useful to contact someone by phone at the news desk and asked them to be put through to the relevant journalist. Remember, to be clear and to the point what you want to talk about since journalists are very busy.

In addition, you often see generic email addresses such as news@ features@ since such emails are not often checked regularly. As a rule of thumb, usually, the topic editor will decide, e.g. the environment editor, the shipping editor, the technology editor et cetera.

Another source of paid for contact information listings for various types of newspapers, business, consumer and trade journals and magazines are available at writers market 2019 for details of North American publications and in the UK artists and authors yearbook.

If you have followed all the advice and targeted your press release, it is likely that for every 20 press releases you send out be happy that you might get five responses. In addition, once you have sent out the press release, it is useful to ring the journalists in question as soon as possible to check that they have received and read the press release and to ask if they need further information. It is important to remember that writing a good and successful press release is as much about doing your research into potential publications, having a good story that will interest the readers and luck.

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