17 Tips for Creating Effective Press Releases

A press release is the most valuable single sheet of paper in all of marketing. You send this short, crisp, one-page document to a magazine or newspaper editor. If published, it appears as if written by the editorial staff.press release image

A simple press release is the best and cheapest way to get media attention. There’s nothing better than free publicity to help promote your company, products and services. New products or innovations can be made newsworthy, and interesting company news can be announced with a formal press release. Follow these tips to get the best press exposure.

Here’s how to create a great press release and increase your chances of getting it published.

1. Editors are busy. Let them know it’s a press release at first glance. In the header, print “Press Release,” “News Release” or “For Immediate Release” in a large, bold typeface.

2. For events, an “end date” should be shown in the header after the event occurs and the release should no longer be considered for publishing.

3. Spend the most time on creating your press release headline. Spend an hour, two or more creating that one line that will both make the editor think it will be a must-read story for his/her audience and draw every reader who may buy your product into the story.

4. Write your press release with the important elements first. Just like a news story, press releases are created in a pyramid style of writing with the most important parts at the top. Editors traditionally shorten press releases by cutting from the bottom, so the important information at the top won’t get cut.

5. Don’t use fluffy words or lots of adjectives. If it sounds like an ad instead of sounding like a news story, it won’t be edited, but rather will simply be rejected by the editor, and not selected for publication.

6. Keep it to one page. You’re not writing “War and Peace.” In this news-bite and fast-read Internet society, two-page press releases are much harder to get read, let alone get placed.

7. Use Courier style type, 12 point and double-space the body copy. I know, I know, you’ve got a lot of fonts in your computer. But Courier is traditional, and the word count is easy for an editor to figure out at first glance. If it runs over a page or you need slightly more white space, go to Courier 10 point. If you still need more room, try Bookman, Century Schoolbook or the really tiny Times Roman. If you still need more space, take out a big red pen and cross out half of what you’ve written.

8. Proof your work carefully. If you don’t, the publisher’s staff won’t be so kind. If your work has typos, mistakes and poor grammar, it will reflect poorly on you, your products and your company. Editors will think that your literature — and your products are filled with the same poor quality, and if your products are purchased from an article in their magazine, it will reflect poorly on them. Put simply: Correct mistakes or your press release won’t get published.

9. Your contact information is listed last. Last paragraph of your release contains a contact name, company name, address, phone, Web address, fax and email. If you hope to get any direct sales, a product price has to be included. Marketing tip: If your price is really high, leave it out and ask readers to call for more information. When they call, then you sell the product and overcome any reader price objection.

10. A tight cover letter should be sent with every press release. No exceptions. And no, the letter doesn’t say “Here’s a press release … blah blah blah.” They can see there’s a press release included. Your letter is written to build credibility, and to offer additional features and benefits that wouldn’t fit into the release. These should increase your chance of publication, or offer points an editor may pick up and use in the story.

11. Find media contacts in the media directories published by Cision (formerly Bacon’s), by Oxbridge Communications, and the PR Pitch Book (from Bulldog Reporter). Directories of magazines, newspaper directories, radio directories and cable and broadcast TV directories make finding media and personnel easy and fast. There are also online services from these firms that are awesome.

12. An alternative to sending out traditional press releases by mail is to use an online press release service like PR Web or PR Newswire. Although the response is much lower than traditional releases, online press release services are less costly and make it easy to get your release out in the fastest possible time frame. If your press release is timely and really newsworthy, this might be an effective way to transmit it instantly. For most campaigns, I do not recommend online news service distribution. Media coverage in print is much less likely.

13. Besides a tight list of your most important trade publication editors, don’t forget to send your release to additional contacts: industry association newsletter editors and consumer publications. You can also send to potential volume purchasers. While a well-written release isn’t necessarily a sales vehicle, when accompanied by a great cover letter, a brochure and maybe a special coupon, it can be an additional way to promote your firm, especially if the news is timely or interesting to them (not just to you).

14. I’ve always heard you should keep in touch with the editors at the top publications where you’d really like to have your releases published, but I’ve never found this likely unless you are a professional media junkie. So just try to be nice to them on the phone when you call. Most editors are helpful (although they can get a little frantic around the closing date of the magazine). Find out if they’re “on deadline” before you ask to chat with them about your new products, industry news, products, people and gossip.

15. Send press releases every few months. A single press release is not a campaign. Grooming the media and getting consistent publicity is a continual process.

16. Be sure to thank editors when they run your release. This is important because when you send them your next release, they’ll remember you. Almost no one does this.

17. Here are the most effective 11 words in all of PR: “Are you the person I should send this press release to?” Ask this specific question whenever you send a press release. It sets up a “Can you help me?” relationship in under a minute. If the editor says yes, give your 30-second pitch, then send your press release to him or her. In the letter you include with your press release, write on the first line: “Thank you for receiving my phone call, it was a pleasure speaking with you,” even if it wasn’t. This will remind the editor you called and will increase the chance of your press release being published by 80 percent. If they point you to someone else, call and say the same 11 words.

The inquiries to your press release campaign can help you learn which magazines bring in response and sales. Place ads in the top publications that published your release with good response.

Although there shouldn’t be a link between advertising spending and publicity, editors are usually keenly aware of who their advertisers are and may be more willing to talk with you about company news.

An effective press release campaign is the most important part of any intelligent marketing plan. To plan an effective campaign, write 25 headlines of interesting-sounding news releases. Then select the 6-8 best ones for press releases you’d like to send this year and plan — upfront — a press release schedule to send them. You can then back into the body copy of the releases later.