A part of
Increase Your Profits:

Business Writing Made Clear


by Jennifer Hicks, CEO, WordsWork


The Art of Writing a Press Release

Every company needs publicity. And, every journalist needs something to write about.

Sounds like a match made in heaven, right? Not necessarily.


Issue #4


originally posted

Wednesday, Jan. 28, 1998


Journalists are bombarded with information about this thing and that company. Unless your "thing" stands out, you'll be left wondering why it is that your competitor always appears in the news and you don't.

Any moron can write a press release. And, it's not to hard to find the names and addresses of those who want to receive such releases. It is, though, considerably more difficult to write a press release that someone will read. And harder still to write one that generates a follow-up.

Make sure your press release follows a standard format.

  • In the upper left corner, write the release date. It's either "For immediate release" or it's for "Release on such-and-such a date".
  • In the upper right corner, write a two or three word description of the story and include the name and phone number of a contact person.
  • Use the standard organizational pattern of:
    • headline
    • summary lead or opening paragraph
    • body
    • conclusion



Format




Content

Make your headline count. It's what will be read first and it can determine whether your release is tossed or read with interest. Use ten words or less. Summarize the story with riveting words. Be bold.

Your first paragraph should contain the most important pieces of your story. Who is doing what. When are they doing it and where? Why does it matter? In other words, why should anyone care?

The body of the release should contain the details of your story. Get to the point immediately. Most important points go first. Use short sentences. Use words that convey meaning, that describe, and feel active.

Avoid jargon and clichés. Make each word count. In this section, include quotations and credentials. Who is saying what about your product or services?

In your conclusion, restate the contact point. If you have a press kit, white papers, or photos available, say so.

Try to keep your press release to a single page. End it with either ### or -30- typed across the center of the page a couple lines below the end of your text. If you must go on to a second page, type -more- across the bottom of the first page. Use only half of the second page. Include page numbers in the top right corner of each page.

"Make each word count."



Getting to
the Right People

Know which editor or reporter covers the section you want your release to appear in. Include their name on the release. Look at the mastheads of magazines. Check out web sites. Find the appropriate names and then verify the addresses. To get started, try the resources listed below:

Think of deadlines. Magazines plan months in advance. Newspapers are more timely. Sending a press release about an event scheduled for tomorrow will not work.

Many journalists prefer email. Don't send attachments. Don't include huge graphics. Don't fax. If you're sending a release to someone new, call to find out how they prefer to receive releases.

Don't call to see if they received the release. If they're interested, they'll call you.

If you've developed a revolutionary product such as one that eliminates the need to ever clean a home again, say that in your headline. On the other hand, if you're just a typical business, facing typical struggles, wanting free publicity, try one of the following to enhance your press release:
  • Relate your release to current news events or holidays
  • Tie the release to a poll or survey you conducted
  • Make an analysis or prediction
  • Commend an institution or public body
  • Announce the formation of new committees, new appointments, anniversaries, or awards



What makes You Newsworthy?



Understand the Journalist




Back to the top / Back to the Sideroad

They're busy, just like you. They read thousands of words each day. Make sure your words are worth their time. Don't tell them your company is absolutely terrific. Instead, with your words, show what is terrific about it. Spell their names right. If they contact you for more information, make sure you have it readily available. Don't make them wait.


Want to read more?


Go back to
Issue # 3,

ahead to
Issue # 5 - Increase Your Exposure
Using Email Discussion Lists



or visit the

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Jennifer Hicks is CEO and President of WordsWork, a communications consulting firm that works with clients to provide for their training, writing, editorial, and research and communication strategy needs. Since its start in 1996, the company has experienced tremendous growth and has grown from a one-person show to a staff of more than 25 full- and part-time people. Clients have ranged from start-ups to companies in the Fortune 500. While their trainers, writers, and editors have expertise in a variety of areas including technology, business, education, and medicine, they are renowned specialists in communications for the healthcare industry. For more information, contact info@wordswork.com
Phone: (774) 368-0514
Fax: (508) 374-8389

Text © Jennifer Hicks, 1998. Part of the original Sideroad.
The new Sideroad is now receiving traffic at www.sideroad.com.