When it comes to promoting your business or yourself, cutting through the clutter is half your battle. One of the easiest and most effective ways to get the word out about your business is through public relations and specifically press releases. If you can’t afford to retain the services of a professional writer or publicist, mastering the art of the press release will help you build relationships with the media and create some buzz for your product or service. Below are five steps to creating foolproof press releases:
1. Determine if your news is really news
Unfortunately, the media see far too many press releases that aren’t all that newsworthy. While it may seem like a good idea to distribute a press release for the sake of distributing it, make sure you actually have something to say. This builds your credibility with the media and will make them more receptive to your eventual pitch. Announcing the opening of your bakery is ho-hum. However, if you can tie your press release to bridal cake trends or give five quick tips for baking the perfect blueberry muffins (and offer a ten percent discount to everyone who comes to your bakery to try yours) you have a much better chance of getting a reporter’s attention.
2. Use snappy headlines
The headline will be the first thing a reporter sees, so you need to grab their attention and fast. Long, wordy headlines will likely be skipped over. Short, pithy headlines will make that reporter stop and keep reading. Think about your business. For example, if you own a restaurant, perhaps your headline is a play on words about food. You can use your subhead to expound a bit more on the topic of your press release, but use your headline to pique curiosity, not inspire boredom.
3. Keep ’em Short, Keep ’em Simple
While you may want to wax poetic about the virtues of your product or service, refrain from filling up the pages of your press release with unnecessary details. Utilize the “resume rule” when developing your press releases – one to two pages at the most. Double space the body of your press release and leave wide margins. Limit your first paragraph to two or three sentences, keep quotes to a minimum (no more than two people quoted, but only if you absolutely have to. Otherwise, one quote will suffice), offer solid supporting details and finish with a strong boilerplate (descriptive paragraph about your company.)
4. Write using active voice
Nothing will derail your press release faster than sloppy writing and a passive voice. As much as possible, write in the present tense, which will lend a sense of urgency to your release, but also force you to use less words, which makes for overall stronger writing. Instead of “Company XYZ will provide information on all the latest trends in sportswear,” try “Company XYZ provides information on sportswear’s latest trends.” By changing the sentence to active voice, it becomes snappier and instantly more engaging.
5. Master AP Style
We all went to school to learn about proper formatting when writing our English essays. Well, when it comes to crafting a polished press release, throw out just about everything you learned in school. Associated Press Style or AP Style is the guidebook media uses when writing their news stories and it is what they expect to see when a press release crosses their desk. Among the differences in AP Style that are contrary to what you learned in school are how you write numbers, states, titles and so much more. While it may look strange to you at first and feel “wrong,” nothing will say “amateur” to the media faster than sending out a press release that is not properly formatted using AP Style. AP Stylebooks can be found at your local bookstore. It’s a worthy investment.
– Make sure to put contact information at the top of your press release including name, phone number (cell phone number as well, in case a reporter on deadline is trying to reach you) and email address. If you put your contact information at the bottom of the release and it’s a two-pager and the two pages somehow get separated, you might be losing out on a valuable opportunity.
– Indicate “For Immediate Release” at the top of your release unless it is embargoed. That way, media know they can begin using the information right away.
– If you don’t have company letterhead, make sure to include your logo on your press release along with your company address, phone number and Web site.
– At the end of your release, don’t forget to indicate there is no more information to be provided in the release by using an end mark, typically, three pound signs (###) centered on the page after your copy.