Mar 222012
 

One area of advertising that many business forget about is press releases and it’s a shame because done properly they can be a really effective way of getting your name out there absolutely free of charge.

However, to be effective in making press releases work you need to do it properly (just like all other advertising…), there are no short cuts.  This article will explain how to get the most out of any press releases you write.

What is news?

The first thing to consider is what is news?  There are two forms of news.  The first is the hard, factual news and the second is the soft, human interest news.  Ideally you want to blend the two together to improve your chances of getting it published.


News is information that generally has a timeliness to it. In other words, something has happened and you wish to let others know about it.  Writing press releases about something that happened 6 weeks ago – or which is due to happen in ten days’ time will not get picked up by the press because one is out of date and the other may not actually happen.

Rule 1 – your press release needs to be drafted and released at the same time as the event or a maximum of 24 hours of the event taking place.

The human interest angle is also very important.  People like hearing news about people because they can connect with that on an emotional level.  For example, the reader might be the same age as the person in the news or might be from the same town or college; they might have experienced the same scenario or be in the same industry and know about the issues.  The personal angle makes the story come to life – it adds color.

Rule 2 – include a personal angle to the story.

How to write the story

News journalists are busy people and if your press release doesn’t grab their attention in 3 seconds it will end up in the bin.

There are two key areas you need to focus on to avoid your release suffering that fate; first you need to write in an engaging style and second you need to format it properly.

The first thing you need to be clear about is what is the story?  This should be clear from the title or within the first 25 words of the article.

“River City auto salesman wins national sales award”

Without reading the article I already know what the release is about and if I’m a journalist interested in local business news I will keep it on the desk.

What follows after that will be the key elements of the story – who, what, why, when and how.  In the body of the article you will explain that it was Dave Smith from West Side Autos who won the prize, that the event took place at the City Hotel etc etc.

Rule 3 – be clear on the story

Rules to follow

Having got clarity on what the story is the next thing is to make sure it’s written and formatted properly.  If a journalist has to go through your article and correct spelling and grammar mistakes, reformat it and cut out extraneous text then your article probably won’t make the paper.

There are a number of key rules to abide by here; if you follow them it can really help to increase your chances of being published:

  1. Write for an 8 year old – people don’t want to have to think about what they read so keep your structure and style simple.
  2. Don’t use abbreviations – goes with the note above; you might understand them but the majority of your audience will not.
  3. Give the full description of the person – use their full name, add their age in brackets and if they belong to a specific organization then add their rank or status in full.  So, put ‘Lieutenant Simon Rickard (36) of River City Police’ rather than ‘Lt Rickard of the local police’.  It may be that when it’s printed some of this information is taken out but by presenting the journalist with the full picture means he doesn’t have to hunt around for the background information.
  4. Use quotes – people love to hear what people have said so get at least one quote in there.
  5. Don’t over-capitalize – avoid unnecessary capitals as this can make the writing look odd and will probably get taken out.
  6. Numbers – numbers one to ten are written, 11 onwards are shown in numerals.
  7. Never use the word local – you never know where the article may end ups o be specific about location.

Rule 4 – follow the rules.

Summary

This article looks at the background stuff you need to take into account for a press release.  The next article will look at actually writing it so that you get the message across and get it published.