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Writing an Effective Press Release
What follows are some basic guidelines for writing effective press releases, based on many years of being on both sides of the editorial desk.

The Key Ingredients

  1. Make it newsworthy.
    Nobody really cares that you've just added a guestbook to your website, you've won "Bob's Website Of The Day" award, or that you've added PayPal as a method of accepting payments. These are trivial matters that are not good material for a press release. Besides which, nobody is going to come and visit your site just because you're doing what everyone else is doing.

    Wait until you've got something really newsworthy to say before you start annoying editors and journalists with your press releases. If you keep sending them no-news announcements then they'll quickly learn to drop everything you send them into the trash can.

  2. Say It In A Headline.
    Remember, the goal of a press release is to catch the eye of an editor or journalist and convince them that whatever you're saying is something worth printing.

    Given the huge number of PRs that most publications receive each day, it really helps if you can make a bold statement on the first line of the release -- something that will draw them in to read more.

    Don't make the mistake of wasting your chance to pique the reader's attention by filling the top half of the page with information such as your company's name, address, contact information, profile etc. That information is completely irrelevant if you can't draw them in and get them to read on and is better left to the very end.

  3. The Five W's
    First-up you need to convince the recipient of your PR that its contents are truly newsworthy. One of the simplest ways to do this is to simply tell them why it's newsworthy. Don't be afraid to use a big bold heading such as "Why This Is Newsworthy:" followed by no more than a single sentence that pleads your case.

    If you've convinced them as to why your PR is newsworthy, the journalist assigned to write up the story will need to know four things:

    • Who
    • What
    • When
    • Where
    If you provide them with this information, in just that form, then you've made their lives easier -- and that means your release is less likely to end up in the trash can.

    You can, if you choose, provide this information under those very headings.

  4. Use Bullet Points.
    Drop in a short list of bullet-points that highlight the key points of your announcement. Press releases that look like a giant block of text will often be overlooked in favor of those which are shorter with a greater density of facts -- once again, this makes a journalist's life easier.

  5. Be Concise
    Remember -- the shorter your PR is, the more chance there is that it will be read in its entirety. The job of your PR is simply to convince the editor or journalist that what you're saying is worthy of publication or investigation as a story. When space is at a premium (as it often is) then the shorter PRs have more chance of surviving the editorial process than those which drone on for page after page.

  6. Include Quotes From Relevant People.
    Journalists love PRs with lots of quotes. This allows them to write a story that sounds like an interview without even having to lift the phone.

  7. Include Contact Details
    Make sure you include the names and contact details of at least two people in your organization. If a journalist working to a tight schedule can't get ahold of anyone to ask questions about your PR then it might just be dropped in favor of something easier. Don't let that call go unanswered!

  8. Choose Your Moment.
    Even the slickest, most newsworthy PR will probably go straight in the trash can if it's sent out shortly after some other major news event occurs.

    Remember September 11, 2001? For several weeks, the only news that anyone was publishing was terrorist-related. Hardly the time to announce the launch of the new "" website.

    The best time to send out your PR is when it looks like a "slow news day." Such days are hard-work four journalists and a well-crafted release can be a godsend when there's nothing else to write about.

You've probably figured out by now that a press release made to the formula above will not look much like the press releases that usually get written and dumped on someone's desk. That's a good thing!

Remember -- to get noticed, you must be distinctive -- and if your PR looks different to everyone else's then it is more likely to catch the attention of those who will decide to publish the information contained in it.

If you're not a wizz with words, I highly recommend getting someone to write your press releases for you. A good writer can make all the difference and, although they don't often come free, it should be remembered that a badly written PR simply wastes all the other time, effort and expense you put into its preparation and release.

Distributing A Press Release
Assuming you've created the perfect press release, now you need to get it into the hands of all those publishers who (you hope) will admire your efforts and immediately rush it into print -- or (if' you're really lucky) maybe even pass it on to a journalist who can make it into a feature article.

But what's the best way to distribute such a release?

Well it depends on which you have the most of -- time or money.

There are many well respected PR companies that have long-established connections with a wide number of publishers. They'll distribute your PR for a fee that likely depends on the market you're addressing.

Note that this service is seldom cheap however -- which explains why many of the owners of these PR business drive very nice cars and live on the better side of town.

The poor-man's alternative is to send out the PRs yourself. Before you do this however, you need to decide whether to use a shotgun approach and simply send it out to any and every publisher you can find -- or do you focus on a few key publications?

By focusing on a smaller number of publications you can put more effort into each. This might include such blatantly obvious attempts to curry favor as including a bar of chocolate in the envelope containing your PR -- or following up your PR with a phone call to establish the level of interest and offer more information.

Here's an example of a press release written using many of the techniques described above.


Introduction | 2.Search Engines | 3.Getting Ranked | Writing Effective Press Releases | Branding | Using Bulk Email | More to come