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How to Write a Press Release

A press release is a news story published by your organization and distributed to the media for the purpose of publicizing a product service. A press release can be a marketing tool, but unlike a brochure, ad or website, a press release is not targeted directly at a prospective customer. A press release is written for an editor, who hopefully will make your release the basis of a story in his publication.

Why are press releases so popular?

Of all writing projects: websites, brochures, white papers, ads, presentations, case studies, I get more requests to write press releases than anything else. Why? I think that press releases are perceived by many as an easy and cheap way to get product or company media exposure.

Press releases: an inexpensive alternative to advertising?

Let's say a magazine charges $2,000 for quarter page ad. If you send the editor of that same magazine a press release and he decides to write a story about your company, the cost to you could be less than $500 including paying the writer and mailing or emailing the releases. That's quite a bargain. Plus, it can be argued that potential customers will be more impressed with the story if it appears in the pages of the magazine rather than in an ad. Rule of thumb is that editorial matter has more credibility than paid ads.

Given that choice, who would choose to pay for advertising when they can get more impact by dashing off a sizzling release?

Press releases are not a free way to advertise

Of course it isn't that simple. When you buy ad space you are assured that your message will be published. When you send out a press release you are guaranteed nothing. The editor can choose to include your story, or not. The point is, when you send a press release, you have no certainty of getting any result at all. In terms of cost-effectiveness, an ineffective press release can be pretty expensive.

I think that the mistake many inexperienced marketers make is to look at press releases as an either-or-media. You should make the effort to get "free" editorial exposure, but if you want to deliver your message you also need to use other media.

Want get your press release noticed?
Follow these tips for writing an effective press release

If you are taking the time to write a press release you want to make sure to optimize the chances that the editor who receives it will be interested enough to follow up by writing a story. Here are few things that you can do to improve your press release batting average.

  • A press release must be news. If you send a press release simply to promote your product or company you will be wasting your time. A press release titled "Mike's Writing Services are the Best in the East" will land (deservedly in the trash). However, one titled "Mike Offers Free Writing Seminar at Community College" may well find its way into print. It is the editor's job to fill a publication with stories of value to readers. News can mean a new product or service release, a new hire, a speech given by your president, a major contract award, the list is endless, but it must always be news-not simply promotions.
  • A press release should tell most of its story in the headline and the first paragraph. A press release should ideally fit on one page but should never be more than two pages. Hint: If you have two hours to write your press release, spend 1 hour wording your headline! Editors receive lots of press releases and if your headline is confusing, boring or unclear you've wasted your time.
  • A press release should be dated and should have the name of a contact person clearly indicated on the first page. If the press release comes from a PR agency, the name of the PR contact and phone number should be clearly indicated. If the release comes directly from your company make sure the name of the person to contact and the telephone number is clearly indicated. An editor won't care where the release comes from, as long as the story idea is interesting and valuable to readers.
  • Send photographs with your release if possible. When you include a photograph you are increasing the chances for publication. Editors like to use photography because it makes their pages more interesting to look at. Make sure that the photography you send is good quality and include a photo caption.

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