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10 Tips for Writing Great Press Releases

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This is a practical guide to writing great press releases. It includes lots of tips, including pointers on things to avoid, and examples of how to write a well-structured text.

This is a practical guide to writing great press releases. It includes lots of tips, including pointers on things to avoid, and examples of how to write a well-structured text.

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  • 1. Paul Van Cotthem - www.turnleaf.be – 2007-09-25 1Guide to Writing Press ReleasesKeep the following points in mind when writing your press release. When we talk about pressreleases, we refer to the news stories you are telling.Interesting video. Check out this video about press releases:www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YB74txAaTcIs your news "newsworthy?" The purpose of a press release is to inform the world of your newsitem. Do not use your press release to try and make a sale. A good press release answers all ofthe "W" questions (who, what, where, when and why), providing the media with usefulinformation about your organization, product, service or event. If your press release reads likean advertisement, rewrite it.Start strong. Your headline and first paragraph should tell the story. The rest of your pressrelease should provide the detail. You have a matter of seconds to grab your readers attention.Do not blow it with a weak opening. Try to come up with a headline that looks like a newspaperarticle title. Headlines which are formatted as a question also work very well.Write for the Media. On occasion, media outlets, especially online media, will pick up your pressrelease and run it in their publications with little or no modification. More commonly, journalistswill use your press release as a springboard for a larger feature story. In either case, try todevelop a story as you would like to have it told. Even if your news is not reprinted verbatim, itmay provide an acceptable amount of exposure.Not everything is news. Your excitement about something does not necessarily mean that youhave a newsworthy story. Think about your audience. Will someone else find your storyinteresting? Lets assume that you have just spent a lot of effort to launch a new online store.Announcing your companys opening is always an exciting time for any business, but the lastthing the media wants to write about is another online store. This is old news and uninteresting.Instead, focus on the features of your online shopping experience, unique products andservices. Answer the question, "Why should anyone care?" and make sure your announcementhas some news values such as timeliness, uniqueness or something truly unusual. Avoid clichéssuch as "customers save money" or "great customer service." Focus on the aspects of yournews item that truly set you apart from everyone else.Does your press release illustrate? Use real life examples about how your company ororganization solved a problem. Identify the problem and identify why your solution is the rightsolution. Give examples of how your service or product fulfills needs or satisfies desires. Whatbenefits can be expected? Use real life examples to powerfully communicate the benefits ofusing your product or service.If you are reporting on a corporate milestone, make sure that you attribute your success orfailures to one or more events. If your company has experienced significant growth, tell theworld what you did right. Show the cause and effect.Stick to the facts. Tell the truth. Avoid fluff, embellishments and exaggerations. If you feel thatyour press release contains embellishments, perhaps it would be a good idea to set your pressrelease aside until you have more exciting news to share. Journalists are naturally skeptical. Ifyour story sounds too good to be true, you are probably hurting your own credibility. Even if it istrue, you may want to tone it down a bit.Pick an angle. Try to make your press release timely. Tie your news to current events or socialissues if possible. Make sure that your story has a good news hook.
  • 2. Paul Van Cotthem - www.turnleaf.be – 2007-09-25 2Use active, not passive, voice. Verbs in the active voice bring your press release to life. Ratherthan writing "entered into a partnership" use "partnered" instead. Do not be afraid to usestrong verbs as well. For example, "The committee exhibited severe hostility over the incident."reads better if changed to "The committee was enraged over the incident." Writing in thismanner, helps guarantee that your press release will be read.Economics of words. Use only enough words to tell your story. Avoid using unnecessaryadjectives, flowery language, or redundant expressions such as "added bonus" or "first timeever". If you can tell your story with fewer words, do it. Wordiness distracts from your story.Keep it concise. Make each word count.Beware of jargon. While a limited amount of jargon will be required if your goal is to optimizeyour news release for online search engines, the best way to communicate your news is tospeak plainly, using ordinary language. Jargon is language specific to certain professions orgroups and is not appropriate for general readership. Avoid such terms as "capacity planningtechniques" "extrapolate" and "prioritized evaluative procedures."Avoid the hype. The exclamation point (!) is your enemy. There is no better way to destroy yourcredibility than to include a bunch of hype. If you must use an exclamation point, use only one.Get Permission. Companies are very protective about their reputation. Be sure that you havewritten permission before including information or quotes from employees or affiliates of othercompanies or organizations. Any dispute resolution will favor the other company, meaning thatyour press release may get pulled.About your company. Your press release should end with a short paragraph (companyboilerplate) that describes your company, products, service and a short company history. If youare filing a joint press release, include a boilerplate for both companies.Formatting Your News ReleaseHow you present your news is just as important as its content.Mixed case. NEVER SUBMIT A PRESS RELEASE IN ALL UPPER CASE LETTERS. This is very badform. Your release will definitely be ignored by journalists. Use mixed case.Correct grammar usage. Always follow rules of grammar and style. Errors in grammar and styleaffect your credibility. Excessive errors will cause your press release to be rejected.Word processor. Write your press release on a word processor instead of composing online.Writing online will not achieve best results. Take time to do it right. Write, print, proof read.Rewrite, edit.No HTML. Never embed HTML or other markup languages in your press release. Your pressrelease will be distributed over a wide array of networks. Including such formatting willnegatively impact the readability of your press release.More than one paragraph. It is nearly impossible to tell your story in a few sentences. If you donot have more than a few sentences, chances are you do not have a newsworthy itemSummary paragraph. Include a one-paragraph summary. Some distribution points only receiveyour headline, summary and a link to your press release. If you fail to include a summaryparagraph, you may reduce the effectiveness of your press release.Do not include your e-mail address in the body of your release. We have a special place duringthe submission process for you to include your e-mail address. If you include your e-mail addressin the body of your press release, you run the risk of receiving spam. This is because your e-mailaddress will be available to the public. Spiders routinely scour the Internet harvesting e-mail
  • 3. Paul Van Cotthem - www.turnleaf.be – 2007-09-25 3addresses for spammers. Provide your e-mail address only in a separate document, or use apublic e-mail address, such as news@company.com .Other companies. Never include information about other companies without their expresswritten permission.Common News Release ErrorsBelow you will find some of the most common errors that we encounter on a regular basis. Youdo not get a second chance to correct the negative impressions left by a poorly written release.All Upper Case Characters - Never submit a press release in all upper case characters. Theheadline and body of your press release should be in proper case.Grammatical Errors - Even the best writers occasionally miss grammatical errors and typos.Please proof read, edit and reproof your press release. Obvious errors are easier to catch whencomposing your release off-line.Lack of Content -Oddly, authors are particularly guilty of too short press releases. Please makesure that you answer all of the "W" questions, who, what, where, when, why and how, toensure a complete press release.Press Releases that Scream BUY ME! - Do not write your press release like an advertisement.Remember that journalists are NOT your marketing partners. Their job is to relay information totheir audience, not to sell. A good press release informs the media. If your press releasescreams, BUY ME, then you might want to consider reworking your release.Hype Flags - This is a close cousin to the BUY ME problem. If your press release contains toomany "hype flags" it will trip spam filters and intercept your press release before it reaches itsdestination. A "Hype Flag" is anything that challenges the credibility of your press release.Examples of "Hype Flags" include an abundance of exclamation points or wild product andservice claims.Funny Characters - On occasion, strange characters and formatting can creep into your pressrelease during the submission (copy & paste) process. Make sure that your press release isformatted as you intended.Word Wrapping - Do not break each line at 70 characters. Let your sentences wrap naturally.Please do not place a hard carriage return at the end of each line. Include a carriage return onlyat the end of each paragraph.Incorrect Usage of E-mail - Use a role e-mail address instead of a personal account. A roleaddress is pr@companyname.com . A personal address would be name@companyname.com .Using a role address allows you to redirect e-mail to someone who can respond while you areon vacation. After all, you do not want to miss valuable media contacts. You never wantjournalists to receive a message telling them that you are unavailable during the week becauseof your vacation or business conference.
  • 4. Paul Van Cotthem - www.turnleaf.be – 2007-09-25 4News Release TemplateMake sure your press release looks like a press release. The following can be used as a template. Headline Announces News, Ideally Under 80 Characters The summary paragraph is a little longer synopsis of the news, elaborating on the news in the headline in one to four sentences. The summary uses sentence case, with standard capitalization and punctuation. City, Country -- Month 1, 2006 -- The lead sentence contains the most important information in 25 words or less. Grab your reader’s attention here by simply stating the news you have to announce. Do not assume that your reader has read your headline or summary paragraph; this lead should stand on its own. A news release, like a news story, keeps sentences and paragraphs short, about three or four lines per paragraph. The first couple of paragraphs should answer the who, what, when, where, why and how questions. The news media may take information from a news release to craft a news or feature article or may use information in the release word-for-word, but a news release is not, itself, an article or a reprint. The standard press release is 300 to 800 words and written in a word processing program that checks spelling and grammar before submission. The ideal headline is 80 characters long. We recommend writing your headline and summary last, to be sure you include the most important news elements in the body of the release. Use title case in the headline only. When you write in English, capitalize every word except for prepositions and articles of three characters or less. The rest of the news release expounds on the information provided in the lead paragraph. It includes quotes from key staff, customers or subject matter experts. It contains more details about the news you have to tell, which can be about something unique or controversial or about a prominent person, place or thing. Typical topics for a news release include announcements of new products or of a strategic partnership, the receipt of an award, the publishing of a book, the release of new software or the launch of a new Web site. The tone is neutral and objective, not full of hype or text that is typically found in an advertisement. Avoid directly addressing the consumer or your target audience. The use of "I," "we" and "you" outside of a direct quotation is a flag that your copy is an advertisement rather than a news release. Do not include an e-mail address in the body of the release. If you do, it will be protected from spam bots with a notice to that effect, which will overwrite your e-mail address. "The final paragraph of a traditional news release contains the least newsworthy material," said Firstname Name, public relations director for Company. "But for an online release, it’s typical to restate and summarize the key points with a paragraph like the next one." For additional information on the news that is the subject of this release (or for a sample, copy or demo), contact Firstname Name or visit www.company.com.
  • 5. Paul Van Cotthem - www.turnleaf.be – 2007-09-25 5You can also include details on product availability, trademark acknowledgment,etc. here.About Company:Include a short corporate backgrounder, or "boilerplate," about the company orthe person who is newsworthy before you list the contact person’s name andphone number.Contact:Firstname Name, director of public relationsCompany+32 2 123 45 67http://www.company.com###
  • 6. Paul Van Cotthem - www.turnleaf.be – 2007-09-25 6Example of a good news releaseHere’s an example of a news release which was written according to the tips above. Are You Jeopardizing Your Child’s Health Every Time You Use a Skin Care Product? Inspired by the growing concerns of parents, Mom Entrepreneur Elizabeth Ashe recently launched Bath and Body Organics (www.bathandbodyorganics.com) to provide a healthier solution to children’s skin care needs. Orlando, FL -- September 24, 2007 -- Sadly, there are vast number of children’s products available on the market that contain harmful chemicals and toxins. Inspired by the growing concerns of parents, Mom Entrepreneur Elizabeth Ashe recently launched Bath and Body Organics to provide a healthier solution to children’s skin care needs. Elizabeth says, “As parents, we want to keep our precious children safe and the more knowledgeable we become about the products we buy; we realize that it’s time to start searching for other options. We are proud of our all natural children’s product line that is available to meet the growing demands for a safe alternative to those chemical laden products.” The breastcancerfund.org website gives parents a reason to be worried, “A hidden cancer-causing petrochemical has been found in dozens of children’s bath products and adults’ personal care products, in some cases at levels that are more than twice the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s lenient recommended maximum. Laboratory tests released revealed the presence of 1,4-Dioxane in products such as Hello Kitty Bubble Bath, Huggies Baby Wash, Johnson’s Baby Wash, Scooby-Doo Bubble Bath and Sesame Street Bubble Bath.” As society becomes more aware of the potentially fatal side effects of products made from chemicals and toxins, Elizabeth started Bath and Body Organics as a way to give others the healthier alternative that theyre looking for. She encourages parents to begin the process of eliminating the toxins from their children’s skin care regimen, so that they can bring forth a safer and healthier body and environment. About Bath and Body Organics: Elizabeth Ashe, http://www.bathandbodyorganics.com , became aware of all natural products when she began her search for a way to alleviate her son’s allergies. As she rid her household of all the heavy pesticides, she realized that the biggest change to be made was through the products that were being used on the skin. Since changing to all natural, organic products she has seen vast improvements, not just for her allergic son, but within the lives of her entire family. Contact: Elizabeth Ashe, Owner Address: 6303 Yellowstone ST., Orlando FL 32807 Phone: 407-926-9466 e-mail: pr@bathandbodyorganics.com Website: http://www.bathandbodyorganics.com ###

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