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Writing Effective Press Releases

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  • 1. How to Write Effective Press Releases and Maximize Press Coverage Dana Hughes, Communications Manager Phillip Bergquist , Communications Specialist Michigan Primary Care Association Marketing Network Webinar November 17, 2009
  • 2. The Situation: Journalists have less time to produce more work due to deep staff cuts in newsrooms across the country along with increased web responsibilities.
  • 3. The Opportunity: Take advantage of this situation by delivering multi-media press releases directly to the inboxes of journalists. Give them direct access to the material they need to cover your story quickly and easily. Don’t wait for them to “discover” your Health Center.
  • 4. 85% of journalists prefer to receive press releases via email and want them loaded with content.
  • 5. What is Newsworthy?
    • Impact : The significance, importance, or consequence of an event or trend; the greater the consequence, and the larger the number of people for whom an event is important the greater the newsworthiness.
    • Timeliness : The more recent, the more newsworthy.
    • Prominence : Occurrences featuring well-known individuals or institutions are newsworthy.
    • Proximity : Closeness of the occurrence to the audience may be gauged either geographically – close by events, all other things being equal, are more important than distant ones – or in terms of the assumed values, interest and expectations of the news audience.
    • Conflict : Controversy and open clashes are newsworthy, inviting attention on their own, almost regardless of what the conflict is over. Conflict reveals underlying causes of disagreement between individuals and institutions in a society.
    • Currency : Occasionally something becomes an idea whose time has come. The matter assumes a life of its own, and for a time assumes momentum in news reportage.
  • 6. Tips for Writing Effective Press Releases
    • Is your news "newsworthy? A good press release answers all of the "W" question and doesn’t sound like an ad. Journalists are looking for stories that affect people, their lives, and community. Think about what you would like to read about. Avoid promotional stories.
    • Start strong. Your headline and first paragraph should tell the story.
    • Write for the media. Develop a story as you would like to have it told, they may run it as is! And research the media outlets you’re “selling” to and their audience.
    • Does your press release illustrate? Real life examples and stories matter. Be ready to have an expert/person on the ground to deliver the message.
    • Stick to the facts. Avoid fluff and embellishments. (Use Word Tools)
    • Be timely . And, tie your release to current events or social issues… give it a news “hook”.
    • Most important information upfront . Before you loose the potential reader.
    • Use active voice. Do not be afraid to use strong verbs and keep it present tense.
    • Beware of jargon . Speak plainly using ordinary language. Jargon isn’t appropriate for most readers.
  • 7. Tips for Writing Good Headlines
    • Active versus passive: People want exciting, fun titles. Active headlines inspire emotive responses- passive headline writing means I’m sloppy and didn’t care enough to review my work thoroughly.
    • Get sassy with it! Seriously, throw some edge into it. You can call it tabloid, we call it interesting. Who wants to read business writing anymore? How exciting are your press releases?
    • Genuine headlines: Your headline serves as a preview. It should be genuine in describing the actual content, as opposed to teasing readers into a false experience. Back the headline up right away in the first paragraph with a great thesis statement.
    • Less words: Cut the fat! What can you cut? How can you say a six word headline in four? What words can you replace with a new singular word. Take the time to relentlessly review!
    • Intentionally incomplete: Just drop a phrase or even one word as the headline. It accurately depicts a part of the story, but the open-ended nature teases readers.
  • 8. Tips for Formatting Your Press Releases
    • Use mixed case. Not all capital letters.
    • Ensure correct grammar and spelling. Have someone else read it to be sure.
    • Don’t use HTML formatting. Not all email users have HTML abilities.
    • Use a summary paragraph. A short paragraph right below your headline.
    • Don’t forget the basics . Date, Contact Information, Title, Boiler Plate, Website etc.
    • Don’t write too much. Most press releases should be one page long, two is the maximum. (300-800 words)
    • Don’t write too little . One paragraph isn’t a press release.
    • Paragraphs belong on one page. They shouldn’t be cut in half and continued on another.
    • “ ###” or “-End-”. It’s good form to use an ending mark.
    • Include the City, State.
  • 9. Sample Press Release
    • FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 11, 2009
    • Contact: Vincent Duffy 734-555-0000 [email_address]
    • Michigan Radio News Director Tells Press Release Essentials
    • Lansing, MI, November 11, 2009 – Michigan Radio News Director Vincent Duffy will speak to a group of non-profit leaders during a panel discussion in Lansing.
    • Duffy will hand out a sample press release during his presentation, and also mention that the first paragraph usually covers the “who, what, where, and when” of a story, while subsequent paragraphs expand on the main point.
    • “ It’s always good to include a quote,” said Duffy. “That way the media will have a relevant quote that they can use, and they didn’t even have to contact you to get it.”
    • Duffy will also talk about the “Seven Deadly Sins of Press Releases,” which he said would quickly send a press release to the recycle bin:
    • The press release looks like an advertisement.
    • The release does not present anything that is newsworthy.
    • The release lacks an interesting angle.
    • The release is not compelling.
    • The releases uses hype and exaggerations.
    • The release is not written well, or contains errors in spelling and grammar.
    • The release is too long and not immediately clear.
    • Media wishing to cover the event should contact I.M. Bogus at 734-555-0000.
  • 10. Tips on how to maximize press release pick-up with traditional media:
    • Reach journalists where they work by delivering releases directly to their inboxes
    • Add easy-to-access downloadable images (with captions) and logos
    • Add links to background information, bios, and fact sheets (from your website)
    • Include video and audio (where possible)
    • Offer quick access to contacts with visible contact info
    • Build relationships with local journalists
    • Be aware of news cycles
    • Keep media list up-to-date
    • How to Get Your News in the News: www.aaja.org/resources/media_access/maHANDBOOK_1.pdf .
  • 11. The landscape of the media has been dramatically altered !
    • Now, let's look at New Media…
  • 12. The Situation: Bloggers, and journalists who have web responsibilities, operate with virtually no lead time and are driven to produce loads of content. They need immediate access to relevant stories and multi-media digital elements that can be easily accessed, loaded onto their sites, and spread quickly across the web.
  • 13. The Opportunity: You can increase your visibility by ensuring that your press releases are web-friendly and enabled with appropriate social media components. Release elements can then be easily added to blogs and other websites and can be shared and ranked by end viewers. Press Releases Aren’t Just For The Newspaper Anymore!
  • 14. Tips on how to maximize press release pick-up with new media:
    • Send digital releases loaded with multi-media components
    • Add embed codes to video and audio so they can be easily grabbed for use
    • Add social media bookmarks so recipients can share and rank
    • Add links so recipients can see related web content
    • Keep your writing spin free and the release well organized
    • If you can, use the “Social Media Release” template
    • Friend journalists on Facebook and Twitter – they often posts requests for story sources
  • 15.  
  • 16. Economic Stimulus and Health Centers
    • Share your Health Center’s own accountability experience with the media . Be sure to look at your own information on Recovery.gov – the reporter will have already viewed the information.
    • Emphasize that the economic stimulus investment is a first-time event and nothing of this scale has ever been attempted before.
    • Highlight that the number listed at Recovery.gov is a “Jobs Created/Saved,” meaning jobs created or saved to date, even though the dollar figure listed could be a two-year total.
    • Provide a one-page fact sheet of accurate information about how many jobs your Health Center has created, retained, and expects to create/retain as a result of stimulus funding. Explain why there might be discrepancies between your numbers and those on Recovery.gov.
    • Note that additional training and technical assistance are being provided to Health Centers by HRSA/BPHC, MPCA, and NACHC and the reporting process will continue to be refined and improved.
    • Express confidence in continued improvement – stress that stimulus money truly enabled your Health Center to respond quickly to expand health care and strengthen the economy in your community.