The Press Release
It doesn't matter how many new media crop up, the good 'old fashioned' press release (the meat and potatoes of PR) always seems to have a place. It's the central tool that's used to share 'news' with any audience through the conveyers of information whether it's a blog, newspaper, magazine, television, radio or ezine. Of course, there's always the pitch letter too but that's another blog!
Of course, technology has hugely improved the possibilities for reach way beyond what the old 'pop in the mail paper press release' of a previous era did. Then you had to rely on it reaching the right person and having a gripping enough headline to get their attention. Now-a-days, sending out your press release with the proper key word optimization and relevant links will get your press release recognized by search engines even if your primary target doesn't pick it up. Heck, you even post it on your own website for fresh content and search engine pick up, however, having a third party, unbiased medium run your release has more impact.
Do’s and Don’ts of Good Press Release Writing
Regardless of the comparisons between then and now, the basics still hold true...maybe even more so today. There's so much out there on how to reach new online media but don't forget, there are still those who rely on major dailies for their local news and most people I know still listen to the radio in the car on their commute to and from work. So, here's the rub: in this day and age with instant news, copious amounts of media (print, broadcast and online) and everyone writing content, it's more and more difficult to get your news heard and placed in the mainstream media. I have always believed (and still do) that a strongly written, concise and (most importantly) newsworthy release can still get the attention of editors and reporters. If your goal is to appear in the top media outlets it's always important to nurture relationships but if you have a good story and a clear pitch that can be expressed clearly in 15 seconds or less, you've got a great start.
There are many do's and don'ts when writing a press release and pitching to the media. Here are a few of my tried and true bits of advice:
Do: Write a clear headline that fully explains the main point of the story.
Do: Put the most important facts up front. The first paragraph should have who, what, when, where why and how.
Do: Put contact information at the very top.
Do: Include a short boilerplate paragraph of your company (or your bio) at the end.
Do: Identify the right media for your story.
Do: Be considerate of deadlines.
Don't: Make them hunt for for your contact information.
Don't: Go over two pages (one is preferable) or beyond the first screen of an email (they shouldn't have to scroll).
Don't: Send attachments...copy and paste the text of your release in the body of the email.
Don't: Send large photos. Include a comment at the bottom that photos (or other graphics) are available on request.
Don't: Follow up to ask if the reporter/editor received your release (the kiss of death). Call or email with additional, valuable information.
Don't: Call on deadline.
Don't: Send garbage.
If you have any more to add, pop them into the comment section below. Also, I am just about to release a short e-book called 10 Steps to a Successful PR Campaign: A Do-it-Yourself Guide for Authors. As soon as it's out, I'll announce it here!