Capturing a publication’s attention can be a difficult task. You are competing against a variety of other people, causes and events. To win this competition you must do two things. First, you must gain their interest. Second, you must present your story in a professional manner that will make it easy for them to give you the coverage you desire. Here are some tips to help you send effective press releases.
Know Your Target
Find out who the publication’s editor / reporter / blogger is for the section you want your press release to appear in. Include that person’s name on the press release, not just on the envelope or in the email address.
Pick One Person Per Publication
Once you’ve chosen the appropriate person, stick with them. If the article needs to be passed off to another reporter, the publication will make that decision. If you send your press release to more than one person, any problems that develop from duplicate coverage and effort will be blamed on you.
Don’t Just Send, Call
To increase your chances of getting coverage, call the intended recipient before you send the press release and call a few days later to make sure they received it. Making first contact by phone will also help you find the appropriate person to send your press release to.
Give it Time
Don’t email a press release the day before an event and expect your event to receive coverage. Give the maximum possible amount of time for the publication to decide how they want to cover the story. If you feel the event is so far in the distance that they might forget about it, then simply send another release as the time for the event draws nearer.
Know Your Deadlines
Magazines, even weekly ones, are planned months in advance. Seasonal events such as Christmas and Thanksgiving are great examples of this. Holiday issues are frequently developed in the heat of summer. For calendar items, know when the publication’s submission deadline is. Do your research.
Keep it Short and Informative
Reporters and editors are notoriously busy. Most press releases should be kept to a single page. Two pages is acceptable but not optimal. If the publications want more information, they’ll ask.
Write it in a News Style
Put the primary information (who, where, what, and when) into the lead (first paragraph), and avoid a heavy sales pitch. No exclamation points!!! Use short words and sentences. Make sure what you’re saying is very clear. Many publications will directly reprint a press release, as long as it is written in a professional news style. Buy either the AP Stylebook or the Chicago Manual of Style, and learn the general guidelines for abbreviating words, writing numbers and capitalizing names.
Use Postal Mail or Email
You should check with each publication to find out their preferred system for receiving press releases. In general, email is acceptable and postal mail is fine. Faxes are hard to read or to include photos with, so avoid faxing.
Help keep it Together
For printed press releases, always include, at the top corner of every page, a two or three word description of the story, the name and contact information of key contact people (no more than two), the page number (if there is more than one page) and the release date (usually “for immediate release” or “please hold until ??/??/??”). For emails, include this information at the beginning of the email. Be aware that most people will hit the reply button to respond to an email, so send your press release from an email address that you will be able to follow up from.
Show and Tell
If you have good photos, send them or include the words “photos available upon request” with your information at the top of the first page. Only send high quality photos, however, and only when they add to your story. Place photos between cardboard when mailing. Don’t tape or paper clip the photos or you risk damaging them.
Make it Easy on the Eyes
When sending mail. use standard 8 1/2″x 11″ paper typed on one side only. Never break a paragraph across two pages. Leave wide margins for editors to write notes in. A 1 1/2″ or 2″ margin on each side is fine. Also, use a standard font. Fancy text may look nice, but it is hard to read.
Dress for Success
When sending mail, don’t fold your press release like a letter. You should fold it so that the headline and date will be the first thing the editor or reporter sees upon opening the envelope.
All Good Press Releases Must Come to an End
End a press release with either “###” or ” -30-” typed across the center of the page, three lines below the end of your text. If a release has greater than one print page, type “-more-”, centered at the bottom of the pages preceding the final page.