My knowledge is based on writing press releases for 20 years.
Then, as a poacher turned gamekeeper, (magazine editor for eight years), I was SENT press releases.
What is a press release? It is content you hope will become editorial (not an advert) in a publication, or a feature for radio or TV.
Press Release Dos and Don’ts
1. Think about your email subject line. Editors are crazy-busy. Will they even OPEN your email? Give a date so editor knows how urgent it is.
2. Keep it short. Remember your crazy-busy editor. The most important information comes first. Five short paragraphs is enough to tell the story.
3. Start the press release: For immediate release (or: embargoed until…).
4. Do give contact information (name, mobile) at the top of the press release and say who it is from.
5. The heading and/or sub-heading needs to tell editor why it is news and relevant to her/his audience – is it first/new/final/famous/biggest/local?
6. Your five most important paragraphs concern:
When? – Date, time
Where? – Location
Who? – Correct names and titles of main people and/or event
What? – What is this all about and why is it important?
How? – How do I get involved/buy tickets
7. Do send a press release before an event (not after).
8. Don’t whinge or exaggerate. No hyperbole. Give the facts. Imagine your press release in print.
9. Use an impassioned quote from a key player to bring press release alive.
10. Give background detail as numbered Editor’s Notes after the main 5 paragraphs.
11. Editor’s Notes can include links to company or cause’s website, Facebook and Twitter – using Facebook and Twitter creates live engagement. It’s a two-way conversation.
12. Don’t send the press release as an attachment. They are rarely opened. However a good strong image will encourage an editor to use it. Think about sending a low-res image to start with.
13. Do think about using Mail Chimp – free email manager to keep press releases and press contacts in one place.
14. Do read your press release aloud. Have you said what you want to say? Have you given most important information first? Repetition is a no-no.
15. Do ask someone else to read it. Ask: is there anything you did not understand? Don’t get annoyed by the answer. Responsibility for successful communications lies with the communicator.
16. Do make sure main people involved are happy with press release and “sign it off” before you send it.
17. Check name of current editor and only send relevant and timely press releases.
18. Do ring after you have sent press release to ask if press release has arrived and if it is of interest. Start a relationship with the news/features editor.
19. Don’t leave an answer machine message asking editor to ring you back. If you really have to, speak your telephone number clearly and don’t gabble.
20. Do create a Google news alert for your news item to track any online publication.
Well, that’s not exhaustive – but it is a start.
What else would you like to know?