My knowledge is based on writing press releases for 20 years as a publicist for Ekome African Dance Company, author Rosalyn Chissick and many many more.
Then, as Soil Association magazine editor for eight years, I was sent press releases. So I got to see press releases from both sides.
What is a press release? It is content to promote something. Instead of paying for an advert, you are hoping your press release is so newsworthy that an editor will use it as editorial (copy) in a publication, or as 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 are enough to tell the story.
3. Start the press release: For immediate release (or: embargoed until…). That way the editor knows immediately when the content of the press release can be published by the editor.
4. Do give contact information (name, mobile) at the top of the press release and say who it is from. Please make it as easy as possible for your busy editor.
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 a quote from a key player to bring press release alive. Quotes are the only places you can use adjectives and express emotion.
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 (or other social media channels) creates live engagement. It’s a two-way conversation.
12. Don’t send the press release as an attachment, which 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. I myself now favour simple press releases as they are more likely to be noticed.
14. Do read your press release aloud. Does it say what you want to say? Have you given the most important information, first? Any repetition is a no-no.
15. Do ask someone else to read it. Ask your reader: is there anything you do not understand? If so, what? 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 – 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. This is an appropriate way to form or develop a relationship with the news/features editor.
19. Don’t leave an answer machine message asking the editor to ring you back – it is unlikely they will. (If you have to, speak your telephone number clearly and do not gabble. I lost count of the times, people gave the number too fast to get it down the first time.).
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?