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How to Create a Press Release that Gets Noticed

Tools and plans for creating a press release that gets results

Introduction

An effective press release serves three main purposes:

  • Attract the media's attention so they will disseminate the information provided
  • Provide material for your company's portfolio of public activities
  • Provide the public face of your company
 

Two simultaneous target audiences

Press releases are a bit unusual. They have two distinct audiences: reporters and readers. The former act as gatekeepers for the latter, only letting their readers see what reporters believe is worthwhile. At the same time, reporters want to look good to their readers while doing as little work as possible. This means that reporters will look at press release with a very critical eye and prefer if the press release is well written so they can use as much of it as possible.

The golden rule for any form of communications and especially press releases is: What's in it for the reporter and their audience? To answer this question, you must think like a reporter who receives your press release. They are looking for stories that will engage their readers and deliver value to them. If your press release can do that, then journalists will be happy to work with you since you are reducing their workload while enhancing their value to their readers.

To accomplish these goals, you must:

  • Write from a reporter's point of view, not yours
  • Eliminate the hype
  • Use the proper etiquette when contacting the journalist

Timing

Most printed publications have a month by month or week by week calendar for the year. Each week or month, they will concentrate on specific topics. Your press release will have a much better chance of being published if your press release fits into the relevant topic area.

For most other forms of media, content is determined by what is going on at the time. In this case, a press release has a better chance of being used if it addresses the issues of the day.

Developing an Angle

To interest readers, and thus interest the journalist they read, you need to have an angle that is interesting and worthwhile. The angle should answer the questions:

  • What makes this product/service worthwhile to the reporter's audience? What pain does it solve?
  • What unique properties does it have?
  • What makes each property newsworthy?

While it is ease to say that a product/service is worthwhile, showing how is the challenge. For example, if you are saying that a new car is affordable, then the press release needs to say why it is affordable, perhaps by comparing it against its competitors on a feature by feature basis.

Judging Press Releases

Press releases are judged based on the following criteria:

  • Does it have impact -- is the headline memorable and does the content have value?
  • Is there an interesting story angle?
  • Is it clearly and professionally written -- does it clearly focus on the value proposition?
  • Does it have value to the reader -- there is no puffery or self-aggrandizement?
  • Is it of the right length -- long enough to describe what it needs to and not too long?
  • Does it have a call to action -- is there someone to contact or do you want the press to do something?

Other information that your press release should include:

  • Headline
  • Subtitle, if needed
  • Date of release
  • Embargo, if any
  • Attributed quotes, if available
  • Pictures, if appropriate
  • End marker showing end of press release

After producing a good press release, your next move is to get a reporter to read your press release. You need a strategy to do that. This step is outside the scope of what EntreBahn can do for you. However, there are resources available to help deal with this and other issues. Bill Stoller's Publicity Insider is a good resource for all things related to publicity releases.