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How to write a press release that makes you a star

By Linda Segall 

It’s a fact of an editor’s life: Good press releases get attention from editors. And when they get attention, you ultimately pressreleaseget attention from your potential customers and clients. The operative word, though is good. A good press release is one that has information the editor deems worthy of being published (not merely a self-promotional piece) and is written so that it can be used with little editing as a stand-alone item in the publication or as the basis of a more comprehensive article.

Newspaper, Web, and magazine editors are understaffed and overworked. They have pages to fill, but not enough time (or the budget) to do original writing and reporting. They appreciate well written press releases. The benefit to you, of course, is that when an editor publishes your press release in which you share your expertise, you are perceived by readers as a subject-matter expert.

The type of press release that confers expert status is one that gives news you can use. It is not merely an announcement of a new product or a business event, such as a change in management. (Announcements have a place in some publications. Do your homework: Know the publication, its audience, and what the editor wants and needs.)

Here are some tips on writing a press release that highlights you as an expert:

• Understand your audience. Each newspaper, magazine, and Web site has a specific audience. It’s critical to understand who that audience is and write the press release so the audience can understand your message. A newspaper, for example, has a general audience. If you are a software consultant, explain your newsworthy information in terms the average lay person can understand. On the other hand, if you are sending out a press release to a trade publication, use vocabulary commonly understood by its audience.

• Tie your ‘news’ to a current event. Local newspaper and media editors are always looking for a local angle to supplement news they get from the wire services. Watch local, national, and world events and think how to match your expertise to what is going on.

In addition to breaking news, think ahead: Which holidays are coming up—for example, April had Earth Day; May, Mother’s Day; June, Father’s Day. Link your expertise to celebrating these events. Or, tie the practicalities of your product or service to a planned event, such as a mini-marathon, a fishing contest, or a boat parade. Obviously, not every business can be tied to every event, but use your imagination.

• Keep it honest. Never, ever plagiarize. Do your research; attribute ideas appropriately; and never use someone else’s words as your own. (Note: Anything published on the Internet is copyrighted material.)

• Don’t self-promote. Avoid using the first person (“I”). Write the press release quoting you. Don’t make the press release about what you want to sell. Instead, focus on providing useful information, with first mention of who you are, such as: “The first step toward managing overtime is to establish a company policy,” suggests John Doe, president of Your Hometown Consulting Co., www.yourhometownconsultingco.com, and author of Good Employee Management.”

• Write a catchy headline. Write a headline that shows a benefit to the reader. (See sidebar for examples.)

• Give practical information. Readers today want news they can use. “Nice to know” is not enough. When you provide pragmatic tips the audience (your potential customers) can use, you show off your expertise. That knowledge sharing is what readers—and editors—want today.

• Be timely. Planning is critical. Don’t wait until the last minute to submit a press release about an upcoming event.

• Provide contact information. At the very top of your press release, provide contact information, including name, telephone number, and e-mail address. At the end of the release, give additional information about your company, including contact information and a street address.

Submitting your press release

Once you have your press release prepared, send it to the editor of the publication. Call the editor beforehand to find out his or her name and the preferred method of submission. Although most editors today prefer e-mail, some may still want to receive a paper version of the press release. (To submit press releases to the Jacksonville Advantage, send them by e-mail to Linda@advantagebizmag.com.)

Who should get your press release? That depends upon your audience. Who do you want to reach? If you are trying to reach other businesses, send your press releases to appropriate trade publications. For consumers, identify publications they read, such as neighborhood newspapers, daily newspapers, niche magazines, specific Web sites.

Don’t forget radio and television. For local audiences, radio and television producers (the equivalent of print and Web editors) may be interested in your press releases.  

Linda Segall is editor of Jacksonville Advantage. She can be reached at Linda@advantagebizmag.com.

 

SIDEBAR

Catchy headlines show benefit to readers

Good headlines show a benefit to readers. Here are a few examples of catchy headlines that might appeal to newspaper editors and their readers:

• “5 Tips to Protect Yourself from the Flu.” This press release, submitted as a supplement to the current swine flu news, could be written by any type of healthcare provider, such as a medical doctor, massage therapist, chiropractor, or pharmacist.

• “3 Simple Tricks to Grow the Greenest Grass in Your Neighborhood.” This press release would be timely at the beginning of spring or in correlation with Earth Day, could be written by a landscaper or an organic fertilizer manufacturer.

• “How to Pack for a Week’s Vacation in One Carry-on Bag.” This information-packed release could come from a luggage retailer or a travel agent.

• “Running the Breast-Cancer Mini-Marathon? Take Care of Your Feet.” This press release could come from a shoe retailer, a podiatrist or chiropractor, or a physical or massage therapist.


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