One of the best ways to get free publicity and build expertise is to garner media attention. Although it takes time and work to get noticed by reporters, the foundation of a good publicity campaign is the press release. If you want build a relationship with media professionals, many times a press release is your way in.
However, not all press releases are created equal, and most of them wind up in the trash. If you want members of the media to call you about stories you pitch, or the stories they are already working on, you have to send the right message in your press releases. To make sure your media savvy is communicated effectively, consider the following five elements that every solid press release should contain.
1. The Foundation – Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How
Facts are the foundation of every news story, and when reporters need fundamental, factual information they often turn to press releases first. This is why who, what, when, where, why, and how is so important when you’re creating your press releases. So, before you start writing, take a few minutes to organize the facts about the news you hope to communicate in your release. This information will be the foundation for the entire document, and you will reiterate it in the opening paragraph of your release so reporters don’t have to read more than a few lines to get the gist of your message.
2. A Catchy, but Brief Headline
News headlines communicate to readers what the story is about, they capture attention, and they do it in ten words or less. If you want your news release to capture attention, then you need a title that works the same way the front page headlines sell papers – you have to entice your audience to read more.
In the case of a press release, your readers are reporters and editors, so your headline has to give them a reason to keep reading your release by presenting your news in a catchy and informative manner. For example, “New Book Reveals the Secrets to Weight Loss Success.” Or, “Local Business Goes Green.” These examples grab attention, inform the reader, and do so in ten words or less, which is exactly what busy reporters and editors need to see.
3. A Hook
Once you’ve gotten your readers’ attention with a catchy and informative headline, you need to hook them with…well, a hook. In writing, a hook is something that excites your reader and compels them to keep reading, such as a startling fact or statistic, a compelling question, or a common problem.
Recall the examples presented above – if you’re writing your release to announce your new book on weight loss, then you might open your release with an interesting fact or statistic about weight. For example, “Over half of Americans will diet this year, and less than five percent of them will succeed at losing weight and keeping it off.” You will obviously have to be able to back that up with research, but this hook communicates a common problem and a startling statistic all in one.
For the example about the business going green, your hook could be, “The average small business dumps over two tons of recyclable paper products into landfills, and one local business leader has had enough.” Again, you have to be able to back your statistics up with research, but this hook compels the reader to keep going just to see what this fed-up business owner is going to do. Immediately follow up your hook with your who, what, when, where, why, and how information – state all the facts about your news.
4. A Useable Quote or Two
As you go into more detail about the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your news, providing as much detail as you can in as few words as possible, you will start to craft the body of your press release. In doing so, you should also provide quotes that the reporter can pull directly from your release to use in his or her story. Reporters love to get information directly from sources. By providing a quote or two in your release you make the reporter’s job that much easier, and better your chances of getting mentioned in the paper.
In crafting your quotes, make them inclusive so the reporter can pull them directly from your release and use them without having to explain much background – this makes your words easy to work into their story. And choose quotes that really summarize the information you present and highlight the impact of your news. For example, “We believe that these ‘green’ strategies will not only make our business more environmentally friendly, but also more efficient for our customers,” said Joe Business Owner. “And we hope other businesses in the community will follow our lead to reduce waste.”
5. A Call to Action
Once you’ve wrapped up all your main points, you have to close your press release with a call to action. If you want reporters to call you for an interview, that should be your call to action. If you want them to cover your event, then you have to say so. Within the call to action, you should state your contact information (which also should appear in the top right-hand corner of the release, and across from the words, “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE,” written in all capital letters in the top left-hand corner).
If you have photos, or photo opportunities are available, mention them in your call to action. And if you want to invite members of the press to your event, restate all the important details of the location, and where and when you will be available for additional information and comment if a reporter wants to talk more.
Press Release Success
Media mentions are like free advertising for your business, so everyone should issue press releases on a regular basis. Even if you don’t get written up in a feature-length story after your first few tries, media professionals will at least keep your contact information on file for the times when they do need your expertise. And by keeping your name in front of them will better your chances of getting noticed. When you use these tips for creating and improving your press releases, you better your chances of getting into the paper without buying expensive ad space.
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