A public relations effort should be part of every marketing program. Yet, for many small business owners, public relations seems mysterious. It seems there’s a hidden code, secrets to finding your way into print and radio.
“No problem,” you say, “I can always hire a PR firm to do the work for me.”
Of course, you should be able to handle a PR firm. The truth is many PR agencies, even small ones, do not want to be bothered with small accounts. It’s just as much effort for them to handle a company with $100 million in sales, as it is to handle a company with $10 million. And a company with a million in sales? Some consider it an insult to even ask.
Public relations is necessary, and the money you save by doing yourself can be poured back into business building activities. This series will help you crack the PR code. The first step is to get the word out.
7 Steps To Writing A Press Release
Writing a press release is public relations blocking and tackling. Press releases are the most fundamental public relations instrument, used to communicate news about your company with your local, business, and trade press.
The media receives many press releases. With the Internet’s ease of communication, more press releases are sent than ever before. Editors wade through them making quick decisions about which should be read and which can be tossed. Guess which pile receives the amateurish or unprofessional releases?
Improve the odds that your press release will be read by following the standard format taught in journalism/public relations classes. Here are seven ways to make sure your press release looks professional.
• Include Good Contact Information At Top. At the top of every press release, to the left, include the “contact” for the press release. The contact information should include your name, email and telephone information.
Rarely will anyone contact you about a press release. When you are contacted, it’s important or to your benefit. Whenever I’ve been contacted the editor was looking for additional information for the story or looking for a photograph. In every case, I hustled to comply.
• Include “For Immediate Release” Or “For Release On…” At The Top.
On the same line as the contact information, but flush to the right side of the page, provide a release date. Usually, the release date is NOW, so write “For Immediate Release.”
In other cases, you may want to embargo the story until a certain date has passed (e.g., you’ve just acquired a competitor and the seller wants to delay the announcement until he can talk with his employees). You can either write “For Release On DATE,” “For Release On or
After DATE,” or “Embargo Until DATE.”
• Use The 5 Ws In The First Paragraph. The great English poet, Rudyard Kipling, wrote in his Just So Stories:” I keep six honest serving-men: (They taught me all I knew). Their names are What, Where, When, How, Why and Who.”
Who, what, when, where, and why are journalism’s five Ws. The first paragraph should be succinct, no longer than one or two sentences, and contain as many of the five Ws as possible. Here’s a lead paragraph with the five Ws…
Bubbaville’s Joe’s Plumbing announced the addition of Turner Alfred
Rensch to the company’s staff of licensed master plumbers today, to meet
the company’s growing demand.
Okay, the five Ws are there…
Who: Turner Alfred Rensch
What: Joe’s Plumbing hired him
Why: To meet the company’s growing demand
It has the five Ws, but unfortunately it’s BOOORING. An agronomy turf maturation exhibition is more exciting (i.e., people sitting around watching the grass grow). The first paragraph should sell the reader, and before the reader, the editor on the story. It should be exciting. Given the competition for an editor’s time, the first sentence must let the editor know the essence of the story, with only the details remaining…
Water purification specialist, Turner A Rensch, joined the expanding team of Joe’s Plumbing specialists today as part of a campaign to deliver
Bubbaville homeowners tap water equal in quality, purity, and taste to
bottled water, but without the cost.
Better? Doesn’t it make you want to read more?
• Write Like A Journalist. Basic journalism dictates that the most important information is included at the beginning of a story and the least important information comes at the end. It’s called the “pyramid.” The story starts narrow and focused, but expands and broadens as it deepens.
While the cut and paste capabilities of modern word processors make it relatively simple to move text around, relieving the need for the pyramid, it’s still good practice to follow this basic journalism convention. If a publication is running your press release and is short of space, the editor is going to start lopping off at the end.
Writing like a journalist involves more than adherence to the pyramid. It also means following basic journalism style conventions. Write in the third person. Quote company executives for opinions or unverified allegations. Remember, journalists like to tell themselves they are neutral, objective, unbiased reporters.
• Place The Teletype Symbol At The End. The old teletype symbols to signify the end of a transmission or story were either the three tic-tac-toe or number symbols, or “-30-.” By using these at the end of your press release, you send a subtle message that you are an insider. Use ### or -30- centered at the bottom, but not both.
• Double Space. In the past, press releases were double spaced to leave room for editorial marks. Even though editing is done on the computer today, it’s still good practice to double space and leave one inch margins all around. Some editors read material online, while others print a hardcopy. When a release is printed, the editor still might make copyediting marks.
• Limit Your Release to Two Pages. Press releases should rarely exceed a page and never exceed two pages. Long press releases usually don’t get read, let alone published. Stressed editors won’t bother to find the parts that are interesting. Instead, they will delete the entire release.
If you write succinctly, it’s highly unlikely that you have enough information to fill more than two pages. If an editor deems your news is so interesting that additional copy is needed to cover it all, he or she will call you.
There are a few tricks to cram more copy onto a two-page release. You can change the line spacing to something between 1.5 and 2.0 (i.e., double space). You can change the margins from 1 inch to inch. You can reduce the point size. You can use a different, denser font. Of course, the best answer is to simply cut copy. If you don’t, the editors will. It’s better if you choose what to cut.
Click on the example below to see a press release template created by the Service Roundtable.
Matt Michel is president of the Service Roundtable www.ServiceRountable.com an organization dedicated to helping contractors prosper. This excerpt is the first in a series of passages from the book “Cracking The Pubic Relations Code”, by Matt Michel that can be downloaded for free from the Service Roundtable site. Matt is also the publisher of Comanche Marketing, a free marketing e-zine. Subscriptions are available at www.ComancheMarketing.com. You can contact him directly at [email protected].
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