Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Writing effective press releases - it's never too late to learn

Author: Barney Thom

Are you growing tired of none of your press releases being used?

Whether it's for a newspaper, magazine or a website, the content must be absolutely perfect in order for an editor to think about using it.

You could change all of this, by enrolling on a PR course.

Below is the kind of thing that you would learn, whilst studying on a PR course.

STAGE FOUR: Gathering information

Each press release must be COMPLETE – factually. There's nothing journalists hate more than having to ring you up, or e-mail you, to chase up missing details. You will need:

  • First names and surnames of everyone involved (if the vice president's wife likes to be called Mrs M Feliciano, tell her it's either Muriel, or nothing!)
  • Job titles.
  • Where they work.
  • Age and home location in human stories.
  • Full titles and addresses of organisations.
  • Dates, times, places and maps for events.
  • Remember the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, HOW, WHY.

STAGE FIVE: Consider the extras

As mentioned earlier, try to make each press release market-specific, in terms of content, writing style, approach etc.

Also consider enticements:

  • Photos – but make sure they are properly captioned, left to right, with the first names and surnames on the back – spelt correctly – and the job titles if necessary.
  • Competitions.
  • Reader offers and promotions.

And consider other activities to back up the release:

  • Hold a press conference.
  • Have an open day.
  • Put on an event.
  • Make people available for interview.
  • Provide a press pack – a branded folder that includes a press release, photos and other ingredients like CDs or DVDs promoting the company, brochures, leaflets etc.

STAGE SIX: Setting out the release

  • Type them accurately – perfectly … get each one proof read. Use12pt Helvetica, justified, double spaced.
  • Put your client's name at the top, together with CONTACT NUMBERS – preferably 24/7.
  • Use templates – these breed familiarity (which will be helpful if the recipients perceive your releases as being useful. If they aren't then that familiarity will speed their journey to the bin).
  • Include an EMBARGO (ie a date and time before which the release should not be used) if necessary – at the top.
  • Use a precise heading – not fluffy – clearly stating what you are offering and where it's for.
  • Put a note at the end about picture possibilities and if people are available for interview etc.
  • Include a standard statement of ‘Notes to the editor' about the company at the end – to accompany every release. This should be the same every time – a brief, bullet-pointed statement of who the client is, what they do, how long they have being doing it, where they are based, key achievements and features. But don't overdo it.

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About the Author

Barney Thom

CTJT Creative Director