As much as the media seems in a state of flux these days the one thing that remains is the need for an organization to disseminate it’s story. Despite the many options via social sharing, the one stable constant is the press release. Proper usage of the press release, remains paramount to get the media’s attention.
While it is rare that a media outlet will use your press release verbatim you can be sure that not following the standards will get your press release tossed into the trash.
In the 25 years I worked in radio, it was a daily task (or toil) to go through the press releases I received. I would often make snap judgment calls because I just didn’t have the time, sometimes without even opening the envelope or reading the email.
Press Release Guidelines
Here are the guidelines you should follow to assure your press release will get noticed and more importantly get your organization noticed:
- Keep it to one page – The point of the press release is to peak the interest of the media outlet, writing your entire life story isn’t going to do the job. It will bore them if they even read it at all. Give them one basic thought or idea and a call to action for more information. That’s it.
- Use proper formatting – As a broadcaster/reporter rushes through the day’s pile of press releases they need to see what they expect to see in a scanable way. Make it easy for them by including these 9 elements:
- For Release Date – right at the top of your press release, is the release date or time. Sometimes there is a reason to withhold information until a certain time, mark that date and time here. If it’s for immediate release mark it as “For Immediate Release”.
- Contact Information – put your name and contact information right below the release date info. Make it easy to contact you to get more information or to set up an interview. Use the heading “For More Information”.
- The Headline – is by far THE most important part of the press release. Without a good headline, no curiosity will be generated to dig deeper into the story. Write several headlines, come back to them later in the day and see which one grabs your attention the most.
- Dateline – is what goes just before the story. Put the location and the date of the release, followed by a dash (-) and then begin the body of your release. It can be bolded or put in between brackets but should stand out as not part of the story.
- First Paragraph – now that you’ve hooked them with your headline, tell them what you’re going to tell them in the first paragraph. Don’t get flowery with your writing, tell them the facts to support your headline. More details will come in the second paragraph. Beyond that let them contact you for more information. Remember this release needs to be one page only.
- Quotes – beyond the headline and the first paragraph include quotes from the important people around your story. Put simply, quotes bring the story to life by putting real people into the action.
- A Call to Action – should fall to the bottom of your content as a final push for them to contact you for more information or to setup an interview with you or with the personality of the press release. Whatever you do, do not hype your organization here. The point is for the reader to take ‘action’ like visit the website for more information or contact you. Hyping or selling here will get you tossed.
- The Boilerplate – is a concise paragraph about your company. It’s an old newspaper term to describe a “block” of text that would be used over-and-over again. 2 sentences should suffice.
- End of Content Marker – (# # #) is an old print media sign that there is “no further copy to come”. Other ways to mark the end is: -30- , XXX (Roman numerals for 30) or simply -END-. There is no logical reason to include these today, but can be seen as a respectful tip of the hat, signaling that you know what you’re doing and can be trusted.
- Send it to the right person – Know your audience. Sending a press release about your new fleet of trucks to a light rock music radio station will get tossed and a guarantee that anything you send after that won’t even get opened. Build your media list carefully and diligently remembering that people change jobs. Keep it up to date.
- Follow up – Wait a day or two after you know the press release was received and send an email or make a phone call to your list. See if they have any questions or would like to set up an interview. Don’t ask them “did you get it”…”did you read it”. The key here is to be a resource to help them do their job. Think of it as a partnership.
If you’re dealing with print media, you may want to include a link to high res pictures they can use.
NOTE: If you’re looking for wider distribution than just your local market I suggest using PR Web. In a head to head comparison with eReleases done by Soulati Media, PR Web was found to give greater online exposure.
Bottom Line: Mastering the art of the press release will give you the media canvas you need to build your organization’s brand identity.