How To Write A Press Release That Gets Noticed

How To Write A Press Release That Gets Noticed

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:
    1. 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”.
    2. 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”.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Include Pictures

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.

Writing Tools To Help You Communicate Better

Writing Tools To Help You Communicate Better

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When it comes to writing style I don’t consider myself a “traditionalist”. Two things that I insist on when writing is spelling and punctuation. Both of these things have improved by using two apps on a regular basis: Hemingway and Grammarly.

If you’re writing a script for a commercial, a TV promo, an ebook, blog post or any form of online social media, these two tools will make sure you stay on track.

Grammarly – is more than a spell checker. It checks your grammar, spelling and plagiarism (premium version only)! You read that right. According to their website, “Grammarly’s plagiarism checker cross checks your text against over 8 billion web pages, detecting plagiarized passages and highlighting sections that have been previously published elsewhere”. Another plagiarism checker is Unplag. Learn about their free plagiarism checker here. Or if you want learn more about plagiarism click here.

The web browser plugin checks that comments or posts are grammatically correct.

Grammarly is available for free as a plugin on Chrome, Safari and Firefox.

Hemingway – is a web tool where you simply cut and paste your document and get instant feedback. Sentence structure and phrasing, even passive voice alerts are included.

My personal preference is running my text through Grammarly and then taking it to Hemingway for final touches.

Try them and let me know what you think!

BONUS: If you’re writing a timed text for a commercial or explainer video try the David Tyler Script Timer by clicking here.

It’s Not About the Medium Anymore…

It’s Not About the Medium Anymore…

The 5 Truths About Commercial Copy Writing

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The path between a great idea and a great broadcast ready commercial is paved with excellent copy writing. Unfortunately, often times and at no fault of the copy writer, the message gets obscured because of the too-many-cooks principle.

If it was up to copy writers alone all commercials would be divine inspirations that communicate an idea clearly and effectively. However as you know there’s more to the process including well intentioned sales people, the clients themselves and don’t forget the client’s knowledgable hairdresser who believes the product name should be said at least 6 times in a :30 second commercial to be most effective!

If you’re a commercial copy writer and you’re looking for ammunition to pull out when all of the above “cooks” start trying to help make the commercial better, arm yourself with my 5 truths about commercial copy writing.

  1. Commercials are meant to sell, not entertain 

    A successful commercial is not one that wins awards for it’s creativity or that’s funny, it’s one that motivates the listener to act. To go out and buy the product, period.

    This should be your main goal as soon as you sit down to write and if it’s not you’re being unfaithful to the client’s needs.

  2. Less is more

    It’s not just a cliché. Retailers who buy commercial airtime sometimes think that they need to fill it with as much information about their product as they can possible squeeze in. You’ll need to explain to them that this approach works against the purpose of the commercial…stimulating an emotional response which then motivates the audience to act.

    My friend Nick Michaels takes it a step further when he says, “The more words you use the LESS the listener gets to actively participate. Does your message allow for the act of discovery or is the listener a VICTIM of the message?”

    The white space you leave between the words is where the audience gets to participate through introspection and inadvertently internalizes the message you’re trying to convey.

  3. Advertising solves problems

    Let’s be honest, people don’t care about the product, they care about what the product can do for them.

    When you’re tasked with writing a commercial the first question you need to ask yourself is “what problem does it solve?” and then build a message that conveys that information to the listener in a meaningful way.

    It’s a 3 step process:

    Step 1 – Identify the need that will be filled or problem that will be solved

    Step 2 – Make the listener aware of that need or problem

    Step 3 – Show them how the product will solve that need or problem

  4. One core message is all you need

    More today than at any other time, your audience is busy living their lives and will only respond to a simple, crystal clear message that they can relate to.

    If in your creative meeting you conclude that XYZ Money Lenders ‘will solve your money problems’ make that your core message and build the commercial backwards from there. Your core message is the bullseye of the entire commercial and the fact that their lineups are short, their staff is friendly or that they have 18 convenient locations, is not. Anything that is outside of your target will only confuse the message.

    If the client insists on mentioning more than one core message suggest a separate commercial for each of them.

  5. Radio is a visual medium

    I’ve spent more years working in radio than in television but the truth is that building a picture in the mind of the listener and igniting introspection, is at the core of radio’s success. This is thoroughly explained in an article titled Visual Imagery: Applications to Advertising on the Association for Consumer Research website (quoted below).

    [blockquote author=”John R. Rossiter, Columbia University”][Mental] imagery may prove to be the primary principle for the psychology of learning.[/blockquote]

    From a practical (ie. budgetary) standpoint when you’re writing a radio commercial vs. TV commercial you have much more freedom to create than in TV. When you’re writing for radio use the medium to it’s fullest potential.

Conclusion: Commercial copy writing isn’t a lost art but it does sometimes get overlooked in the fast paced, day-to-day operations of connecting clients to consumers. I hope this list helps you do that in a way that benefits both you and your clients.

What would you add to my list? Leave your thoughts or commercial copy writing truths in the comment field below.

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