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How to Write a Press Release

Press Release

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Your press release has one job and one job only. It should get the attention of the editor or producer. That's it.

 

Your press release should NEVER tell your whole story.
 

It should provide enough information to be informative, but it should leave out just enough information to be so tantalizing that the media person will call you for more information.

If you tell everything in your press release, the editor may publish the story just as you wrote it. Sounds like good news, doesn't it? It's not. If you get a one page, double-spaced press release published as you wrote it, you'll get a couple of inches in the newspaper.

I'm not happy with a couple of inches. I want full pages. And I've gotten tons of full page stories because I wrote a press release that didn't tell the whole story. Once the reporter called for more information, we'd talk for up to an hour. And I'd wind up with another full page story, complete with my name, address and phone number.

Your press release should only be one page, one side of the paper, 8 1/2 x11" only. If you can't say it in one page, you don't know how to say it. Keep refining your story until you have it down to one page.

Never single-space your release. At the very least, use a space and a half between lines. The best is double-spacing the release. Now, let's dissect a press release and finish off with a completed version.
 

Template For A Killer Press Release:

The first section of this template is the upper left corner. In this corner you'll only put one of two phrases. If the story you are sending to the media does not have any time value, you'll put the words "For Immediate Release" in the upper left corner.

If the information in the release has time value, though, you'll simply use the words "For Release..." followed by the time constraint you have. For example, if the information in your press release pertains to the new college school year, you'll write "For Release During The Start Of The School Year." This tells the media people not to use the release during finals week or before graduation (it'll be too late by then).

The upper right corner will always have the same wording. On the first line you'll write "For Further Information Contact:...". On the next line you'll put the name and direct telephone number of a real person. By that I mean you can't use the name of an organization, club, company or anything else similar.

Only use the name of a real, live person. When you write the phone number, be sure it's a number that rings directly at that person's desk. The media people aren't going to search for you. They want a direct phone number.
 

Next comes the headline. The headline is 90% of your release (or any copy for that matter). Your headline will do almost all of the work in attracting attention to you. Spend 90% of your time working on a powerful headline.

Let me give you a few examples of headlines that get the attention of the media. One of my favorite books is by Dale Carnegie and it's called, "How To Win Friends & Influence People"

Here are some more examples:

  • "A Little Mistake That Cost An Entrepreneur $50, 000"
  • "Who Else Wants Younger Looking Skin In Only 14 Days"
  • "5 Deadly Myths That Keep Smokers Hooked"
  • "Why Some People Achieve 100 - 1000 Times More Success Than Others"
  • "Truck Driver Makes $8,000 A Month Selling Real Estate"
  • "The Seven Survival Skills Every College Freshman Must Know"

So, one technique to use to write riveting headlines is to make a bold, boastful claim. Be sure you can back up the claim. But, don't be afraid to make it.

Lots of media people will try to disprove what you claim. This is a goldmine for you. You'll get lots of media cover just by being bold and boastful.

After you write the headline, start on the body copy of the release. The body copy should have three parts.
 

The Summary

The first part is called the summary. In just the first few lines of the release, you tell your whole story. Don't give all the details. That comes later. Just give a concise summary of what you are going to talk about. If someone read just those few lines, they'd have a good idea of what your point is going to be.

Let's continue with the school theme of the last headline, "The Seven Survival Skills Every College Freshman Must Know". Here is a sample summary:

"This September millions of students will step onto a college campus for the first time. More will drop out during the first six weeks of school than the rest of the entire year."

Now, combine those words with the wording of the headline. Isn't that enough to tell you what the story is about? You may not know all the details, but they'll follow.

The headline and first section are enough to give you a good idea of what is going to be talked about. If you can't sum up your story in three or four sentences, you don't know how to say what's on your mind. Keep working on it until you can get your whole story into one short paragraph.
 

In this section you insert quotes that pertain to your issue.

At the end of the quote, you put one or more of your credentials. For example:

"This is a tragedy," says Dr. John Doe, a professor at Any Town University. "Every student admitted to college is smart enough to graduate . . . but this doesn't matter if they don't know the seven survival skills and survive those crucial first six weeks!"

Never leave a quote dangling without some credential to back up the person quoted.

When you use quotes you should quote yourself as often as possible. And don't just end your quote with "says Bill Phillips." Be sure to use credentials. By that I mean, who is Bill Phillips and what does he have to do with this story?

So, another good quote would be, "All of my indicators show that the stock market will take a major fall by February," says Bill Phillips, a nationally recognized authority on the stock market.

OK, so you're not a nationally recognized authority on the stock market. What are you?

Are you "a highly trained and experienced mechanic?"

Maybe "a real estate agent with over 20 years experience and $10 million in sales?"

How about "a plumber respected in the community for over two generations?"

Do you see how adding credentials adds so much more power to your quote than writing "says Bill Phillips?"
 

On to the third part of your release. In this final section, you're going to make your "call to action." What do you want the person reading this release to do?

Let me remind you again that the purpose of the release is simply to get the attention of the editor or producer.

Now let me give you a very clear warning.

Don't try to make a hard sell for your product or service in this section. This is no place to write, "Jeff's book is priced at $24.95 and can be charged using a VISA or MasterCard by calling 978-945-2643." The media people will see right through this. They'll see you're just trying to get a free ad. Your release will be tossed in the trash!

So, what do you want them to do? You want them to call you to do an interview, right?

Let's continue with our professor.

"Dr. John Doe, author of 304 Simple Things You Can Do Today To Make Yourself a Super Student, has helped thousands of freshman survive the crucial first six weeks of college.  He's been a dormitory director, college orientation administrator and is now a professor who teaches the Freshman Seminar course at Any Town University.

Dr. John Doe is a very outspoken and totally irreverent professor who teaches students how to have outrageously successful college careers. To interview him, call (700) 555-4141."

He adds more credentials by saying that he is the author of "304 Simple Things You Can Do Today To Make Yourself a Super Student" and that "has helped thousands of freshman survive the crucial first six weeks of college".

Also, did you notice how he made a pitch for himself? He is telling the person reading the release that he is very "outspoken" and "totally irreverent", which leads the reader to think that he will be a good interview with lots of energy!

Another good way to end a release is to say, "Dr. John Doe is a superb interview who will fill your readers with information that will be of value to them today and for the rest of their lives. To schedule an interview with Dr. Doe, call 700-555-4141."

Once you're doing the interview, you'll have plenty of time to make your sales pitch. Right now you just want to get that interview. The longer the interview, the more free coverage you get.

Sample Press Release

 

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