Press Releases: Think before sending

bluefin-tuna_478_600x450A high quality press release can open a lot of doors and  is usually the first step in landing your story, brand or project in front of a large audience.

Some people think that crafting and distributing a press release is easy while others consider it a daunting task. Both are somewhat true, but it’s likely that you are too busy running your business or managing your brand to give your press release the attention it deserves.

Before turning to a web site that offers “free” advice and “guaranteed” results, think about how important your press release is to your project, your company’s reputation or your marketing efforts. It makes sense to talk to a pro before hitting the send key.

What do you want to land?

In reality, sending a press release is like a day of fishing. If you just want to cast a line and hope for the best in a familiar watering hole, you’re probably okay on your own. Catch a couple of mackerel and call it a day.

But if you want to land a 400-pound bluefin tuna, it makes sense to have a knowledgeable guide with the the right equipment and the skills necessary to help you achieve success.

If you must absolutely go about it on your own,  then I offer a few basic tips of advice.

1.) Know it:  In fishing, you need to know the waters, the species you are going after and the right bait to use. When thinking about a press release, you need to know your subject matter and the media landscape. Who is writing, blogging or reporting on your subject matter? Do you know these people? Do you have relationships with them? Have you fished these waters before?

2.) Earn it: A good day of fishing requires getting up early and a serious commitment. There are basically two kinds of media: “earned media” and “paid” media. Paid media is advertisements that you pay for; liking buying tuna at the grocery store. Earned media is the result of your hard work and having the right bait.

3.) Hook it: Speaking of the right bait, your press release needs a good hook. Reporters are inundated with hundreds of press releases. How will yours stand out among the rest? What type of hook will you use to arouse the reporter?

4.) Pitch It: There are many species of fish in the water. If your are after a specific species, you have to know what you want and how to catch it. Before sending your release, make a few phone calls to targeted reporters. Don’t send a press release about a new chef at your restaurant to a reporter that covers city hall.

5.) Reel It In: You need to be patient and give the reporter room to do his or her job. Your press release needs to be well-written, succinct (no more than 1-1/2 pages) and contain basic information, including an e-mail and phone number for a primary contact. You should never send a press release as an attachment. Specify whether there will be photo opportunities and include links to your company web site.

If you just want to spend a day relaxing on the water, then you will be fine without a guide. But if you want a prize catch, then it makes sense to talk with a pro to ensure that your press release opens all the right doors.


Randy Seaver is a former newspaper reporter and editor. He also has more than a decade of experience as a strategic communications consultant, helping a wide range of clients overcome challenges in the court of public opinion.  Learn More

The Write Stuff: Make your message sing

Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness — Georges Simenon

Most everyone thinks they are a decent writer, but there is always room for improvement.  Improving your written content — whether it’s a press release, a brochure or web-based content — is not difficult. It just takes practice and adherence to a few basic rules of grammar and style.

DSCN4461If you are knee-deep in developing a new product, launching a business or just wanting to share your message, you may not have the time or expertise to develop skillful messaging that will hook and captivate your audience.

People will judge you by the words you write and distribute. You want to make the right impression. You want your words to matter.

This is when you should consider hiring a professional writer who can craft written copy that is crisp, clear and compelling.

Pro-Tips:

Crisp: Your writing should flow smoothly, not ramble. Stick to the main points. Keep on message and use words that grab your prospective reader’s attention. If you are writing a press release, think about the editor on the receiving end of your words. The old adage applies: less is more. Don’t make the reader work to understand your point. Avoid complex sentence structure.

Clear: Writers instinctively want to impress their readers, but unless you are writing a novel keep your sentence structure simple: subject, verb, object. Choose your hook wisely and then expand on that theme. Avoid cliches and jargon. (Example: “win-win” or “let’s be clear”)

Compelling: Think about your subject matter. Make a list of no more than 10 things that make your subject important. Remember: newspaper editors and the general public are barraged with thousands of written and spoken words every day. What is going to make your message stand out?

If you break your arm, odds are that you will seek the help of a professional. It’s really no different when it comes to producing written copy for your project, campaign or business. Do you really want to wonder if there is a split-infinitive in your copy, or do you want to leave that work to a professional?

The guidelines above are just a few easy ways to improve your writing, but there are many more.

For example, if you’re writing press releases think like a reporter or an editor. The best way to do this is to write like a reporter or an editor. Most reporters and editors use the AP (Associated Press) Style Guide.

If you want a refresher course on basic grammar and style, then you should spend a few dollars and pick up a copy of The Elements of Style.

Writing is important for your success, but it does not have to be a chore.

I invite you to contact me to discuss how I can put my years of experience as a newspaper editor and professional writer to work for you.


 

Randy Seaver is a former newspaper reporter and editor. He also has more than a decade of experience as a strategic communications consultant, helping a wide range of clients overcome challenges in the court of public opinion.  Learn More