The best way to make the press release look like a professional piece of work (which implies that it has come from a professional outfit) is to use a word processor template.
That will simplify things in terms both of formatting (Microsoft’s layouts in particular are very acceptable to the journalists who receive the releases) and making sure that all your press releases have a definable corporate format.
The press-release templates that come with Microsoft Word are a good start, though you should adapt them to make sure your releases don’t look like those from every other Word user.
You’ll find templates under the File / New options in Word. (If you don’t have a press release template on your computer, go to www.office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates and check out the many alternatives available there for downloading.)
Whether or not you use a template, make it look readable. In particular this means …
- Wide margins to allow space for the journalist’s notes and for editing.Something
around 3cm or slightly more should do it.
- Double line spacing,for the same reasons.
- Crisp,clear,readable type – Courier in 11 or 12pt is good.
How to write a release
Keep it short.
Include at least one contact name for more information, complete with a variety of phone numbers (switchboard, direct line, mobile) and an email address. Make life easy for the journalist by ensuring that the contact name and at least one of those numbers appears on each and every page. Include a snappy headline(no more than five or six words, preferably less) and a longer subhead which expands and adds to it.
Keep things in perspective – don’t over- inflate what you have to say if it doesn’t merit the treatment. Don’t make claims you can’t substantiate (“totally unique”, “internationally applauded”, “world’s no. 1”) and avoid irritatingly vague adjectives such as “fantastic” and “magnificent”.
Photos and press releases
Include a picture if you possibly can. Most publications like to break up the mass of text that would otherwise appear on their pages with images of one kind of another, so give them something – a mugshot of someone quoted in the article, a pic of the product you mentioned, a copy of your logo if there’s absolutely nothing else available.
Press releases by email
These days many journalists prefer to receive releases by email. In fact, if you can find an email address for a named journalist, send press releases by email for preference – but include a tickbox that asks if they’d prefer paper instead.
- Don’t use HTML formatting – plain text is always preferable for press releases. Besides, many email servers treat HTML-formatted mail as spam and may reject it. If you really do need to use formatting, send a brief text- message summary and attach a Word document containing the full version in all its glory.
- Spell it out – put PRESS RELEASE at the head of the message and also in the subject line.
- Keep it short. No-one wants to wade through a massive email message. Provide access to additional information by including clickable links to online press kits and other relevant material on your website.
Make life easier for your editorial friends
If you want editorial coverage,it makes sense to be the kind of person that editorial people want to deal with.This means …
- Don’t waste their time.Don’t try to plug stories that don’t really deserve their attention or don’t fit their readership.
- Don’t send each and every press release to each and any contact.Don’t follow up with phone calls asking whether they have seen your press release and when will it be printed.Look for angles that will appeal particularly to them – a local paper Bexhill will be more interesting in a story about a Bexhill celebrity buying two Razr V3s than would the Yorkshire Post.
- In any oral or written communication with a media outlet,you should be friendly,articulate and concise.If you can’t do one or more of those,find someone else who can.A self-regarding stammerer who can’t marshal their thoughts and needs 20 minutes to get to the point is guaranteed to kill any interest the journalist may have had.
- Be willing to answer questions,even if you have to research the answers and get back to them.(Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know but can find out,and never give an answer you’re not sure is accurate.)
- Find the occasional exclusive to offer a particular journalist,and get to know them on first-name terms.The exclusive doesn’t have to be earth-shattering;it could be a human interest anecdote (something involving pensioners,tots or small dogs is generally a winner) or a first-in-the-area story.Pick the right journalist and they’ll start calling you.
TOP TIPS –
- Make it clear that it’s a press release they’re reading. Put contact info at both ends of the release:make it easy for them to get in touch
- Double line spacing for clarity, and lots of room for notes.
- It’s convention to put “more” at the foot of each page if the release continues on to the next one.
- Use a good, clear typeface. Courier is crisp and generally unequivocal
- The end of the release is signified by the word “end”
- Additional background information can be added in a different format
- Don’t be too short, but don’t be too long-winded either (two or three pages max)
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