15 Tips to Write, Format and Distribute a Press Release

15 Tips to Write, Format and Distribute a Press Release

A well-written press release can greatly boost your sales, promote your business globally, and significantly improve the image of your business, products and/or services.

I share with you my own 15 PR tips that will guide you in the right direction to: 1) write a newsworthy press release for any occasion; 2) format a press release for print media and digital media; 3) distribute your press release to newswires, PR distribution sites, journalists, and the media; and 4) generate ongoing, long-term publicity with a single press release or a series of press releases.

PR Tip # 1: Credibility

PR Tip # 1: CredibilityA press release that adds credibility and trustworthiness will win readers' confidence and will persuade them to purchase your product and/or service. You have many ways to gain credibility, such as distributing your press release through well-known and respected "wire" services and then picked up by the media, such as a newsstand magazine or top 10 news site.

To write a well-written press release, ask yourself these questions:

1) Is your press release meaningful and newsworthy to the public or your target audience?

2) If you read your press release from the viewpoint of an experienced journalist, would you see immediate value that would interest your readers?

3) Honestly...will your press release interest the readers about your topic?

4) In a mound of press releases, will your press release capture the attention of a busy editor or journalist?

5) Can the editor or journalist quickly skim through your press release and find all of the important points—the Who?, What?, When?, Where?, and Why?

A well-written press release can add substantial value to your business, because unlike an obtrusive ad, a press release provides NEWSWORTHY information that readers don't mind looking at.

PR Tip # 2: The Boilerplate

PR Tip # 2: The Boilerplate
Companies of all sizes (including individuals and entrepreneurs) commonly use 1-2 paragraphs that characterize what they do, what they offer (i.e., products, services, community outreach), and who their target market is. This paragraph is known as a "boilerplate." Nearly all press releases include a boilerplate at the conclusion of the press release—after the content and before the contact information. Always provide a link to your website in the boilerplate so readers know how to (and where to) obtain further information about what (or whom) you are publicizing. You may also want to include direct links to your profile pages at Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. This will increase your social media exposure.

PR Tip # 3: Write in Plain English

PR Tip # 3: Write in Plain English
Avoid wordiness in your press release. Stuffing too many redundant and useless words in a sentence is a bad a habit that most of us tumble into once in a while. Formal writing (i.e., business writing) is no more verbose than informal writing (i.e., writing e-mails). In fact, writing a press release should be more exact and accurate because it is formal. The best way to eliminate wordiness is through editing. When you edit, remove phrases and words that add no value to your press release, and clarify your key points with precise, accurate and concrete words. Of course, you don't want to over simplify all words and sentences so that your sentences sound abrupt. Good editing greatly improves the coherency of your press release. Make sure that you cover all important information in enough detail so that the reader immediately recognizes the value of your message. A first draft of a press release always contains redundant words and overused adjectives. Remember to write for the reader, not for your ego.

PR Tip # 4: Timeliness

PR Tip # 4: Timeliness
When you write an engaging news release with relevant keywords, readers and potential customers can easily find your news online. A wonderful benefit of a news release is that it allows you to reach prospective customers beyond individuals who visit your website or online store. A second benefit is that your published news release will remain searchable online after it has been published.

A news release is (obviously) newsworthy. If you don't have anything new to say, then you have no reason to write a news release.

Your news release should have one or more of these elements:

Timelines: The news release is reporting NEW (relevant) information. It you are reporting about an old product or service, you can still write something newsworthy about it.

Influence: Your information influences the media's audience (i.e., readers, listeners, viewers).

Originality: Your information is distinct from similar news and delivers a unique point of view or brand-new information.

Emotion: Your information announces a problem or solves a problem that commonly affects your target audience.

Location: Your information refers to events that affect the surroundings of the targeted readers geographically.

Popularity: Your information quotes a widely recognized individual such as a political leader, a sports player, a company president, or a celebrity.

PR Tip # 5: Common Press Releases

PR Tip # 5: Common Press Releases
Types of common press releases include:

1. Standard News Release
A standard press release is the most popular and the one that most people recognize. This press release provides news that you want to share with the media. The objective of this press release is to attract reader interest, media coverage, and business publicity.

2. Product Launch
A Product Launch press release resembles a basic news release based on format, but its purpose is more precise. This press release is more immediate or relevant right now, and its primary function is to generate a buzz about a "launch," such as a launch of a new product, service, or event.

3. Staff Changes
A Staff Changes press release announces staff changes, promotions within the company, and/or new key personnel. This press release is unlike the standard press release because it contains biographical and background information about staff members. It also usually includes profile photos of staff members.

4. Expert Profile
An Expert Profile press release is much less immediate than a basic press release. This press release showcases an individual's knowledge and experience in a niche. The purpose of this press release is to establish credibility with media people so they can go to you as a source of information and quotes.

5. Event Announcement
An Event Announcement press release is formatted differently than a standard press release because it must contain the basic Who, What, When, Where and Why. An Event Announcement sometimes resembles an outline as opposed to writing in 3-4 line paragraphs. Its purpose is to publicize an upcoming event to the general public.

PR Tip # 6: Pitching to Local Media

PR Tip # 6: Pitching to Local Media
Here are a few tips if you are writing a press release that you will send to local media in your area:

1. Before you begin your press release: Contact people who are happy to provide quotes and can talk to reporters who are eager to cover your occasion or news item. Choose suitable communicators for your news item. Clients, customers, friends, colleagues and family members are usually the perfect communicators of local news. Remember: do not include people's quotes in your press materials without their consent. If quoting children, you must get parental consent beforehand.

2. Understand the media. Contact each media channel to learn which reporter covers your topic and/or industry (depending on the story). Find out if the reporter favors to get news by e-mail, fax or mail. Never send the same press release to more than one staff worker at a publication or newscast station. If you are distributing your press release via e-mail, submit it individually to each journalist or reporter. Never bulk e-mail to large groups of people because they may determine your press release as "spam."

3. Begin your press release with a powerful opening. Reporters are always on tight deadlines; they will glance at the first paragraph to determine if your press release is newsworthy. You need to start strong to convince the reporter that your press release is worth his or her time to read it fully.

4. What you consider news may not constitute as news to a reporter. Just because your business is commemorating its 10th anniversary serving the community does not mean your local papers or news stations will cover this occasion. Every press release needs a hook to separate it from other press releases that local media receive on a continual basis. If you are writing a press release to announce this important event, ensure that you provide something that adds interest and value to the readers. If your business has achieved success in your community, write about that you did right and how you contributed to the community.

5. Make the reporter's job easier to do. Most local and regional newspapers and media accept well-written press releases and print them, word by word. Radio news will sometimes read straight from your news release. Write your press release as if you were hired to write a story for the local media. If you make the reporter's job easier to do, he is more inclined on using your press release to write his own story.

6. Write a story-driven press release. Incorporate real world examples to show how your business helped improve economic problems by hiring local residents. Real world situations will catch the interests of your audience.

7. Avoid jargon. The ideal manner to convey your news is to write plainly, using common language. Jargon is vocabulary unique to trade professionals or industry groups and is not suitable for the general public.

PR Tip # 7: Follow the Inverted Pyramid

PR Tip # 7: Follow the Inverted Pyramid
Write your press release the way you intend a journalist to write it as a news story. The main body of your press release should follow the inverted pyramid format: put the most important information and quotes first, followed by the least important information. Editors and journalists use the inverted pyramid format in case they need to reduce a story to fit space restrictions—they can clip from the end without dropping vital information. The first sentence (called the "lead") must grab readers' attention and state concisely the purpose of the press release. Use the next couple of sentences to develop the lead. Use a "call to action" in your press release to tell the public what you want them to do with the information that you are releasing. For instance, do you want them to try out a new service? If so, provide information on where to register. Do you want them to visit your website to download a trial version of your software, or to sign up for a free seminar? If so, provide the URL of your website.

PR Tip # 8: Write for Online Readers

PR Tip # 8: Write for Online Readers
The fast growth of online news consumption is primarily driven by individuals, ages 30-65, followed by the younger generation, ages 10 and older. More than 45% of adults (ages 50-65) read news online from one or more reliable news sites. Search engines like Google and Yahoo! now feature news, images and videos in search engine results.

The top 10 news websites include:

1. Yahoo! News
2. CNN.com
3. MSNBC.com
4. The New York Times (NYTimes.com reported that over 50 percent of its traffic comes via search engines.)
5. Google News
6. The Huffington Post
7. Fox News
8. Washington Post
10. ABC News
9. LATimes.com

Americans are participating more in the news creation and gathering process, such as commenting on news stories and sharing news via Twitter and Facebook. These days most journalists find new story beats and important contacts from the social web.

PR Tip # 9: Use a Subhead

PR Tip # 9: Use a Subhead
Subheads are extremely valuable devices, yet typically ignored by PR writers. Basically, a subhead offers you the chance to expand your story and further catch the reporter's interest. The length of the subhead can be the same length as the headline, between 2 and 22 words, preferably near 60 characters. The subhead allows you to provide more precise information about what you are publicizing. It also lets you add additional keywords so search engines can index your press release under multiple keywords.

PR Tip # 10: Exposure is Everything

PR Tip # 10: Exposure is Everything
You can submit your press release to the popular "wire" services (BusinessWire.com, PRNewsWire.com, GlobalNewsWire.com, etc.), and/or free press release distribution sites to distribute your press release across the Internet. Distributing your press release online will generate steady publicity over time. For an online business, exposure is everything because it amplifies the online presence of your website. Unless online customers hear or know about your website, they have no reason to visit it. The press release is the most successful way of informing likely customers about your online business. A press release can also build brand awareness and recognition, adding credibility to your business. A good press release not only serves as a piece of information, but it also offers something of interest and value for readers.

PR Tip # 11: Brief is Better

PR Tip # 11: Brief is Better
Press releases range in length from one page to three pages. The preferred length is one page. In fact, shorter press releases (between 250-350 words) usually receive more exposure, if written well. Journalists, reporters and editors frequently look for "economy-size" information for sidebars and/or fillers for their publications and/or websites. The content of your press release must be accurate, concise, and easy to read. It must, above else, interest readers, otherwise an editor or journalist has no use for it.

PR Tip # 12: Credit Your Sources

PR Tip # 12: Credit Your Sources
To add authority and interest to your press release, you'll want to add a quote from a leading expert or quote a source to support your newsworthy information. Before you include any quotes in your press release, you must get permission from the person or source. If you are quoting a source from something you read, you must get written permission to use it, otherwise you may be held liable for copyright infringement. If you are quoting somebody whom you know very well, then you can get verbal permission.

Most press releases, when including a quote, use attributions to recognize or credit the source.

1) If you are quoting copyrighted information, your attribution should contain the source, date and/or website link.

2) When quoting an individual, include the person's full name, professional title, and/or company position.

3) If you are using facts, figures and/or statistics from other sources, make sure you attribute the source.

Without appropriate attribution, your press release will lack trustworthiness and appear inaccurate (even though this may not be the case).

PR Tip # 13: Standard Format

PR Tip # 13: Standard Format
Use 8 1/2 x 11" paper only for your press release. Use standard white paper. Do not use color or tinted paper.

In the upper left corner of the paper, you have two choices. The first choice (most common) is to type "For Immediate Release." You can uppercase all characters if you choose. These words inform the media person that he or she can use your press release right away, or in the future. The second choice is to include a date for release. If you are writing a press release related to Halloween, you can put "For Release On Or Before Halloween" or "For Release On Or Before October 31st." This tells the reporter when he or she can use your press release.

In the upper right corner add: "For further information contact:". And then add the full name of the contact person, a phone number, and e-mail address. Next add your mailing address. (You may also use left alignment for contact info., if you choose).

Headline (bold-face, centered)
Subhead (italicized, centered)

BODY COPY (Flush left; never single-space the entire body copy.)
Paragraph 1 (the lead):

Paragraph 2: flesh out the lead with supporting information and quotes.

Paragraph 3: sum up your press release

BOILERPLATE (about your company)

### or -30 - (to signify the end of the press release)

PR Tip # 14: The Body Copy

PR Tip # 14: The Body Copy
The body copy of your press release should consist of three parts.

1) In the first part, tell your full story in two to three sentences. If you can't tell your full story in this size of space, it may indicate that you are unfocused or you don't really understand what you need to communicate.

2) The second part should contain quotes from you and/or a leading expert. This part is also where you flesh out your story and make it valuable to readers.

3) The third part must contain your "call to action." What would you like your readers to do with your information? Call you? Visit your website? Buy a product? Attend an event? Be specific.

PR Tip # 15: Notes to Editors

PR Tip # 15: Notes to Editors
You can include a section called "Notes to Editors" at the end of your press release. This is where you can provide technical information or additional details that are too dull for the main press release. If you are including photos or images with your press release, you can use this section to explain the size, DPI quality and publishing rights for each image.

- Brian Scott 
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