Making the Release

 


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So, you and your business have a great product, event or “rags-to-riches” story that you’re dying to spread the word about-because you just know that once people hear the news, they’re goin to want to know more about what you have to offer. You can already hear the “cha-ching!” sound as new customers beat a path to your door. The question is…how are you going to get the word out?

The answer…a great press release.

A press release is a great way to gain free publicity (and who doesn’t want that?) for your business & services. How you write one can make all the difference between getting media coverage for your business—and your crumpled-up press release covering the bottom of an editor’s trash can. So, here are some tips on how you can hopefully achieve the former.

Use the proper setup…
Most press releases are between 200-500 words, and no more than a page long—since most editors and reporters are pressed for time to the 9th degree. Print your release on company letterhead or use your company's logo, and right underneath in the page's upper right-hand margin, put the words “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE" in all caps (or “FOR RELEASE ON…" if you want the media to hold off on releasing your information until a certain date. ) On the right-hand side, list your company's contact info (name, phone number, email/website/mailing address, etc. ). Add your headline underneath, then begin the body of your release with a dateline (for example, “CHICAGO, Illinois-March 2, 2004"). After the end of your press release, type either “-30-" or “###" to indicate the story's end.

Grab ‘em quick & fast…
Media people barely have time to breathe—so whatever you send them has to grab their attention as quickly as possible. Start off with a catchy, one-line headline that makes them want to read more. For example, “Five Ways to Live Rent Free” is much more interesting and less wordy than “Local Real Estate Agent Offers Tips to First-Time Homebuyers on How To Increase Equity in Upcoming Seminar. ” Follow your to-the-point, lively headline with a brief, clear first paragraph and about five to seven bulleted main points.

“So, what’s in it for me?”
This is the question going through an editor’s mind as she reads your release—the media is all about dispensing news that’s of the utmost interest to the public. The more your press release fits within that category, the better. Does it offer a fascinating story, fabulous event or dynamic interview? The aim is to let producers and journalists know that if they run an article or segment on your business, their audience is in for a real treat, as it would contain information that’s important & interesting to them.

Be a trend keeper-upper…
Another way to pique the interest of your media contacts is to tie your press release’s news in with a current trend or hot topic. For example, your announcement of the new online classes you’re teaching can piggyback on the growing popularity of adult continuing education (both on- and off-line). If you’re a handbag designer whose claim to fame is making good-quality, attractive accessories at affordable prices, your release can mention how fashion-conscious women are demanding a balance between style and budget.

Tap into human interest…
Is there something in your press release that speaks to an emotionally popular issue? If so, make that a selling point. For example, a client of mine followed her passion/dream when she left her teaching job to open a tutoring center for middle- and high-school students. For her press release, I suggested playing up the “pursuing what you really love” aspect—and pointed out that the teaching thing didn’t hurt, either—as being “for the kids” wins extra points in the human interest area!

Target (and I don’t mean the store)…
If you want your press release to hit home, you’ve got to aim well. That means sending it out to a very targeted list of contacts. If you’re a business coach with a release about your new seminar series, the health and beauty editor at the Huntsville Gazette is probably not only going to pass on it—he or she will probably be annoyed that you didn’t research your contact list first. So, you get the picture—health related events go to health editors & reporters, business releases go to the business desk, and so on. Sometimes, you can be a little creative in your distribution, however—as your release might fit into several different areas. If you’re a female business owner, there may be something of interest in your release to a newspaper’s “women’s” section, as well (i. e. a growing business trend among female entrepreneurs. ) Study the publication and make sure you direct your release to the right person, re-working your headline & first paragraph for the individual, if needed—and limit your release to one contact per publication.

Be a distribution machine…
Now that you have your press release written, it’s time to get it out there. There are many different options available, depending on your time and budget. Distribution services can send your release to up to 10,000 media contacts at a time (you can also specify particular markets that you want to reach). Fee based services include Business Wire, Major News Wire and I Media Fax, and the usual cost ranges from $150 to a few hundred dollars. However, if you have a little more time and a little less money, you can distribute your press release yourself. There are places on the Internet where you can post your press release for free, such as PRWeb.com, 24-7PressRelease.com, Free-Press-Release.com, PRLeap.com, and PR.com. You can also do a Google search on “free press release distribution" (to find additonal sites like the ones just mentioned), research newspapers, magazines and TV/radio shows that you’d like to distribute to, visit their web sites and find the appropriate contact person (you’ll usually find a staff list in the publication’s “About Us” section). These days, email is an increasingly popular contact method among members of the media.

Once you find your contact’s email address, send your release in the body of the email, prefaced by a quick introduction and query (no more than a few lines long). Avoid attachments when possible—because of virus scares, journalists aren’t likely to open them if they’re from an unfamiliar source.

The big follow-up…
So, you’ve sent out your release…now what? It is okay to follow up with a phone call to an editor to see whether he or she received your release or has any questions about it. However…don't push it! A sure-fire turnoff for editors is when they get multiple phone calls pressuring them to commit to a story or badgering questions on when a story is going to run. “Short ‘n polite" is the best way to go-"I just wanted to see if you had any questions" and “thank you very much" will suffice.

Make regular, well-written press releases a part of your marketing campaign, and you're sure to get people talking about & paying attention to your business. Good luck!

© Copyright 2004 Vonetta Booker-Brown. All rights reserved.

Vonetta Booker-Brown (aka “The Small Biz Helper”) is a small business expert who helps entrepreneurs get-and stay-on the path to small business success. She offers teleclasses, workshops, one-on-one coaching and various other resources via her website, TheSmallBizHelper.com, and has contributed business and lifestyle articles to various print and online publications. She can be reached at vonetta@thesmallbizhelper.com .

[NOTE: You are welcome to “reprint” this article online as long as it remains complete and unaltered (including the “about the author” info at the end and the copyright notice).

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