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By Andrew Neitlich

How to write an effective press release

By Andrew Neitlich
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On request, from a reader of previous blog, here are some ideas about press releases. First, the title “how to write an effective press release” is a bit misleading. The idea is to create an effective media campaign. One press release rarely gets you where you want to go.

You need to think about publicity as a stream of water over the landscape. In the short term, the water doesn’t do much. In the long term, it can carve a beautiful canyon. That’s because it takes time for the media to recognize your releases, and more time for the public.

With that said, here are some tips:

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1. See what the competition and other companies aredoing and start reading press releases to see which releases are effective and which aren’t. Go to http://www.businesswire.com and watch the press releases flow.

2. Set a goal for your publicity campaign. I’m assuming most readers here are not owners of publicly traded companies looking to support/grow the stock price. Therefore, your primary goal is to generate awareness in your target market.

3. Get a list of media and media contacts for your releases. If you’ve read anything by me, you know I am a big advocate for a focused, industry-based target market. If you have followed that advice, then you will have a much easier time finding a small list of targeted publications for your release.

4. Come up with a list of newsworthy events about your company. These include: new capabilities, new customers, new employees, community service, contributions to associations (e.g. upcoming speeches, conferences). Also consider substantive tips to your audience about things that matter to them, and that you know. Publications don’t want advertisements, so ask whether the readers will perceive your release to be interesting and newsworthy.

5. Write a good headline. Examples: XYZ Web Designs Offers Five Tips for a Web Site that will Attract More Legal Clients; ABC Web Development Announces Release of Comprehensive Suite of Back Office Tools for Grocery Chains; DEF Systems Integrators Announces Contract with IBM, Inc.

6. Keep the format simple and sweet. Start at top with: For Immediate Release. Then put your headline. Then start the first paragraph with the date of the release and the place (e.g. Boston, MA). End the release with a paragraph about your company and the phone number and email of a media contact.

7. The structure of your release should follow the pyramid principle, meaning that you start with the most important paragraphs and work your way down to fluff. For instance, if you are announcing a contract with a customer:

7a. First paragraph starts: ABC Web Designs, a Leading Minneapolis-based Web Design Firm, announced today that…..

7b. Second paragraph gets into more details.

7c. Third paragraph should be a quote from you, or the CEO.

7d. Fourth paragraph should be quote from any other party involved (e.g. CEO of customer or partner). Make sure that this party approves the release or you may have to issue a retraction.

7e. Add any other information about why the announcement is significant to the audience.

7f. Provide an “about” paragraph about your company and the customer.

8. How many releases you issue is a function of how much newsworthy content you have and the frequency of the publications in your target market. I handle press releases for a number of publicly traded companies, and they try to release 2 items per week, one about new infrastructure, and one about new customer contracts.

9. Send the release via fax or email to your contacts. If email, put the release in body of your email, as attachements are often deleted due to virus fears. Or, if you want national coverage, check out businesswire.com, which offers excellent coverage (albeit more expensively than, say, prweb).

10. Be careful how you deal with the media. They are under no obligation to print your releases. Don’t hound them or bug them. If they are interested, they will call you (and when they do, respond immediately as they are often under a deadline). And, if your releases are full of good content of interest to their readers, you will eventually see results.

There’s more to the publicity game, but this is a good introduction for those who aren’t using this tactic regularly. But remember — the key is to take a long-term, patient view.

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