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Give Em Something To Talk About: What’s in a Good Press Release?

February 17th, 2012

Organizations that churn out a tired press release every time a deal is sealed, or donation made, are relying on an outdated way of working that just won’t cut it in the new world order. It’s time to do away with the generic, self-serving, homogenized, bland, corporate press releases that have plagued us all for far too long.

More than 70% of shoppers strongly believe that brands waste too much money on marketing and advertising.  Talk is cheap; experience isn’t; and the discerning citizens we’re all hoping to impress with our PR efforts know it. Organizations that have a relevant message and authentic purpose will have to cut though the meaningless chatter to make it in print, on the news, and over the airwaves.

So, what’s in a good press release? A good press release…

-Tells a relevant newsworthy story that has meaning and purpose outside the self-serving motivations of the author organization.

-Has all the important, interesting, noteworthy, and appealing details a journalist would need to write a thrilling article on your newsworthy subject. If your press release isn’t interesting the article about you likely won’t be either (if one even gets written). Remember, You’re Too Good for Boring.

-Is only sent to people who will actually want to see it, otherwise it’s just plain old spam. If you’re not sure who within a news organization to send the press release to, just make a phone call and ask the receptionist (pre-emptive calls are preferred to misdirected mail).

-Is written for two audiences- the journalists who will write about it, and the journalists’ readers. You have to make it relevant to both parties- make it clear that this press release is interesting, the subject matter is relevant to the community,  and the subject matter will appeal to the newspaper’s readers (and help drive newspaper sales and site traffic).

-Has the who, what, where, why, & when parts in the first paragraph or two of the press release. Journalists write articles with most important/pivotal/technical details first and least important details last- so it helps them want to write about your press release if it’s written like they themselves would write an article.

-Answers the questions people would ask if you were talking about this in person, or the negative thoughts/opinions/perspectives you’ll want to overcome. Use your vivid creative narrativity-soaked lingo to help overcome the obstacles and objections and answer the important questions.

-Is short and sweet- stick to one page in length. Be concise, but not boring.

“Omit needless words, omit needless words.” E.B. White

“It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.” Friedrich Nietzsche

-Conveys the brand- from content to tone, style, and method of delivery.

-Has an interest-catching and to-the-point title. The title and the first line should hook your reader.

-Is sent as a link in an email, or as a printed and snail-mailed document, not as an attachment and never as a fax. The fax machine has become irrelevant, so sending a press release via fax makes your press release seem irrelevant too (don’t be the reason newspapers and magazine still have to own fax machines- get with the times and send a pdf).

-If it’s sent via email, the subject line should make the recipient actually want to open it. Writing “Press Release” in the subject line is lazy, and boring. Just say no to boring!

-Is sent out timely. Not just ‘in advance’, but also when the timing is relevant. If you’re hosting a cycling fundraiser, wait to send the press release until you’re well into the planning stage and have details to announce- a date, a website, donor and racer info, etc. That you’ll be hosting an event, at some point in the future to raise money for a cause TBA, isn’t news. You shouldn’t write a press release until you have newsworthy reportable info worth reading about, writing about, talking about… Timing is everything.

Sometimes, the key to a great press release is breaking the rules- with purpose and intention. For example, BlackDog’s digital press releases always have a second page (in print it’s a front and back, but in its digital incarnation- it’s two separate rule-breaking pages). If you have a good reason for overturning the accepted norms, go for it- so long as it’ll convey the brand, meet the needs of journalists and editors, and get your newsworthy tale in front of your target audience.

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