How to Create a Standout Press Release

[Editor's Note: Paul outlines many reasons why you may want to think about having your press releases professionally written. Both he and I, and many others, are happy to provide that service for you. I disagree, however, with one suggestion of Paul's. Rather than sending HTML press releases with pretty layout and pictures, I recommend sending plain text with a link to a formatted version online.
--Shel Horowitz, copywriter and editor, Down to Business]

Someone recently wrote:

"The writing of a press release requires no special skill. There is no 'magic' or 'secret' involved here. Given sufficient training, anyone can learn to write a simple release that will be acceptable to traditional media."

I'm sorry, I laughed when I read this. If life were only this simple. I guess maybe it's true judging from the glut of releases posted at the free online distribution services. Writing a news release is easy.

But what I see indicates that most of them are not worth looking at and are not readily publishable for many reasons. So they fail to achieve their primary goal or objective.

I think the question is one of whether the news release your write is successful in terms of meeting your publicity goals.

I personally don't think that writing news releases is easy at all, at least not ones that are successful in getting publicity that is.

Oh, it may be easy to write a news release, but how about achieving the real goal, which is turning it into return on investment.

I think writing a news release that is really successful at getting publicity can be exceedingly difficult. People come to me after having spent many thousands of dollars with other public relations firms and copywriters asking me to try and succeed where many others have failed.

To me it is almost like trying to get an agent or publisher for a book, or getting an article published in a magazine. You have to get used to the rejection and low response rates. You send out a lot, and hope to get a few yeses. Sometimes even one will make your day.

Basically you are asking a publisher if he or she will publish something. They only say yes if it helps their bottom line. They base their decision on whether publishing your material will increase the number of paying subscriptions or the number and amount they receive from paying advertisers.

Your news release is the decision document. It competes against all the other news releases and other publishing priorities these publishers have on their plates.

So the news release is a VERY IMPORTANT DOCUMENT since your livelihood depends on it.

I am constantly learning and studying what it takes to be successful as a copywriter. I believe that it is a profession as demanding as that of being an attorney (which is what I once was once upon a time ago).

There may not be magic or secrets, but there is considerable science and a psychology in communicating persuasively and effectively with these special types of very important people - the media.

I am asked to write news releases to match specific client goals for publicity. These vary. The goal is not only to get the news release published, but to have the actual publication produce some ultimate action on the part of the audience it is designed and intended for. It the case of most publishers, the most meaningful yardstick at the end of the day is "how many books did we sell". In some cases, it might be a politician asking for votes. In other cases, it's a downtrodden citizen asking for public outcry and legal or political change.

It all comes down to the news release you send to the media. Is it good enough to get them to publish something? Can you meet their needs and the clients needs at the same time? This is the real challenge. This is the gauntlet.

I believe there is considerable skill involved in learning how to write news releases, especially successful ones, that is, those that not only get published, but they result in the desired action, and tangible ROI.

To me someone with a book has to realize that the goal of the publicity is to sell books and maybe more. The type of articles that motivate people to action is what you have to craft. You certainly can write a book announcement, but will it get published and will it produce sales?

I think there are way more than just two types of news releases for books. You can generalize and think "Book announcement" or "book available for review" and "other" if that works for you, but I'm a copywriter and I write news releases and get people publicity for a living. My observations are that book reviews don't sell that many books. Feature stories, problem solving tips articles, human interest stories, issue analysis and commentary - these are the galvanizing in depth emotionally and intellectually engaging articles that produce deep and lasting interest.

In my book Trash Proof News Releases (available as a free pdf file download at my web site), I've identified several categories of types of news releases for book authors and publishers, which I observed worked best over many years of transmitting news releases. Each of these has special purposes and design.

Local human interest stories

Major news events

Problem solving tips articles

New, remarkable book, products or services

Public service announcements

Calendar events

Community events

Conference events

Speaking events

People announcements

Fundraising releases

Letters to the editors

Radio & TV interviews

Short feature stories

Full feature articles

Query letters

Opinion editorials

Internet/web site traffic generation releases

Book reviews

I view each of these as a separate tool in the arsenal of the publicist or promoter. Each has a different style of presentation, organization, content, and length. Each has a different purpose and target media.

I've also written that there are perhaps two categories of news releases, one intended for print, and the other intended for radio and tv, and that they should be written differently because of the different needs of each type of publishing medium. This makes sense because print needs information because it stimulates thought. Print publication requires printed words because publishes publish. Radio & TV use orally spoken words and visual images to evoke emotional or physical response. They talk to the heart to trigger primal hormonal responses. So when you write a news release to each you are more persuasive when you take these differences into account and give the media what they want and need.

So how you write a news release matters. You pitch to persuade media to write something.

Your goal with a news release is to get the media to take an action:

1. write about you favorably

2. request more information so they can write about you favorably.

3. interview you

You have to give the media what they want and are accustomed to publishing if you are to be successful in getting them to give you coverage.

You also need to carefully identify what you want people to see about you that will professionally brand you and get them calling you. Sure, you could be http://www.directcontactpr.com/free-articles/article.src?ID=45 promoting a book, a professional service, a product, an invention or an http://www.directcontactpr.com/free-articles/article.src?ID=37 event. But the media will not give you free advertising. They only will publish something that fits within the spectrum of news, education, or entertainment that their readers and subscribers want, and that their advertisers won't object to.

You want publicity that achieves a http://www.directcontactpr.com/free-articles/article.src?ID=14 return on investment that rivals and even exceeds your best marketing. So what you write in a news release and present and propose to media has to run a gauntlet and avoid the fatal errors that will result in your news release being quickly deleted with a click or placed in the trash can.

Your press releases need to be http://www.directcontactpr.com/free-articles/article.src?ID=52 specifically designed to trigger public interest and media interest. You must quite deliberately and systematically select and then present information that:

1. interests lots of people in your target media audience

2. has significant perceived value for that audience.

3. is easy for media to verify and run with.

You maximize your chances of getting feature stories and detailed interviews if you provide the media with what they need to do their job.

I looked over several years of news releases and success stories we've documented and compiled the common lessons learned. Here is a quick list of the best possible ways for you to increase your chances of getting favorable coverage and what you need to emphasize when you write and distribute a news release. I call this my " 20 News Release Content Choices to Maximize Feature Story Coverage and Detailed Interviews with Major Media".

1. a dramatic personal story that describes achievement in the face of adversity plus a little humor

2. a problem solving tips article on a crucial topic that shows how you can help the people that you can help the most

3. an innovative product or service that makes people want it because of the benefits it offers

4. a dramatic and interesting photograph that really tells a 1,000 word story at a glance

5. a new development or situation that lots of people will be interested in because of the way it affects them

6. a personal battle between the forces of good and evil, or David and Goliath

7. a truly heartwarming tale with a happy or remarkable ending

8. new effective techniques or tactics to improving a problem or situation that is commonly faced

9. new creativity that makes people feel good or experience heightened emotions

10. a story that makes people cringe in fear, howl with delight, or experience intense desire or want.

11. an explanation of something that demystifies something complex that confounds a lot of people

12. news, analysis and commentary on a controversial issue or topic

13. localized people stories and media access to the local people involved.

14. innovative and new ways to have fun, save money, help people, increase their enjoyment, protect the environment, and help them get more out of life.

15. unusual, hot and wacky ideas, products, activities, and situations

16. mouthwatering recipes, food, culinary delights or opportunities

17. educational, unusual and hard to believe or fascinating news, data, information, little known or even secret never revealed before knowledge or stories.

18. record breaking achievements, competitions, paradoxes, dilemmas, anything that confounds the human spirit

19. knowledge, ideas or information that astounds people, enlightens people and raises their consciousness to new levels and inspires them to experience new feelings.

20. remarkable little things people may not know about, that make people's dreams come true.

Final observations:

I do not believe that there are any limits on how long a news release needs to be. It depends on why you are sending it and what your goal happens to be.

I published Trash Proof News Releases in 2001 at the peak of the fax era, when one page news releases were the best way to be persuasive and effective with media.

Times have now changed. Email is preferred over fax. Now with email technologies, that length and style of presentation isn't matched to the technology we use any longer.

With email sent via text, paragraph length matters, font and screen size, readability, screen changes, and a host of other factors. With email html, some of these factors matter more or less. But you can also use photos and graphics. These can be powerfully integrated into a presentation.

We see media responding favorably to short one to two pagers as readily as ready-to-publish 3,000 word feature story articles with photographs. With email html, length doesn't matter. The length of what you send is not as important as the quality and content and whether it is what the target media can use. Persuasion matters. Content matters.

The bottom line however is what happens after you transmit the news release. The end results are what determine your answer and satisfaction with the effectiveness of the news release. I determine that by the quantity and quality of the articles that get published or the interviews that are booked, and ultimately by the sales that result from those events.

My best advice is to write something where you help the people you can help the most, entertain the people you can entertain the most, or educate the people who need you advice as well as you can.

When you write a news release, give the media your best shot. Give them a ready to publish article. Give them a ready to use show script and the Q & A's needed for an interview. Give them not only what they need to make a decision, but to do what you are asking them to do.

That's what you need to put into your news release.

And if you do that, I'd like to see it. Send it to me and I'll be happy to give you comments.

Paul J. Krupin, Direct Contact PR
Reach the Right Media in the Right Market with the Right Message
http://www.DirectContactPR.com Paul [at] DirectContactPR.com
http://blogspot.directcontactpr.com 800-457-8746 509-545-2707


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