How to write a press release

Actual press release I received... names and details have been changed to protect the guilty.

Actual press release I received… names and details have been changed to protect the guilty.

Working in the paper means I get a lot of press releases across my desk everyday.

The ones that are done well are a treat and they usually catch my attention first.  That means they are also more likely to get in the paper.  The majority of them, however, look something like this photo.

These press releases make me sigh.  Most people don’t think of the work that goes into making their news print worthy.

Every typo has to be corrected, dates have to be double checked and most capitalizations must be retyped.  YOU MAY THINK CAPITAL LETTERS GET NOTICED, and I agree, but I still can’t put them in the newspaper that way.

Here are my top five tips for how to make a perfect press release along with an example.  Work smart and get noticed.  Don’t forget, bloggers are media too.

1.   Keep it neat.  I have tossed one or two press releases because they were such a mess I really didn’t want to deal with them.  A few typos aren’t sending you to the trash, but the easier you make it on the media, the happier we will be to share your news.  Don’t make the media work too hard to do you a favor.

2.   Use capitol letters sparingly.  All caps draw attention, but they also need to be retyped, letter by letter.  This means you risk getting your information jumbled in translation, or simply tossed.  Phrases like “Silent Auction” are not proper names so they don’t need caps.

3.   Use exclamation points even less.  An exclamation point is to denote extreme excitement.  News of “all proceeds go to us!” is not extreme excitement to the rest of us, just a fact.  Likewise, the news that there is a cash bar, or food, are facts.  They aren’t exciting.  “Free drinks all night!” would be another story. That would deserve an exclamation point and I would probably be there in person.

4.   Speak up but don’t demand.  Nothing is more annoying than receiving a badly written press release that states when they want me to publish it and in what papers.  “Make sure you let me know ahead of time when you put my item in the paper and set aside five copies for me,” is an actual quote from an email I received.  Remember, you catch more flies with honey. Your press release may be the highlight of your week but the typical news desk has a hundred of these or more floating across it.

5.   Keep it simple.  This is the most important piece of advice I can give you for press releases.  So much crosses my desk each day, each piece screaming for attention.  The ones that make me read a lot of superfluous information often get set aside in favor of the clean and concise items.

Your press release should stick to the W’s – who, what, why, where and when and no more.  When you try to stuff your release full of all sorts of emotional fluff in order to grab my attention you are sending me running, and often forgetting to include the actual important information. Believe me, that’s not uncommon.

Press releases are a wonderful way to go fishing for attention, but like fishing, be sure to use the right hook and bait.  Here’s a sample press release you can copy and use.  Remember, this is meant as an enticement so the information should be enough to pique the interest but not so much it gets set aside to read later.  The following is a sample you are welcome to copy and paste, tailoring to your own needs.

Sample Press Release—please personalize and send to your local media on your letterhead.

For immediate release 2013

For more information:

Date:  (This is the date you send the release)

Name: (Person sending the release)

Phone Number:

Fax Number:

E-mail:

Angela Yuriko Smith is pleased to announce her third book, titled Your News Here.   To celebrate, Your News Here Press will be participating in Your News Here Book Release Party on Monday, June 30, 2014.

Fans everywhere are invited to take pictures showing where they are reading their copy of Your News Here that day. Your News Here Press will then collect the images and post them online. Twelve winners will be selected randomly from the submitted images to be awarded prizes.  Prizes to be announced.

Please visit theYour News Here Press website,Your News Here Press.com, for more information.

Follow Angela Yuriko Smith

Twitter@AngelaYSmith

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About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, author, and publisher with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism. She is a Bram Stoker Awards® Finalist and HWA Mentor of the Year for 2020. She co-publishes Space and Time, a publication dedicated to fantasy, horror and science fiction since 1966. Join the community at spaceandtime.net
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4 Responses to How to write a press release

  1. T.F. Walsh says:

    Great to have you back…how was the move? Really good points I this posts hanks for sharing:)

    • Good to be back :) The move was good but seems like we are just settling in after over a year. My husband still doesn’t have his visa but he did get permission to work. I got my dream job in a newspaper so I’m thrilled. Glad you liked the post – congratz on your book… I can’t wait to read it!

  2. Good info and tips…even for me who might be writing up something for church.

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