Press releases are a time-tested way to garner media attention. Best of all, if you go about it correctly, you can earn free publicity. As opposed to paid advertising, press releases serve as an exchange with the media: you give editors information that is useful to their readers, and in turn you receive media coverage. Contrary to what some believe, press releases aren’t just for print media such as newspapers and magazines; they can also be used when it comes to television, radio, and online media outlets.
The key to having your press release picked up as a story or published is to ensure that it is powerful and useful. Here are some easy tips for creating effective press releases.
Don’t let your press release come off as an advertisement and make sure your information is newsworthy.
For example, if you own a clothing store, you need to find something about your business that is unique and that people can connect with. You may be having a 50 percent off sale at your boutique, but no one wants to read about that; it doesn’t make a good story, and it’s not newsworthy. Perhaps your store is first in the city to offer clothes completely made of organic materials, you’ve partnered with a charitable organization, or maybe you’re hosting an upcoming fashion show – these items would be newsworthy. If you can’t come up with a unique story angle, do not write and try to distribute the press release; odds are it will not be published.
Pitch your press release to the correct editor, department, and publication.
For obvious reasons, you wouldn’t submit a press release about fashion to a magazine that covers fishing gear. For the same reasons, you shouldn’t submit your fashion-related press release to a magazine’s beauty editor. Don’t assume that the editors will just route your release to the correct department, because it is more likely that your release will get thrown away. Sending a press release to the correct publication, department, and editor is called targeted distribution. Pick the right media outlet, zone in on the most appropriate department, and send the release to the editor most likely to cover the story you’re sending in. There are some press release services out there that do this process for you.
Make sure your press release is correctly formatted.
This seems simple enough, but you would be amazed at the number of incorrectly formatted press releases that cross an editor’s desk. Such releases are the ones that quickly find their way to the trash can. Most effective press releases are about one page in length; if yours is longer, put “-more-” at the end of the first page. At the very end of the press release, put “###”. Don’t forget to include your press contact’s details at the top of the release, and do not put your press release’s title in all CAPS. Most importantly, do not include a dateline if your press release won’t be distributed immediately and is not related to a time-sensitive piece of information; doing so will make your information appear outdated.
Offer media to go along with your release.
Having a photo, audio clip or video available to go along with a press release makes it more likely that the release will get picked up as a story. The best way to go about this is to mention in your pitch letter that there is available media to go along with the release. Just make sure that what you’re offering is relevant to your press release, and that you have the right to distribute the content.