A little flavour of what's in store...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Article - press release tips

With the launch of any new business, like Fabulous Photo Gifts - personalised photo jigsaws, it makes sense to shout about it from the rooftops and employ any and all means at your disposal to 'spread the word'.

This is real viral marketing stuff - posters, letting your network of friends and colleagues know (including MySpace), parents at your kids schools and of course local media.

A well written and informative press release to your local newspapers might just get you a mention and a free one at that!

Here, the old adage "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again" is king. You may find your first press release doesn't get noticed or used. Don't be deterred. Wait a week and then re-submit your story.

Newspapers in particular are creatures of the moment. It may be that the very day you submit your release, there is other more pressing news happening. The moment is lost and a few days later your release becomes 'old news' and very likely doesn't get used.

Did you bother to enquire who to address it to? A busy local evening newspaper may have a news room fragmented into different departments - business, features, what's on, city desk etc so its important to be specific on who you address it to.

All to often a good press release doesn't get used because it landed on the wrong desk.

A little time and preparation will pay dividends and whilst it can't guarantee getting your release used, it gives it a much better chance. Remember also, that your story will be competing with other press releases from other businesses, some of which will be either regular contributors or 'national' stories. Their press releases are likely to have been crafted by PR professionals who write releases for a living so be under no illusion you may be up against stiff competition to get noticed.

On the plus side, you have several factors in your favour so its not all doom and gloom. Firstly, your local and local newspapers serve local stories. Your news is the lifeblood of their publication. It may not have the 'bish bash' eaten hampster headline of a national paper but its horses for courses.

Secondly, it's your business so who better to write about it with a passion and sincerity that will be genuine and heartfelt and hopefully come across in the story.

When it comes to writing the press release itself, you have to think like a journalist (no not where's the nearest bar, but what information do I need). You need to tell the who, what, why, when and how - who it's about, what you are doing, why you are doing it, when you started / key date (day and date) of event, how you are doing it. Answer these points and your half way there to getting your story published.

What else can you do? Always give full clear contact details so a journalist can contact you to discuss the story further. Offer helpful points like "Product images available by email or supplied on disc", in fact anything you feel is relevant or helpful to the story.

If your feeling really creative, break the press release down into these segments:
Who its from
Who its to
Subject: e.g New online business for award winning artist
(something to get their attention and read on)
EMBARGOED (do not use until 00/00/0000 if its date sensitive) or FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Summary: a short paragraph summerising the release (who, what, why etc)
Suggested headline (see below for more on this)
(the press release goes here without dear .etc so that newsdesks can copy and paste if they wnat to)
( a closing tag at the end of the official release - no yours sincerely unless its a letter .etc)
additional information:
(you could add additional info like "images available .etc" or a paragraph of personal biography about whom the story is about)
contact details: how to contact you to discuss the story.

And you thought it was going to be difficult! You can try suggesting a headline but don't be to put out if its not used - they rarely are but you could use the headline to generate interest in 'reading on'.

Remember! Be prepared to have your 'story' re-written by the newspaper. Don't get upset if they feature the article on what you think of as a 'sideline' to the main thrust of your business. At the end of the day, free editorial is like gold dust and carries more conviction than an advert.

If things do go horribly wrong and a 'typo' gets your business name, website address or telephone number wrong, don't get abusive! It doesn't work and they'll probably never repeat another story about you. Be polite and calm and contact the journalist concerned and point out the error. Ask if they can print a correction in the next available edition etc but don't be obstinate about it.

Try to use correct grammar and spellings - it all helps and good luck with your next press release.

Oh and don't forget to add the contact to your press release mail out list. Keep a cutting if possible and repeat the press release you wrote on your website news page, blog or rss feed. I'm sure there will be lots of keyworded text in there somewhere.

To see an actual press release as sent to our local newspaper, scroll down to the 2nd of October 2006.

P.S They do work!, after re-submitting a week after the initial posting out and emailing, our local paid for evening newspaper - The Derby Evening Telegraph - is arriving this morning to take some pictures to accompany a story planned for their business supplement next week.


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