Press Releases for Every Occasion

To many marketers, the press release is something of a "one size
fits all" proposition. You want to get media coverage, you knock
out a press release, send it to some journalists and sit back and
wait.

Of course, smart Publicity Insiders already know that's a
prescription for failure. You know that your press release has
to have a "hook", be well-written and sent to appropriate
journalists in an active, not passive, manner. But there's
another part of the puzzle that even savvy publicity-seekers
sometimes miss -- you can't just write "a press release", you
have to write the right kind of press release.

There's no such thing as a "one size fits all" release. Smart
publicists have variations of the press release model ready to be
go, depending on the occasion.

(Note: for a general introduction to press release writing and
formatting, see: http://www.publicityinsider.com/release.asp

Let's look at some releases suitable for "harder" and more timely
news....

The News Release

To some folks, "news release" and "press release" are
interchangeable. Not to me. I use the phrase "news release" to
refer to a release that, well, carries actual news. Let's face
it, most of what a business has to say to a journalist isn't
exactly "stop the presses" kind of stuff. But, on occasion,
something of real significance occurs. A merger, a stock split,
a major new contract, winning a national award...something that's
truly timely and important. For these sorts of events, don't
mess around. Craft a solid, hard-hitting News Release that's
written in pure journalistic style (lead includes "who, what,
when, why and how", language is in 3rd person and completely
free of hyperbole). Use journalism's "inverted pyramid" -- most
important information at the top, next most important info in the
second paragraph and so on down.

Tell the entire story in the headline and subhead. Again, don't
get cute -- get straight to the point. The headline Acme
Corporation Selected by Pentagon to Supply Troops with Widgets is
far better than something like Guess Who's Making Widgets for
Uncle Sam? or something "clever" like that. In the subhead, fill
in some details: $18 Million Contract Largest in Company's
History. Talk about getting straight to the point! You've just
given the journalist the meat of the story before she's even read
your lead.

Add a "dateline" (Akron, OH) at the beginning of your lead
(first) paragraph. In the dateline, use your company's home town
(or the location where some news has broken. You can be a bit
creative here, if it helps maximize your impact. For the above
example, you can dateline it Washington, DC and say that "The
Pentagon today announced that it has selected an Akron
company...").

In distributing the release, use e-mail, fax, or even overnight
courier. The goal is to get it into journalists' hands on the
same day you distribute it.

Executive Appointment Release

Most businesses send out a brief release and headshot when
someone new is hired or a major promotion is made. That's fine,
and it will get them in the "People on the Move" column on page
8 in the business section. It's an ego stroke for the employee,
but that's about it. Savvy publicity seekers use the Executive
Appointment release to generate real publicity. Here's the key --
don't just announce that someone's been hired or promoted.
Rather, explain why the move is significant to the company -- and
perhaps the market -- as a whole.

For example, Jane Smith has been hired as your company's new
director of sales. Not so exciting. However, the reason you
hired her is because she came from a major online retailer and is
planning to overhaul your sales system to compare with the state-
of-the-art systems used by the big guys. Hmmmm...that's a lot
more interesting. So why not tell the media about it?

The key ingredient is context. Your headline may still look
like that of a typical Executive Appointment release (Acme Names
Jane Smith New Director of Sales), but starting with the subhead,
you begin your journey off page 8 of the business section and
onto page one (Hiring of Key Figure in Online Sales Explosion
Marks Important Shift in Acme's Sales Strategy). Ah, now you've
entered the realm of news, not business as usual. And a sharp
business editor will see that a local company is doing something
far more significant than just making a hire.

Dateline the release, fax (or even messenger), email or regular
mail it over to your local business editor and follow up with a
phone call. Offer Jane Smith for interview, too.

The Media Alert

The Media Alert is a deceptively simple creature. It's
essentially a memo from you to TV, radio and newspaper assignment
editors, city desk editors and others who decide whether a
particular news event is worth covering. They're used to alert
the press about news conferences, charity events, publicity
"stunts" and other events.

The point of the Media Alert is to, in just a few seconds, tell a
journalist about the event, how to cover it and why it's
important that the media outlet, in fact, covers it. Most
publicists are pretty good on the first two points -- almost all
media alerts do a decent job of telling what the event is, where
it will be held and what time it starts. It's the third aspect
-- the "why" -- that will make the real difference, though. And
it's the thing most publicists do a lousy of job of conveying.

First, a word about format. Use standard press release headings
(contact info, "For Immediate Release" and headline). The rest
of the document should be a few paragraphs, spaced at least three
lines apart from one another. The first paragraph, should begin
with What: and continue with a one or two line description of the
event (WidgetFest 2004, a celebration of young minds). Next
paragraph, When:, after that Where:

Now here's the key paragraph,

Why You Should Cover WidgetFest 2004: The brightest young minds
from around the region will gather to present their inventions,
as Acme Corp. celebrates the state's top high school science
students. The event will be a visual feast, with a host of awe-
inspiring inventions, many colorful, active and exotic, on
display. As part of the event, more than $10,000 in scholarships
will be distributed to budding Einsteins by John Smith, Ohio's
Science Teacher of the Year.

The key? This line: "The event will be a visual feast, with a
host of awe-inspiring inventions, many colorful, active and
exotic, on display." I just spoke an assignment editor's
language, telling him that this will provide lots of cool
visuals, making for great video or photos. The bit about the
scholarships and the Science Teacher of the Year assures him that
this won't just be a promotional stunt. So what are we offering?
A non-promotional, feel-good event with great visuals. Just what
an assignment editor is looking for.

Bill Stoller, the "Publicity Insider", has spent two decades as
one of America's top publicists. Now, through his website, eZine
and subscription newsletter, Free Publicity: The Newsletter for
PR-Hungry Businesses http://www.PublicityInsider.com/freepub.asp, he's sharing -- for the very first time -- his secrets of
scoring big publicity. For free articles, killer publicity tips
and much, much more, visit Bill's exclusive new site:
http://www.publicityInsider.com

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