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by Nathan S

A good press release can mean lots of free publicity, while a bad press release means wasting a lot of time and possibly money. However, when first starting out, many businesses do not pursue the press release as an option as a result, believing that it requires money to create a release that will gain widespread circulation. This is a shame, because the truth is that, with a little thought, it is possible to create a passable press release for your news page. With any luck, you could also get it distributed in local news sources.

Think of Your Headline First

It sounds a little counterintuitive, since the headline will never tell “the whole story.” However, my challenge to you is to start with the headline. The reason for this is because it will help you focus in on a single message. If you can create a headline in about 10 words that accurately sums up what you want to talk about, you have a news release. If the headline isn’t sufficient space to convey your whole main point, then you will have a cluttered press release.

If this proves to be too difficult, you can go ahead and write out your thoughts. Just be ready to turn those thoughts into several pieces rather than just one. Press releases need to be written in a clear, concise manner: 500 words at most for most pieces. This means you have to grab the reader quickly, make your point quickly, and leave the reader curious about your company.

Answer the 5 W’s

You need to think like a journalist when you write a press release. Journalism is about answering 5 simple questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? This is sufficient for most releases. However, if your announcement is regarding a product or a service, you might consider adding one more: How?

Whether or not you include all of these questions, the key to making a good impression on the journalist is to give very little to no information which does not address one of these questions. You are welcome to put an about at the end that contains contact information: That’s just answering “Who?” However, you have to be careful to not come off as a salesperson in your release. You will be ignored if the journalist gets that feeling from you. So get rid of the charged language and pretend you’re being neutral: It will go a long way in getting you noticed.

Remember the Newspaper’s Function

The journalist who reads your piece does not care that you are trying to get your name out there. What they want is an interesting story that they can run and get people interested in their newspaper or magazine, whether it’s online or offline. This means that you need to consider your audience when you craft a release. It often helps to have more than one way you can use a press release, as well. A “press” link on your website which contains any press releases you write can be a good way to use otherwise rejected releases for the purpose of SEO.

Learn a Little AP

When you craft a press release, you need to know the basics of how to format one. This information is readily available on MediaCollege’s website. A journalist is far more likely to overlook an improperly formatted release, because it would be more difficult to use than one where the formatting has already been done. Likewise, the more you know about how AP style applies grammar rules, the less work you are giving the editor of that newspaper or magazine. And, the less work they have to do to use your release; the more likely they are to pick your release. It’s that simple.

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