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Your Personal Press Kit:
8 Tips for News Releases That Get Results

By: Linda Formichelli

Linda Formichelli (e-mail) is a copywriter and magazine writer based in Massachusetts.  She's written for more than 45 magazines and for such corporate clients as Bay State Gas, Pizzeria Uno, Performance Printing and AFC Cable Systems.  Linda holds a Master's degree from U.C. Berkeley.

One of the best ways to promote your business is through a story in a newspaper or magazine. Unfortunately, however, many potential self-publicizers don't know how to write a news release that catches and keeps an editor's attention. Follow these eight tips for a news release that gets read instead of tossed.

1. Identify yourself.

If you're mailing or faxing your news release (as opposed to e-mailing it), print it on company letterhead to clearly identify your company. 

2. Start it off right.

In the upper left hand corner, put "For Immediate Release," or, if the release has time value, "Hold Until XX/XX/XX" or "For Release During the Christmas Season." This tells the editor when to use the release.

3. Tell them who to call.

On the next line, tell the editors who they can contact for further information. In fact, you should use those very words: "For Further Information Contact: F. Dostoyevsky, 800.123.4567." Use the name of a real live person--not just a company name or job title--and make sure to give the person's direct number. 

4. Grab them with the headline.

Editors get stacks of news releases every day. How can you make yours stand out? Don't resort to using colored paper or folding your release into an origami duck. Such attention-getting gimmicks are the brand of an amateur, and the editor won't touch your story with a ten foot pole. The headline is your first and sometimes only chance to grab the editor's attention and make him or her keep reading. Make it short, clear and interesting.

5. Use the five W's (and one H).

Put all the critical information in the first paragraph, including the 5 W's and one H: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

6. Invert your pyramid.

The body of the press release should take the format of an inverted pyramid: Critical information goes in the first paragraph, information of next highest importance in the second paragraph, and so on. Sometimes an editor will print a news release as is, and the inverted pyramid format allows him or her to slice off the last paragraphs if necessary without sacrificing important information.

7. Cut the hype.

One reason that most news releases never see the light of day is that they're basically ads disguised as news. When an editor reads such a release, he or she sees that you're just trying to get a free ad, and tosses it in the circular file.

What's considered news?
  • An event.
  • A new marketing campaign.
  • Community service.
  • A contest.
  • Changes in staff.
  • A move to a new location or the opening of a new branch.
  • A new product or service--but ONLY is it's truly new and unique. For example, I couldn't send out a news release saying "Linda Formichelli now offers press release writing," but I could send one out if my new service were writing rhyming letters of complaint.

8. Pay attention to the little things.

These are the small details that show an editor you're a professional.
  • Use an easy-to-read typeface such as Times, preferably 12 points.
  • Study newspapers to see how their stories are constructed, and construct yours in the same way--including starting with the city of origin and date.
  • A news release should be kept to one page if at all possible. If it does go over one page, end each running page with "--more--."
  • The journalistic convention is to end a news release with "###."
  • Send the news release to a specific person whenever possible. Otherwise, address it to a specific editor, such as "Business Editor" or "Food Editor."
  • You don't need to include a cover letter with your news release. The editor already knows what it is and what to do with it.
  • For the most widespread coverage, use an electronic news release distribution service such as Business Wire or PR Newswire. You must pay a yearly fee to use these services, then a set price for each news release distributed.
    If you're sending photos with the release, keep in mind that you won't get them back.

© Copyright 1999, Linda Formichelli

Other Articles by Linda Formichelli

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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