Press releases do’s and don’ts updated

By Mark G. Auerbach

As a part-time reporter, I see dozens of press releases in my email inbox every day. At least half of them are poorly formatted or lack basic information. Others are laden with attached photos and go directly to my spam folder. Still, others, when sending photos, send them one at a time. In 2013, I wrote a column for Succeeding in Small Business that outlined a good format for press releases.

Of course, back in those olden days, people were often sending press releases in snail mail, an antiquated practice nowadays. So, considering email is the preferred way of distributing press releases, I thought I’d offer some updated advice.

– Your subject line copy is important. I always start that with “Media Release” and a simple headline copy. Some good examples include: PRESS RELEASE: WAM Theatre Announces Casting for Fresh Takes Reading of “Native Gardens” and Chester Theatre Company Press Release–Tara Franklin Joins Staff. Here’s one that doesn’t work: Cutting Edge Country Group Comes to Town. I see that and think, “What group? What town?”

– All press releases begin with a dateline and contact person. Always include the contact person’s email, phone number, and cellphone–some people respond back by text. If you don’t mind getting communication on your personal instant messenger account, you can include that. Likewise with Twitter.

– In your final paragraph, your “institution” description, you should include your organization’s social media links, i.e. Find us on Facebook at name of link, Twitter, with handle. If your market is active on Instagram, include that too. And, LinkedIn, too, if it’s relevant.

– Be careful with photos. If you embed them in your release, be sure to caption them and include a photo credit. If you store your photos on Flickr, include a link to the specific Flickr account. If they’re stored on your website, provide that information with a link. Remember that too many attachments go directly to spam. The same thing applies to video.

– When formatting your release, consider that many people read their emails on a phone or device. I do, and I write and edit to my laptop.

– Timing is everything. Send your press release out before you post it to social media. Once it’s out there on social media, it’s no longer news. Think of it this way: Don’t announce that you’re engaged on Facebook before you tell your parents.

– It’s okay to send press releases to someone by email, but ask the reporter if they encourage press releases via Twitter messaging or Facebook Messenger. I’m one of those reporters who don’t want to find them in my social media messaging, and it’s much easier to copy and paste a portion of a press release into an article from email.

– If you’re sending a release to broadcast outlets, include a pronunciation guide. Presidential contender Mayor Pete’s people know that. It’s boot-edge-edge.

– Fonts, size, and bolds matter. If your release is in less than 12 point type, it can be unreadable, especially on a device. Go light on the bold and italics.


Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. Mark is also the ArtsBeat reporter for The Westfield News Group and producer of ArtsBeat Radio on 89.5fm-WKSB. You can find more information about Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations on Facebook, and Mark G. Auerbach  on LinkedIn or @mgauerbach on Twitter..

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