Start spreading the word…writing press releases for your small business

A concise, well-written, well-targeted press release is your key to opening the door for media coverage that will help bring new customers to your door.

No matter how well targeted your media list is, you can’t attract an editor’s attention without a concise, factual, and well-crafted release.

As for format, remember these essentials.
•Keep the press release to one page if possible.
• Use 12 point type, and skip the italics and calligraphy look.
• Limit the number of hyperlinks.
• Don’t add attachments (as this causes many items to end up in spam folders)
•Your contact information appears in the upper left corner of the release. This includes the date of the release, its distribution timeline, your name, phone and email address.
• Your headline is always in bold type.
• End the release with either -30- or ###, which are editors’ symbols that say “end of story.”
• If you have additional information for the media’s eyes only, it goes below the -30- or ### with the header: Notes to the Press. Here’s your opportunity to say “Photos available upon request” and/or “Interviews with so-and-so can be scheduled via name and contact information.”

And, If you’re writing your release for radio and/or television outlets, be sure to include a pronunciation guide for any unique name or foreign words.
As for content:

•  Your headline summarizes your news. It will also appear in the subject header of your email, so make it concise.

Debbie Gardner, editor of PRIME Magazine and a reporter with Reminder Publications, gets right to the point. “The ideal press release includes the classic “5 W’s” of good reporting–the who the event is about/for; the what the event is; the when the event is taking place – including date and time; the where the event is taking place – including an exact location with directions, if necessary; and the why this event is taking place – e.g. it’s a fundraiser, a commemoration, a lecture, a graduation exercise, a sporting event, etc.”

That said,
• Paragraph #1 contains all the essentials: The Who, What, When Where, How
• Paragraphs #2 and #3 support the opening paragraph with facts, descriptions to back up the information you’re touting in the release, and maybe a quote from someone important.
• Closing paragraph: Also known as the boilerplate, this is a statement about who you are or who your company is, location, and a website the public can access for further information.

You can find several examples on my blog, “Random Notes from a P.R. Guy”.

Gardner adds, “Most newspapers don’t want to see an attempt at storytelling, that’s our job and we’ll call you up to get more facts if we think there’s a good story behind your release. Another poor approach is a press release that starts with a long-winded lead such as this: ‘There’s still snow on the ground, but soon the spring flowers will be up, and the July 4th parade committee will soon be sending out applications for groups who wish to participate.’ Get to the point with your information.”

When it comes to format and content, consider these resources.
Press Release Format: Media College:
Publicity Insider:
PR Web:

As for style:
Most editors prefer either the Associated Press Stylebook (The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law) or the New York Times Manual of Style and Usage. Both are created by editors and are updated annually. One of these and a good dictionary are your key resources. (You can buy them at a bookstore or from online retailers).

Be careful with the adjectives, the hype, and the buzzword. They cheapen your message, and they cross the line from news to feature. Avoid these words:

As for the timing, plan ahead, and know when publication deadlines are.

Gardner adds “Most media – electronic and print – publish notices on their websites that give guidelines for submission of press releases – adhere to the schedule! It’s also nice if you take the time to find out who the editor of a publication / or the name of the calendar editor – and address your request to them personally.”

And a final thought, send your release to more than one person as a blind copy, rather than exposing your entire media list to the media.

Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn.

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