Improving Your Press Releases – 5 Tips for Small Businesses and Associations
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 9:54AM
Julie Senter in Associations, Media Relations, PR, Small Business, news releases, press releases, tips

For many small businesses and associations with a small (if any) PR budget, press releases are the primary means of gaining any sort of media attention or exposure.

But without the expertise of an on-staff PR professional, how can you make sure your release gets the attention you need?  Here are five tips to improve the quality of your releases and get more media coverage.

1. Get to the point

I can’t tell you how many press releases I saw as a reporter that just rambled and rambled and rambled on. I often couldn’t tell what was happening until the middle or end of the release. Don’t make your reader dig for the good stuff. They won’t do it and your release will be trashed before you can say “For Immediate Release.” Your release’s headline should indicate (clearly and succinctly) why you are sending a release and the who, what, when and where should be in the first two paragraphs. The rest of the release can focus on the why and the how and provide further details.

2. Follow proper grammar rules and check spellings

This does NOT mean rely on your word processing software to point out misspellings and incorrect grammar. Just now when I typed “processing,” my software auto-corrected it to “procession.” Software is imperfect! Read your press release out loud from top to bottom, slowly, so that your eye picks up every word without skimming. Error-filled releases reflect poorly on your organization and will impact your future chances of getting a second look from reporters and assignment editors. Is this tip basic? Yes. But you’d be surprised at how many younger staff members (often the ones assigned to writing releases) need to hear it.

3. Include contact information

If you want reporters to call the CEO for an interview, include the CEO’s name and number in the release (along with a general quote from the CEO in the body of the release.) Don’t include the release writer’s information unless they are the person who will be fielding calls and answering questions. Reporters expect to be connected with someone they can quote when they call the number on a release, not to be transferred through a maze of voicemails or phone extensions.

NOTE: include a contact even if you believe you have provided all the necessary information. You never know how a news organization might use the content. Sometimes they won’t use it exactly as you sent it, but the release instead sparks an idea for another story. They’ll need someone to follow up with.

4. Include additional sources

Most reporters don’t write single-source stories. Make it easy (are you sensing a theme yet?) for them to locate additional sources for their piece by providing the sources in your release! Add these at the end of your release under the header “Additional Sources.” Include names, titles and phone numbers. (Be sure to notify and get approval from your additional sources so that they are prepared for incoming media calls and aren’t caught off guard. Send them the release and consider providing talking points.)

For example, if you are honoring an industry advocate at your next fundraising event, provide contact information for the advocate as well as the event coordinator or the chair of the event committee so they can explain, in their own words, why they singled out the advocate for the honor. The advocate can discuss the importance of the honor.

5. Include your organization’s elevator speech at the end

Don’t waste time in your the first few paragraphs explaining who your organization is or what it does. Sure, you can include a brief dependent clause after your organization’s name so the reader can put the release into context, but that’s it. The first few paragraphs are valuable space and should be devoted to the purpose of the release.

Instead, put your entire elevator speech at the very bottom of your release. Set it apart from the rest with the intro “About [your organization]:” and italicize the entire paragraph. Include your website address for more information.

Overall, keep your release simple, relevant and to the point. More tips on how to distribute your release later this week.

Photo credit: StarbuckGuy/Gene Wilburn

Article originally appeared on Senterline Communications (http://senterline.net/).
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