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Smart Media Communications; Part 3 – How To Write A Press Release And More

Creating an effective press release is very similar to creating a good classified ad and it has very similar goals.  Your press release serves one primary function and that is to get noticed and read.  The media is inundated with press releases every day and the releases range from lousy to great, from single 8.5×11 press releases to high quality-glossy media kits. While fancy press releases and media kits are nice, the one thing that will get your story idea read over all others is the headline.  If the headline is good it will hook the reader to scan your press release further and puts you one step closer to coverage.  Your headline MUST catch the attention of the editor, journalist, producer or other decision-maker looking for story ideas.  If you headline is blasé’ the chances are it will end up in the trash.  So how do you make a good press release?  More simply than you would think!  Before we get into the content of a press release, ask yourself a few questions:


1. What are you writing the release for? What results do you wish to receive?

2. What is the best audience for the release? (newspapers, radio, TV, magazines)

3. Why would they cover it?  What’s the related story angle? Is it a local or national story?

4. What is the geographic target for the press release (where will you send it and how will you get it there (fax, mail, wire service, email)?

5. Is my headline unique? Do I have an interesting angle to the story?

6. Have I answered the 5WH formula? (Who, what, where, when, why and how).

7. Have I researched press release writing and releases on line to find examples to work from?


Here are some simple rules to keep in mind when writing press releases:

1. KISS: Keep it simple stupid!  Write your press releases concisely, make every word count, don’t misspell and don’t get off point: ideally, limit your press release to one page.

2. Put yourself in the shoes of the media who are extremely busy and hate reading press releases.  Give them a reason to read it (great headline, useful advice, interesting story idea)

3. Do not use jargon, abbreviations and slang.


Press releases should have an industry acceptable format as generally set forth in the following example.  While press releases vary from one to another, these elements will appear in some capacity.

[COMPANY NAME & LOGO]-bold and centered.

[PRESS RELEASE]-Set forth the purpose, bold.

[HEADLINE]-Bold and centered.

[SUB HEADLINE] centered and italicized.

[ATTENTION]: (target)-Bold-News editor, producers, etc.

CONTACT INFORMATION- (Contact name, Phone, Cell phone, Email, etc)

[FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE]- Release date, could also be hold-to-date.

[Lead paragraph]-(City, state, date)-this is the lead paragraph directly related to the headline and should be followed by interesting body content that causes the reader to want know more about your topic. Keep this first paragraph limited to 3 to 5 lines.

[Second paragraph]-Here you have some flexibility in you content and can point to research data, supporting lead paragraph or tips and insights related to your headline.  The body of this area should not exceed 3 to 7 lines. (5WH)

[Third paragraph]-If you need additional paragraph to clarify or highlight your points limit to maximum of about 7 lines of text.  Each paragraph should be short and scannable.

[Final paragraph] Closing paragraph, here you want to conclude your points and go for the close and request them to contact you to set an appointment for interview for more information.

[TERMINATE/END]  ### This symbol should appear at the end of your release to signify the end, a common practice in the business.


One of the least enjoyed aspects of communicating with the media is the follow up stage.  This is where you will call the most prime media you sent your release to and confirm they received it and read it.  This is also a great time to find out who the players are through the receptionist (as indicated in (part 2) of this series.  Ideally you will make direct contact with the target you sent the press release to and find out if they like the press angle or what you might need to do to improve your chances for coverage.  You can often get good feedback this way, especially at smaller media in smaller markets (see part 2).


Media kits are more comprehensive than a stand-alone press release.  They are often designed using two-pocket folders and contain the press release, pictures, bios, resumes, glossy literature slicks and that kind of thing.  You can often get by with two pocket school pads to hold the information you want to send the media.  While the fancy customized folders are nice, most individuals and small businesses cannot afford to make them.


If this is your first time approaching the media for publicity is makes sense to limit your initial press release distribution to a small market area so that you can reasonably follow up with all the media you sent it to.  If you use a wire service, you can forget about following up with everybody except for the biggest fish in the biggest markets.  That’s why I indicated targeting smaller markets in part 2 of the series, so you could control your follow up and hone your organizational and communication skills.


It would be in your best interests to search for press release samples online using key words like  How to write press releases, press release samples, etc.  There are also free online press release distribution sites like I-newswire wire (http://i-newswire.com/) that have samples and workshops to help you design a release. The hardest part of writing a press release is distilling your thoughts about your project down to the most relevant points for coverage.  This can be extremely difficult when you are very excited about what you are doing.  One of the keys is to write everything you want to say down on paper, break away from it, come back to it later and ask yourself: how much of this is really needed?

Keep your eyes on my articles, next article in the series will show you how to conduct a national radio talk show  tour from the comforts of your home!

To your success!

Copyright © 2006 James W. Hart, IV All Rights reserved

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