Tag Archives: press release

How to write a press release

Trying to sell your product or service, but at a loss as to how to elbow your way through to the front of the media stage?

Journalist stage fright is very real. ‘Journos’ are scary. I know this because I was one. I was trained to be a human-stone wall who hid her opinion while casting a skeptical eye. I never took any fact or truth at face value until I substantiated it myself. The good news is journalists are people too, and with a little preparation and self-deprecation, these walls will chip away.

Let’s start with the basics of a press release.

1. The Five W’s

Raise your hand if you remember the five W’s from English class? It seems obvious, but many business owners, and even public relations professionals, forget to include these equally important aspects in their press release. Who are you; What do you do/sell; Where are your headquarters (this is especially important to local media)/Where is your product or service distributed; Whendid you open/expand/relocate; and Why are you contacting me?

2. Define yourself clearly

You should be able to state the reason why you’re writing the press release in one sentence. This sentence goes in the first paragraph (Google: the inverted pyramid). I know, I’m mean. But consider this – you have about 15 seconds to explain — simply — what you want them to know before they move on to the hundreds of other emails in their inbox. Not much different than a marketing email, is it? Don’t worry, you can further expand on your company’s background at the end of the press release in the “about us” paragraph.

Tip: Be careful not to use industry jargon. The media doesn’t use industry speak because of the depth and breadth of its audience.

3. What’s the benefit to the public?

This should be a part of your business plan and behind everything that you do, so if it’s stumping you, it is time to take a look at your business model.

4. Highlight the hook

Journalists are as attracted to small businesses as they are to large Fortune 500 companies. They’re itching to break a story and loathe having to write up something that’s already been covered a million times before. We write about corporations because they’re sexy and increase our SEO, but we report on small businesses because we want to beat our competitors to the next new thing.

Mid-sized businesses tend to get lost in the fold because they don’t have the resources to market themselves but they also don’t need us as much “love.” You can pick up the slack by pointing out exactly what it is that makes you different from your competitors. You know how you’re better and different, so show the facts without selling yourself.

5. Include contact information

Always let the journalist know who they can contact if they’re interested in more information. Sorry PR folks, we want to hear directly from the horse’s mouth, be it the product developer, engineer or the C-suite exec. Finally, always, always include your website URL.

**I first wrote this in 2012, but it’s still applicable today. What do you think?

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Published: It’s what happens when your press release rocks

The Detroit Business Journal wrote an article on my work’s upcoming military event off the back of a press release we sent out via PR Newswire. The end goal of any press release is to have it turn into a story, but that very rarely happens. Well, today is that day.

I’ll keep it short and sweet, but read this article I wrote if you want more information on how to write a press release.

Here’s the press release in its entirety:

Press Release

And, in summary:

IDGA’S LIGHTWEIGHT TACTICAL VEHICLES SUMMIT COMES TO DETROIT THIS MARCH
Advancements and Opportunities within the Lightweight Tactical Vehicles Programs

New York, NY (February 2, 2015) – IDGA is pleased to announce its debut event, the
Lightweight Tactical Vehicles Summit this March 16-18 in Detroit. The Summit will feature more than 20 highly qualified speakers, which include five military program managers who boast a combined 300 years of military experience.

This new program will bring together some of the military’s key decision makers in an intimate forum to give insight into future vehicle acquisition projects. Since fewer vehicles contract opportunities are available due to drawn down conflicts abroad and sequestration, the military must be more proactive in identifying best value solution providers. This event will serve as an ideal platform for the military decision makers to achieve that initiative.

The summit will bring together 20+ high profile speakers including; COL Kmiecik, Director of Mounted Requirements, COL Mike Milner, Program Manager, Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, COL Jason Craft, Program Manager, Mine Resistant Ambush Proof Vehicles and COL James Schirmer, Program Manager, Armored Fighting Vehicles.

Never before has IDGA had the pleasure of announcing such a powerful faculty with speakers representing programs ranging from the AMPV to the ULCV.

2015 sessions will cover:
• Future of the Ultra Lightweight Combat Vehicle
• Ultra-Light Tactical Mobility and the Expeditionary Force
• Mine Resistant Ambush Proof Vehicles
• Alternate Vehicle Programs – The Future Fighting Vehicle
• Introducing the AMPV
• DAPRA Presents: The GXV-T
• Army’s Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy

And many more!

Join the vehicles community as they come together to learn best practices, programs and processes for 2015 and beyond. This will be a rare opportunity to speak with such a broad range of program managers, while meeting your future clients within this hard-to-reach military vehicles community. To access the full agenda or to register for the conference, visit http://www.lighttacticalvehiclesummit.com

About IDGA

The Institute for Defense & Government Advancement (IDGA): (www.idga.org) a division of IQPC, is a non‐partisan information‐based organization dedicated to the promotion of innovative ideas in public service and defense through live conferences and events. We bring together speaker panels and events comprised of military and government professionals.

Words journalists hate in a press release

Journalists are taught to be allergic to certain words. They downright abhor longevity. Their love of brevity harkens back to the time when the number of allowable words were dictated by the number of column inches designated by the editor.

Today, the Internet has put no end to what a journalist can write. Instead of opening their worlds to words, however, they’ve instead held tight to the notion that less is best. Why? Because reader’s attention spans are still the size of a goldfish’s memory.

You have exactly two sentences to capture a journalist’s attention with your press release. As you can imagine, it takes less time than that to turn them off. Here’s a list of the most common, annoying, frivolous, and downright ridiculous words to never use on a press release:

1. Adjectives

This event/book/promotion is the most “amazing, first time ever, premiere, best” thing that’s ever happened to your company, right? That doesn’t mean the journalist — or the reader they’re writing for — thinks so. Avoid adjectives at all costs. Instead, paint a picture of why you or your company is the best. Don’t tell them.

2. Jargon

You’re a thought leader in the healthcare, information technology space. You’ve secured two million end-users for your product. The company’s new EMR system has already proven to increase efficiency and cut costs. Did you know journalists are trained to write for people who read at an eighth grade level? If, at 13 years-old, you knew that end-users who implemented EMR systems became thought leaders in their space … I pity you.

3. No acronyms

FBI. CIA. NAACP. These are three of maybe 10 accepted acronyms within the AP Stylebook. Don’t assume that the acronyms of your everyday lexicon are understood outside your industry. Please comb through your press release twice before sending it to delete acronyms.

…. to be continued

Write how the writers write

It’s important to think like a journalist when writing media material or press releases. We’ve already covered the “Five W’s” in How to write a press release, So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of how writers write.

There’s a little thing in the newspaper/media world called AP style, or Associated Press style. AP style can unnerve media and non-media people alike. Why? Because some of the guidelines are forgettable and others just don’t make sense. (It took until last year for them to change “Web site” to “website” and some news media orgs still haven’t recognized the switch.)

Here are some tips on how journalists like to read:

1. Time — Days of the week are not abbreviated when accompanied by the exact date, but months are. For instance, today is Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012.

2. Exact time — Happy hour begins at 5 p.m. Neither ” 5:00 pm” nor PM is correct. In fact, beware of any capitalization or the much detested exclamation point.

3. Think of quotation marks as bookends. “They keep all punctuation marks and sentences and things together.”

4. Names — Use a person’s first and last name on first reference only. Thereafter, use only their last name, not their first. Additionally, do not use courtesy titles such as Mr. or Mrs.

5. State abbreviations do not match their postal abbreviations. For example, California is written not as Laguna Beach, CA, but Laguna Beach, Calif. Other slightly strange state abbreivations include West Virginia’s W.Va., Pennsylvania’s Pa., Tennessee’s Tenn., South Dakota’s S.D., and Kentucky’s K.Y.

The best time of day to send a press release

When it comes to sending out a press release, the early bird does not get the worm.

Many public relations and communications professionals operate under the impression that their press release should be sent out as soon as the clock hits 9 a.m. I suggest waiting — and this is why.

Journalists are inundated with hundreds of press releases every single day. It’s easy to gloss over the mass, generic emails in their inbox when sorting through first thing in the morning. It usually takes a typical journo 30 – 45 minutes to check initial morning emails. So, why not send your press release at 10:30 a.m.?

Not only does this allow for you to procrastinate (if that’s what you want to call it) it also allows you one more hour to re-read and possibly re-edit your press release.

Likewise, if your company or client has breaking news during the day and you need to send out your press release right away, I agree it needs to be sent out before close of business. Before you hit “send,” however, consider the highs and lows of a typical work day. Noon to 1:30 p.m. is lunchtime, so avoid the afternoon rush of press releases during this time. Furthermore, many business professionals and journalists are wrapping up their day or fitting in final rewrites of articles starting at 4 p.m. So, the best times to send a press release in the afternoon is between 2:30 – 3:30 p.m.

As always, follow-up with a phone call within a few days.

How to write a press release

Chances are you want to get in front of the media if you’re a business owner. Not only do national and local news media boast a captive audience, but they also have the potential to send you along on their upward trajectory.

It’s frightening talking to a journalist. I know this because I am one and during my career I’ve had people literally flee from me after I introduce myself. But, I’m people, too. I’m not the boogie monster. Likewise, the media is not the enemy. Once you realize the next step in marketing yourself is to do so through the media you may become overwhelmed with anxiety at the thought of approaching the press.

As always, the key lies in your preparation.

The best way to contact a mediaperson remains via email. (I will elaborate on this in another post.) But first, let’s get you started on a rough draft of your first press release.

1. The Five W’s

Raise your hand if you remember the five W’s from English class? It seems obvious, but many business owners, and even public relations professionals, forget to include these equally important aspects in their press release. Who are you; What do you do/sell; Where are your headquarters (this is especially important to local media)/Where is your product or service distributed; When did you open/expand/relocate; and Why are you contacting me?

2. Define yourself clearly

The biggest mistake you can make in a press release is not clearly defining your business. Be careful not to use industry jargon. You should be able to state what your business does or provides in one sentence. This sentence should be contained in the first paragraph of the press release. You can further expand on your company’s background at the end of the press release in the “about us” paragraph.

3. What’s the benefit to the public?

This should be a part of your business plan, so if it’s stumping you, it is time to take a look at your business model.

4. Highlight the hook

Journalists are as attracted to large Fortune 500 companies as they are small businesses. This is in our blood. We write about corporations because they’re sexy and increase our SEO, and we report on small businesses because we want to beat our competitors to the next new thing. Mid-sized businesses tend to get lost in the fold because they don’t have the resources to market themselves but they also don’t need us as much. Journalists want to know how you’re different from everyone else. You know how you’re better and different, so outline the facts without selling yourself.

5. Include contact information

Always let the journalist know who they can contact if they’re interested in more information. It’s wishful thinking — but journalists prefer to speak directly to the C-suite executives over the public relations professional. No hard feelings, we just want to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Finally, always, always include your website URL.

Watch out for more on the nitty gritty of writing a press release in a later post.