Here is a clear how to, or the dos and don’ts, of a press release.
1 – Do not use colors in your press release. You may think it stands out, but it just annoys the journalist or copy editor that has to fix it.
2 – Other than the “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” in your title or top of your page, do not put anything in caps. The media cannot print it in caps and having to retype it is more frustrating than changing the color. I have “thrown away” many press releases in the past because they did not meet this format and it took too much effort to correct. Speaking of format: no bold, Times New Roman font, 12 points.
3 – Make sure your press release benefits the majority of the community and is not a sales piece. I receive press releases all the time about some company that is offering a promotion – that is an ad. You aren’t going to get me to print your ad as an article unless you pay for an advertorial. But if you are donating 100 toys for a local nonprofit company for the holidays, I will print that.
4 – Make sure it is timely. Did your grand opening happen last week? How does it help the community to know they missed it? Send it weeks in advance before the date of the event you are promoting.
5 – Do not use clever words or say “the best shoe company in town.” Newspapers have to be unbiased. If you’re press release is so biased it has to be heavily edited, it probably won’t get printed.
6 – Read it back to yourself (obviously) but look for these key points: grammar, punctuation and understandability. I recently received a press release congratulating members of the community for winning an award but there was nothing in the press release that said what the award was, what it meant, or the winners went about winning it. The press release made no sense to those of us who didn’t participate in the contest. Needless to say, I didn’t print it.
7 – Keep it short, but not too short. A press release should be around 300-500 words. Readers rarely read past the first few paragraphs anyway, so don’t bore them with unnecessary filler. But if it’s too short, it may not make sense. Don’t worry, if the editor wants more, they will contact you.
8 – Put your contact info at the top of the press release. Name, phone number, email, business name, etc.
9 – Always attach a photo with a caption. Photos always get more attention, unless it’s someone standing against a wall holding an award – come on, you know those are boring pictures. The caption should include first and last names of each and every single person in the photo, from left to right, and what the people are doing. Many times I receive photos and I have no idea what the photo is of. It may be a visually appealing photo, but that doesn’t mean I have any idea what the people are doing. Also, don’t forget to give your photographer credit. We always want to know who took the photo.
10 – Once you have submitted your press release, do not harass the journalist(s) you sent it to. Wait a few days before sending a courtesy email asking if they received it and if they could kindly let you know when it will print or post. And then leave them alone. If they don’t use the press release, try again next time or ask what their policy for printing press releases are.
Most publications like receiving press releases of things happening in their community but do not have the resources to send a reporter to cover the event. A press release is a win-win for you and the publication. But many press releases get thrown out for not following the above guidelines.