By: Lois Kirkpatrick, Loudoun Virginia Economic Development
Whether you create software for government contractors, own a training service or operate a retail store, you want customers to know about your business. One way to do that is to put announcements in newspapers and magazines, and on news sites. Press releases are the tool you use to get your information to publishers.
A press release is a short (one page or less) written document you send to reporters and editors. Write it in a “just the facts” style. If the reporter or editor wants to know more, he or she will contact you. Here are nine simple rules to keep in mind when writing a press release
1. Keep it SHORT: 250-300 words max.
2. START with who, what, when, where, why and how. This puts the most important information in the very first paragraph. If the editor has to cut your press release down to fit the available space, it will be cut from the bottom up. If only your first paragraph survives the cut, it should have all the facts the reader needs to act on your information.
3. SIX is the maximum number of sentences that should be in the first paragraph; one sentence for each of these facts: who, what, when, where, why and how.
4. SIMPLE words are best. Readers will not spend a lot of time and effort trying to figure out what you mean. If you use phrases they don’t know, they’ll stop reading. Write your press release so that an average sixth grader could understand it.
5. NEWS is about things that are new. Use a press release to announce your new business, product, service, event or achievement. Press releases are not opinion pieces or short stories.
6. NOW. Make sure your press release is about things that will happen soon, are happening now, or just happened. Reporters and editors aren’t interested in old news.
7. Make ONE point per press release. Cramming more than one idea into a press release can confuse readers and dilute your message.
8. Only use QUOTES to convey key information. Make sure the person being quoted agrees to have you use the statement in the press release.
9. Use SPELL-CHECK and have a good writer proofread your press release before you send it out.
If you’re announcing an event, send the press release at least three weeks before your event. This will give it plenty of time to be picked up by weekly publications.
Put the text of your press release in an email, not as an attachment. Attachments are more likely to get caught in spam filters, which will prevent reporters from receiving your press release.
If you have a high-quality photo to which you own the copyright, offer it at the end of your email. Don’t include the photo as an attachment, because a large photo file can cause your press release to get caught in a spam filter. You could also post the photo online and include a link to it in your email.
You can find the email addresses for reporters and editors on their publications’ websites. Publishers are not obligated to use the information you send them. The more your press release follows the rules above, the more likely it is to be used.
Content contributed by Lois Kirkpatrick, Loudoun SourceLink. Loudoun SourceLink is a proud affiliate of U.S.SourceLink, America’s largest resource network for entrepreneurs.