A Five-Step Approach to Writing a Killer Press Release

There’s no doubt that social media has changed the marketing and PR landscape.

But when it comes to getting your story heard – whether you’re launching a business, introducing a new product, holding an event, or announcing a new hire – you still can’t beat a good news story (or two) to help spread the word.

But how can you make sure your news makes the news?

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An old-fashioned press release can help you make the news!

While a savvy online post or tweet can reach a targeted audience – including the media – when it comes to convincing news outlets that your story’s got legs, nothing beats the good old-fashioned press release.

Luckily, everything you need to know about writing an effective news release can be summed up in five steps:

Write a great headline
Your headline is the hook that will reel the media in and make them want to learn more. So it needs to be compelling and specific. It needs to answer the question: Why should I care?

If you’ve got something exciting to say, put it in your headline!

Summarize your news in the opening paragraph
Your press release should begin with the location and the date, followed by a one-sentence summary of your announcement. Try fleshing out your headline with a bit more detail!

Your opening paragraph should be brief, and should include all the key information you’d like to share about your announcement.

Ask yourself: If people only read this first paragraph, what do they need to know?

Elaborate in the body
After the opening paragraph comes the body – three or four paragraphs where you can elaborate on the who, what, when, where and why of your announcement. The most ‘news-worthy’ information should come first.

Don’t forget to include at least one quote from a company representative, industry expert, or satisfied client.  This gives your message a human voice (and makes it easier for print media to use your release as-is).

The boring boilerplate
The boilerplate is a short paragraph that helps bring journalists up-to-speed about your business or organization. A boilerplate can include your mission statement and any key facts you want to share, as well as a link to your website.

(To identify that it’s a boilerplate, simply write the name of your company in bold above the text).

Put your boilerplate after the body, but before the contact information.

Don’t forget the contact details
It might seem obvious, but don’t forget to include the name and contact information of the best person to handle any follow up questions. Make sure they are able, willing and available to speak with the media!

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Make sure your contact person is prepared to do an interview!

A few more tips:

Include visuals
A photo is worth a thousand words….so if you’ve got a great, high resolution image to help tell your story, include it with your release. Don’t forget the photo credit (if needed)! In today’s online world, a video link can be great, too.

Check your facts
Journalists work on tight deadlines. That means they may decide to pull information directly from your release to write their story, or simply ‘dump’ your release as-is…without doing a follow-up interview.

So before you send out your release, make sure your facts are correct, your sources are happy with their quotes, and that you are properly representing your brand.

Send it to the right people
You can always use an online distribution system like newswire.ca, but getting your release into the hands (or inbox) of the right journalist greatly improves your chances of making the news.

Pay attention to local bylines, and take some time to dig up personal (work) emails. Most media outlets have contact information somewhere on their websites. Or, try picking up the phone and ask.

Sound complicated?

If writing a press release sounds like a lot of work or you just aren’t sure you’ll get it right, consider hiring a PR professional or copywriter (like me!)

How do you get your story heard?

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5 ways to boost your writing business in 2013

One of the best things about being a member of the Professional Writer’s Association of Canada is the chance to meet other local freelancers. And earlier this month I had the opportunity to host our Chapter’s first writer’s luncheon.

Held upstairs at London, Ontario’s Covent Gardent Market, we used the occasion to share our writing goals for 2013.

The view from the Covent Garden Market mezzanine.

The view from the Covent Garden Market mezzanine.

Here are five great ideas that came out of the discussion:

Write your goals down
Whether you use pen and paper or an electronic spread sheet, you’ll be more likely to achieve your objectives if you take the time to write them down.  Weekly and monthly to-do lists are a great way to stay on track. In the same way, an annual to-do list can reduce distractions in your long term quest for business success.

Write down how you plan to implement your goals
Goals are no good if they’re just pie-in-the-sky. If you want to crack a national publication or land a new corporate client it’s a good idea to come up with some concrete and measurable steps you can take to turn your dream into a reality. It’s even better if you write them down!

Diversify your income stream
While some swear that niche writing is where it’s at, I’ve found taking on a variety of projects is the key to staying busy.  If you’re good with words as a freelance journalist, you can quickly learn the skills needed to cross over to the ‘dark side’ as a copywriter.

Make time for marketing
While you’re earning a living creating compelling copy for your corporate clients don’t forget about crafting your own marketing messages. In this day and age a website is a necessity, not a luxury. A Blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even Pinterest are other online tools that can showcase your skills and keep your name out there. And don’t forget to make time for some good old fashioned face-to-face networking!

Make time for the rest of your life
It may sound counter intuitive  but taking regular breaks from your work life can keep you refreshed and ready to write. Some people block out down time during the week. Others set aside weekends for family and friends. Just because you happen to work from home doesn’t mean you should always be home working! Set your boundaries and respect them.

What do you hope to accomplish this year?

Learn more about my writing business at www.spilledink.ca