Last month, I argued that you need a press release. Now that I’ve convinced you to cultivate a relationship with the media (I hope!), let’s dig into the nuts and bolts.
The first question you should ask yourself is, “Is this newsworthy?” The answer might be “I don’t know,” and that’s fine. You don’t get to decide what’s newsworthy or not. Editors, producers, journalists — you know, the people who make the news — get to decide. And you’re not inside their heads or privy to their deadlines and editorial needs. Sometimes I get press releases that seem rather ho-hum — like, one time I got this press release about how a shop had remodeled. At first, I thought, Big whoop! But the press release also went on about how the carpenter had made the doors out of repurposed materials. If I’d been writing a piece on creative reuse, I might have contacted that business owner for an interview.
The point is, even the most trivial events might merit press releases. What makes an event trivial? To me, the triviality or profundity of an event (in other words, its newsworthiness) is measured by the number of people it affects. A remodeled store might only affect the customers who shop there. But if you remodel your store, AND throw a celebration party with free refreshments and booze, AND donate a percentage of that night’s sales to charity? Now that is an event I want to tell people about.
So before you sit down to write your press release, ask yourself, “Have I optimized my event to impact (and ideally, benefit) as many people as possible?” Do whatever it takes to make your answer a YES. Then fire up your trusty laptop. We’re going in.
1. In the subject of the email, summarize your event.
Looking through my inbox, I see the following subject lines:
“ZukaBaby promotes breastfeeding awareness at grand opening – Jan. 24”
“Whole Foods Market coming to Stirling Properties’ Premier Centre in Mandeville, La.”
“New Orleans Home & Garden Show celebrates 60 years”
See how these subjects are short and to the point? I know exactly what kind of information I’ll get if I open the email.
2. Open with a brief introduction and paste the press release in the body of the email.
You can repeat the event description that you used in your email subject, then include a subhed with a little more detail. For example:
DOLLAR GENERAL RELOCATES TO NEW STORE IN HARVEY, LA
Major discount retailer celebrates relocation with grand opening
Next, write the city and the date, and follow it with a sentence about the event. Include the date, start time and end time. Let’s keep going with the dollar store example:
GOODLETTSVILLE, Tenn— Dec 1, 2014 — Dollar General continues to make shopping easier and more convenient for customers in Harvey with the grand opening of its new store at 2101 Lapalco Blvd. this Saturday, Dec. 6 beginning at 8 a.m.
See how masterfully they tell me what, when, where and why?
In the following paragraphs, go into more detail about what will happen at the event. Include a quote or two from yourself or some other honcho at your business. Quotes are great, because busy reporters can plug them into a story without having to call you. End with general information about your business, its purpose and history. The whole thing should not be longer than 350-400 words.
3. I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE YOU TO OFFER HI RES PHOTOS
If you have hi res photos available on request, say so in the press release, and maybe attach a low res version so the editor can get a sense of the quality. Even better: Host your hi res photos on Flickr and include a link for media people to download them. I love it when businesses can provide their own gorgeous, slick, professional photos, because that means I don’t have to use my budget and time to hire a freelance photographer. Make your media contact’s job EASY, and he or she will be much likelier to cover you. Photos make this possible!
4. THE THREE THINGS YOU MUST INCLUDE!!!!
About 90 percent of press releases fail to include three things:
Business address. Business phone number. Business website.
Ideally, put them all next to each other so I don’t have to dig around. And of course, your own personal contact information in case the media person wants to interview you.
Want extra credit? Write your press release using AP Style. This makes you look like a media pro who knows your stuff.