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Effective News/Press Releases

After 22 years in the newspaper business, I offer you these thoughts:

  1. Keep 'em short. If you can't hook the editor in two or three paragraphs, you won't do it in 3 pages.

  2. Do not hesitate to highlight with a colored marker the city where you are from. This helps local editors understand quickly that you can be the "local angle" to a national story. Remember that scientific studies have shown most editors take only 5 seconds to read a release and make a decision whether or not to use it.

  3. A news release sent to an editor with a customized cover letter suggesting a specific angle that fits in well with the publication is always helpful. If you're sending out 100 copies of a news release, this idea isn't practical. So pick your 5 top publications, and send customized letters to those editors.

  4. Never, EVER call an editor after you send a release and ask: "Did you get my news release? Do you know when it will be printed?" This will brand you as a pest--one of 99 pests who have called that day and asked the same question. A far better strategy is to call and say, "I'm just calling to follow up on the news release I sent you three days ago on my new book blah, blah, blah.....You might be interested in knowing that the topic ties in with a story you had on Page 1 of today's paper," or "I'm calling to let you know that there's a good photo opportunity that ties into my release," or something like that. You can also tell them you are calling to find out if they need more info. Most newsroom people are far too busy to drop what they're doing and sift through 300 news releases to see if your arrived. Many PR people disagree with this. To that, I say, "You haven't worked in a newsroom, have you?"

  5. If possible, send news releases to a specific reporter, not just "Newsroom." That way, you can follow up with the specific reporter.

  6. Sometimes, at the bottom of a news release about me, I will add something like this: "Joan Stewart is a media relations consultant who can be used as an expert source on the topics of media relations, crisis communications, marketing for small businesses, and how to use the media to recruit and retain employees."

  7. Include phone and e-mail contact info at the top of the release.

  8. If you know the publication accepts e-mail releases, write much shorter than you would for a print publication. A good idea is to just offer a paragraph or two, then provide a link to the longer news release.

  9. NEVER send news releases as attachments.

  10. Eliminate all jargon in news releases. I've read thousands of news releases loaded with industry definitions, particularly those dealing with technology. Makes me scratch my head and say, "Huh???"

  11. Post news releases at your web site.
Joan Stewart
Publicity Hound

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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