Advertising keeps your company in the public mind, but publicity that appears as news is often more trusted by the public. Anyone can pay for ad space to say something great about their business, but when it appears in a news story, the public recognizes it as credible.
Many businesses have newsworthy events that can be turned into effective publicity. Consider these events for your business:
-Expansions or new location
-New staff and promotions
-Community activities (i.e., sponsoring local programs)
-New services or products
-A new catalog, brochure or newsletter
-Timely tie-ins with national holidays
-Someone in the company has an article or book published
-Studies you've completed
-Change in pricing
-Seminars or speaking engagements
-Success stories based on clients
-Fund-raising events for the local community
-Projection or trend forecasts
-Employee training or certification
Writing a news release can be simple and straightforward, once you know the rules:
- Write from a news-related, objective point of view.
Write in the third person; don't use "you" or "we." Stick to the facts. You can use quotes for subjective comments and to add color and human interest.
- Use the 5 W's: WHO WHAT WHEN WHERE WHY
By addressing the 5 W's, the organization of the news release falls into place, and no essential facts are unintentionally left out. Start with the most important "W" to be sure the critical details of your story are in the first few lines. Keep in mind that editors cut stories from the bottom to make them fit in the space available. For example, if your business is planning a grand opening, the best lead would contain at least 4 of the 5 elements. What - grand opening, Who - Tom's Donuts, When - Monday, August 2, 1999, Where - 1112 Long John Drive, Hays, KS. Your second paragraph could explain the Why and How of the event if it's relevant to the story.
- Consult the Associated Press Stylebook.
News style is dictated by the "Associated Press Stylebook". This sourcebook discusses how to prepare copy, acceptable abbreviations, punctuation, style and more. If you are planning on using press releases regularly, it would be a good idea to get a copy at your local bookstore. Ask news editors for format suggestions for the written information. Presenting your news in their regular format will improve your chances for having the release used and it adds credibility to your business.
Be sure it's news! If your news release is hype, or thinly-disguised advertising, or your own editorializing, it won't be printed.
Use simple, direct sentences in short paragraphs. Your writing should be primarily short sentences (an average of 15 words), but occasional longer sentences will break up the monotony. Just make sure you're presenting a series of facts in as direct a manner as possible.
Use common language. While you need to write in everyday language, avoid colloquial expressions, abstractions and jargon.
Make it short and to the point-no rambling. Newspaper space is at a premium. Just ask an advertiser how much it costs. Don't waste everyone's time; get right to the point. Limit your release to 1-2 pages, double-spaced.
Stick to the basic format of the press release. Editors are busy people. If your release is poorly written or doesn't conform to the newspaper's style, it's often not practical to contact the author and then rewrite the release.
Send early, send often. Send news releases 1-2 weeks in advance of events (check with editors for more specific deadlines). Press releases must go through several steps before appearing in print, so allow plenty of time. If for some reason your press release doesn't get printed, just go on to your next newsworthy event, and the next. Newspapers are under no obligation to use your release, so don't call to ask when your release appeared or why it didn't. (Also, don't try to leverage news space by promising to advertise with the paper. News and advertising are two completely different departments, and no editor appreciates this kind of bribery.) Eventually, when the paper has space for more local news, your news will be printed.
Portions excerpted from: The Smart Business Supersite. http://www.smartbiz.com