Take the extra time necessary to issue a press release that will get your new store noticed.
You’re finally just weeks away from your new store opening. The paid advertising is already on-air. Now it’s time to do what you can to get a little free media exposure. That process starts with the creation of a professional press release.
I was once part of a panel discussion, at a college lecture series, on advertising and public relations. About halfway through the discussion, the topic of press releases came up. Someone asked the panel what we thought constituted the perfect press release. My colleagues came up with some really great, thoughtful answers.
As the conversation made its way toward me, I racked my brain to come up with a thoughtful perspective. Then, it hit me. To me, an ideal press release is simply a news article or story – worthy of being published or aired “as is” – that just wasn’t written by a reporter.
With that goal in mind, here are my 9 tips for writing an effective press release:
1. Include your contact information at the top.
I’ve seen a new trend where contact information is moved to the bottom of a release (like the signature of an email). Call me old-fashioned, but don’t do it! Make it easy for the assignment editor or reporter to find you.
2. Use both a headline and a subhead.
Take the main subject of your press release – the one line takeaway – and put it in an all-caps, bold headline. Then, use a subhead (in upper and lower case) to further pitch your story angle.
3. Show off your word processing skills.
This probably goes without saying these days, but be sure to type your release and double-space it (or at least use the 1.5 line spacing in your word processing program). Be sure to use page numbers (if necessary) and include a notation (“# # #” or “END”) at the end of the document, so the reader knows they’ve seen all of your information.
4. Have a story angle.
Think like a reporter. Relevancy is the key. What is it about your opening that will be of interest to his/her readers or viewers? If you can present them upfront with a potentially newsworthy aspect of your grand opening, you’ve already won half the battle.
5. Answer the five “W’s.”
In the very first paragraph, address the five “W’s” and one “H” of good journalistic writing – WHO (is it about), WHAT (will happen), WHERE (will it take place), WHEN (will it take place), WHY (should I care) and HOW (will it happen). This can be harder than it sounds. Make sure you’re still communicating the story of your grand opening.
6. Include just the facts, ma’am … except for the quotes.
Initially, write your release with the words of Officer Joe Friday from the Dragnet television series ringing in your ears – “all we want are the facts.”
Avoid the use of sales jargon and superlatives (e.g., the best, the greatest, the most, etc.) in the basic text of the release. These are the kind of terms business owners love to use when they talk about their brand. So, let them; but do it in quotes!
Spokespeople can wax poetic about your new store all they want – as long as their comments are presented as personal opinions, rather than facts. Placed into the body of the release, the claims become “puffery.” And, puffery is one of the surest ways to discourage a reporter from reading the rest of your release. It masks any potential for a real story that your new store opening may represent.
7. Use a “news” style of writing.
You can find an example of this in just about any mainstream newspaper. If you don’t already have one, I would encourage you to buy a copy of The AP (Associated Press) Style Book. As the AP describes it, the book is “part dictionary, part encyclopedia and part textbook.” The bulk of the content is an alphabetical listing of common terms (often misused) that will help you polish your final documents. And, if you’re feeling a little lazy, they have created a plug-in for Microsoft Word, StyleGuard, that will automatically check your writing as you type – making sure you’re following the AP style.
8. Have someone proof it before you send it.
This is a huge pet peeve of mine. In my opinion, there’s no excuse for typos or grammatical errors in materials that you send to the media. It’s sloppy and demonstrates you just didn’t take the extra time to honor your grand opening with the professionalism it deserves. Plus, contrary to popular belief, you CANNOT review your own work. Period.
9. Don’t send your press release as an email attachment.
So, you’ve followed all of my suggestions and you’re ready to send your release. The 21st-century “rule,” and one of the few things PR practitioners seem to agree upon these days, is not to send it as an attachment. More and more news organizations are blocking emails with attachments, out of fear of being infected by computer viruses.
The classic, “anatomically correct” press release can still be mailed, faxed (to those who still have fax machines) or hand-delivered to the media. Plus, be sure to include it on your store’s website. But, if email is your ideal delivery method, copy the text of your release and paste it into a new message – one for each of your media contacts.
Writing a great press release doesn’t have to be hard. But, it does need to be thoughtful and intentional. That’s my story. And, as they say, I’m sticking to it.
Writing an effective press release is just one of my 10 “no cost” ideas for promoting your new store. Make sure to read my article for additional ideas.
So, do you agree? What do YOU think constitutes the “perfect press release”?