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Walk Step-by-Step Through the PR Writing Process


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#1 opcis

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 08:04 PM

I'm planning on sending out my first press release this week and want to get some tips before I do so.

You can look at the rough draft of the press release I plan on sending out at [http://www.droplistp...e_04-24-05.htm]

I'm going to give it to a few people I know to look over it this week, but I would love some feedback from as many people as possible, so if you can please let me know what you think.

I plan on using prWeb to send out the press release and I have a couple questions:

1. Because this is my first press release should I use the FREE option and save the paid option for later or is it best to start with $200 option that allows keyword embedded links?
2. Should I only submit to prWeb or should I submit to as many free options as I can find?
3. My press release is about 800 words. Should it be longer/shorter?
4. Do you have any suggestions on getting the article picked up by news sites?
5. Should the press release be more facts or story?
6. Is it OK to do it from a first person narrative?

#2 copywriter

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 08:20 PM

Hi Opcis,

I'm moving this thread to the Public Relations Forum as that's a better fit for your questions.

You'll also want to read this thread about other places to distribute your press release and tips about free vs. paid.

To answer your questions:

1. Because this is my first press release should I use the FREE option and save the paid option for later or is it best to start with $200 option that allows keyword embedded links?

See link above to other thread.

2. Should I only submit to prWeb or should I submit to as many free options as I can find?

See link above to other thread.

3. My press release is about 800 words. Should it be longer/shorter?

Much shorter. A press release is almost never over 500 words.

4. Do you have any suggestions on getting the article picked up by news sites?

It's not an article, it's a press release (big difference). Creating an optimized press release will help with this.

5. Should the press release be more facts or story?

A press release, by nature, consists of facts. It is not an article or an advertisement. See this article for more information about writing a press release.

6. Is it OK to do it from a first person narrative?

No, you'll want to have a good understanding of what a press release is and isn't or you'll be wasting your time and money with any distribution efforts. A press release is not done in first person and is not a narrative. It is an account of who, what, when, where and why that is written in order to inform a reporter of why what you're about to say is important to their readers.

Think about what you're going to write. Then pretend you've told the information to a reporter of a newspaper/magazine/site. He/she asks you, "Why would my readers care?" That's the question your release has to answer.

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#3 Michael Martinez

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 08:27 PM

Way too long, friend.

A press release should be short, sweet, and to the point. It only needs to address five points, in fact: Who, What, Where, When, and Why.

Who is making the news?

What is the newsworthy item or event?

Where does it happen or become available?

When does it happen or become available?

And Why should anyone care about it?


An opening paragraph for a press release should summarize the main points:

Houston, TX -- April 24, 2005 -- This Sunday, April 24, Michael Martinez pontificates on yet another subject in the High Rankings Forum. SEO advocates and opponents alike are sick of reading this motor-mouth's rantings, but he refuses to go away. Friends and family gather at local disaster shelters to await news of impending riots.

You see the point, I think.

The very first sentence in the press release has to identify what the press release is all about: it has to say Who, What, When, Where, and if possible Why. If you cannot get all five into the first sentence, they have to be touched on in the first paragraph.

Superlatives need to be filtered out. Never say things like, "We proudly announce" or "are proud to announce" or "is the finest", "have the best", "bring you the most", "provide the sweetest", etc.

All you want to do is provide the dreary facts.

To be honest, I don't really see anything in your first draft that works for a press release. A press release is NOT a sales pitch. It is an informative, brief article which encapsulates important facts. It is only supposed to pique people's interest, not persuade them to take any action (other than to request more information).

Here are some excellent resources on writing press releases:

http://www.stetson.e...en/prhowto.html

http://www.press-rel...ential_tips.htm

http://www.stetson.e...nsen/press.html

http://www.frugalmar...dtb/press.shtml

Good luck.

#4 Jill

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 09:14 PM

I think I'm missing the part of your "release" that is newsworthy.

Unfortunately, it seems that 90% of the "releases" at PRweb these days are not newsworthy either, but just self-promotion. Don't add to that!

#5 opcis

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 12:46 PM

Thanks for all the advice. I'll review all the links, rewrite the press release, and see what you think.

#6 opcis

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 05:59 PM

I completely rewrote my press release. Is this more on track?
www.droplistpro.com/press-release_04-25-05.htm

#7 Haystack

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 09:00 PM

I'd hire a copywriter with PR expertise.

#8 opcis

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 12:42 PM

Good news! I talked to a friend of mine about what I was planning and she told me that she knows 2 third year college students majoring in marketing. She talked to them and they told her that they would be glad to help if I just send them what I have so far.

I'll work with them this week and show you what we come up with.

#9 Jill

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 12:45 PM

Good idea!

#10 Michael Martinez

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 01:14 PM

QUOTE(opcis @ Apr 27 2005, 12:42 PM)
Good news! I talked to a friend of mine about what I was planning and she told me that she knows 2 third year college students majoring in marketing. She talked to them and they told her that they would be glad to help if I just send them what I have so far.


Find out if they have written press releases. If they haven't, you're right back where you started from.

Effective press releases are INFORMATIONAL, not promotional. You don't sell with press releases. You ANNOUNCE.

In your second attempt, you almost have something worth writing a press release about in your last sentence. The rest is pretty much fluff.

There are a fair number of publicity services on the Web that will write press releases for you. Even the most expensive services often offer a scaled down service where they just write the press release for you.

You'll only get one shot at this. I recommend you work with someone who has experience.

#11 storyspinner

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Posted 30 April 2005 - 08:46 AM

QUOTE(Michael Martinez @ Apr 27 2005, 01:14 PM)
Find out if they have written press releases.  If they haven't, you're right back where you started from.

Effective press releases are INFORMATIONAL, not promotional.  You don't sell with press releases.  You ANNOUNCE.
............
You'll only get one shot at this.  I recommend you work with someone who has experience.
View Post


Having a PR background/education .. I'd have to agree here with everything above.

You get one shot -- with the local news outlets especially ... if they even "smell" you are trying to "fluff" them up with a press release just to get a headline or two and have never even bought advertising from them, they'll trash your release and pretty much write you off with any further considerations on future releases.

You need to give the news outlets a substantial, news worthy reason for them to pick up your story ... and remember they do not have to do it either. Basically if its a slow news day and it's relevant and timely and will generate interest in their newspaper/tv station/blog/radio station ... it'll likely get picked up.

If you are also aiming towards a more local media outlet, it might behoove you to become friendly with a few journalists and feed them your release directly. Talk to them and see if they have any relevant needs coming up, and time your releases as such. I can't tell you how many times having that fore knowledge helped me get a client an interview on the local news station, or a feature in the regional business journal.... making those connections can become invaluable!

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#12 lyn

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Posted 30 April 2005 - 09:35 AM

I have to jump in here in with a little different take.

I spend a a good portion of each working week writing "press releases" for clients. More often than not, these are a long way from basic W5 announcements. Our releases tend to be full-blown articles, full of quotes and commentary from the client, their customer, the dealer. There is generally a hook of some sort that jumps off from some timely event, but the "timely" part could simply be that an ordered unit has been delivered.

We get exceptional pick-up from the trade press. These stories usually focus on how our clients products get used, with perspective on business-related issues that the product addresses -- problem/solution kind of thing. We work with industry publishers and editors to stay on top of what they need and what's top-of-mind for their readers, so we can provide content that relevant to them. Sometimes they give us a byline; sometimes they edit or add to it; sometimes they just run it as-is.
I have thought about trying out prWeb and Business Wire but never got past the thinking part...

Is the feeling here that the type of stories we do are inappropriate for a channel like prWeb?

L.

#13 copywriter

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Posted 01 May 2005 - 02:17 PM

No, I'm not saying that press releases have to be "dry" by any means. However, the do have to appeal to journalists and not end users. They can't be filled with hype, they should be filled with facts. Those facts, can - and should - be presented in an attractive manner.

Lyn, what you're referring to (coming up with an "angle") is called the hook. That's something that your information can relate to or play off of that a journalist would like to pick up on.

As for the revised press release, here are my suggestions.

Headline

Too hypish. If I'm a journalist for Internet Business Daily, that headline would not interest me because it sounds like an ad. Your headline should tell me why the heck my readers would give a flying pig about what you're about to say.

Opening Paragraph


Actually, I don't think the opening paragraph is 1/2 bad. It is incomplete and needs some work, but it does get my interest and start me thinking. It should be a summary, though. After reading it, I'm left with these questions:

** Who is dnJournal.com? Is that your company? (I don't think it is.) What do they have to do with this press release? If that's not your company, who is your company? Why is your company writing about this topic? Who is dnJournal.com and why are you including them in the release?

Second Paragraph

Too conversational.

QUOTE
Now this isn't like the search engines we're used to like Yahoo or MSN, which search through web pages. This is a special type of search engine that gives users the ability to search through expiring domains scheduled to come back on the market.


Also, what search engine!? We're half way done and I have no idea who you are, what you do or why you are sending out this release?

3rd Paragraph

Good info, but so what? Since I have no idea who you are or why you're sending this release, the info in the 3rd paragraph has no relevance.

Close

Very weak because I don't know who you are or what you do. Not once did you mention your company.

I agree that quotes are very important. Quote yourself in order to give reporters something to pull for their stories. Quote other resources to give your release credibility. You need at least one quote.

But most importantly, you need to be clear about who you are, what you do and why you're sending this release. Pretend you're on the phone with a reporter and he/she has asked the question, "Why would my readers care about your company?"

#14 Jill

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Posted 01 May 2005 - 02:20 PM

QUOTE
Is the feeling here that the type of stories we do are inappropriate for a channel like prWeb?


Yeah...they're probably too good for them! lol.gif (Just based on the crap that we see coming out of there lately!)

#15 Michael Martinez

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Posted 01 May 2005 - 04:23 PM

QUOTE(lyn @ Apr 30 2005, 09:35 AM)
I spend a a good portion of each working week writing "press releases" for clients. More often than not, these are a long way from basic W5 announcements. Our releases tend to be full-blown articles, full of quotes and commentary from the client, their customer, the dealer. There is generally a hook of some sort that jumps off from some timely event, but the "timely" part could simply be that an ordered unit has been delivered.

We get exceptional pick-up from the trade press. These stories usually focus on how our clients products get used, with perspective on business-related issues that the product addresses -- problem/solution kind of thing. We work with industry publishers and editors to stay on top of what they need and what's top-of-mind for their readers, so we can provide content that relevant to them. Sometimes they give us a byline; sometimes they edit or add to it; sometimes they just run it as-is.
I have thought about trying out prWeb and Business Wire but never got past the thinking part...

Is the feeling here that the type of stories we do are inappropriate for a channel like prWeb?


If you have experience and are successful, you don't need to be advised, cautioned, and warned.

I work with many experienced writers. They can turn out books and articles and short stories and you-name-it like it's second nature to them.

But when they try to write press releases, they are terrible! They just plain suck!

I spend a lot of time advising writers to think long and hard about what they are doing. Unfortunately, they write better than they market or promote. They don't understand that campaigns have to be planned months in advance. They don't realize that a local fire may divert that news team they were told three times would be there (that happens a LOT).

All they think is, "If I write enough syrup, poor in enough sugar, add lots of emotion, and just beam with all the pride in the world, people will realize just how important this is to me and they will come!"

And then there are the poor business people, most of whom cannot write, much less write a press release. And then there are the people who are trying to do something on the Internet who haven't even written very many memoranda or business letters.

The vast majority of people who think of press releases as means of promoting their books, Web sites, businesses, whatevers, have no idea of what is involved in the process. I read a lot of press releases on PR Web, PR Leap, and other sources. The ones which stand out usually come from the major corporations or the professional publicity and PR firms.

Those are the people whose press releases are most effective. Everyone who comes to a forum like this with their very first press release, that they have probably spent hours writing (I know I spent that long writing MY first press release), is hoping they "got it" on their first attempt.

And the unhappy truth is that we don't get it on our first attempt. It takes more than just practice. You have to understand what it's all about.

So, that is where I am coming from. There are days when I am tempted to open a press release writing service, but though I can do it, I am not THAT good. Most people who want to use press releases are looking for free options anyway. The majority don't pay for good PR. They just hope they can luck into it somehow.

And they really don't even know what "good PR" is. Luck ain't got nuthin' to do with it.




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