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Ten Tips to Polish Your Press Releases

Working with small businesses and nonprofits, I am often asked for advice on writing a press release that is sure to get picked up by worthy media outlets. For those new to writing press releases, here are 10 quick tips to ensure your success:

1. Your press release must be newsworthy. You can’t write a press release to say how great your company is without having a reason for saying so. OK, that’s not entirely true. You can write a press release saying “ABC Company is the BEST widget maker in the world.” However, news outlets won’t listen. However, if you say “ABC Company was recently awarded a million dollar contract by the U.S. Government to make widgets,” the media is much more likely to pick up your story.

2. The first paragraph of your press release should summarize your news factually and succinctly. Leave out the modifiers like biggest, best, most sought after, etc. Keep it short and to the point. Details can be added in subsequent paragraphs.

3. Dress up your press release with a pertinent quote from a company official or an industry expert. This not only adds credibility to the press release, but it is more interesting to read. It also provides media outlets with an additional contact name for further information.

4. The end of your press release should always contain a brief – no more than two or three sentences – about your company. Here’s an example: “ABC Company was founded by widget maker Tom Jones after he retired from Widget University in 1999. The company has grown exponentially since its early days, adding commercial and industrial to its line of widgets last year. For more information about ABC Company, please visit the company’s Web site at www.abccompany.com or call 888-555-1212.”

5. Be sure to include contact information (name, phone number, e-mail address and Web site). While some people prefer to include this at the beginning of the press release, it is becoming more popular to include this information at the end of the press release. Regardless of where you choose to include it, make sure it is easy to find.

In addition to writing a press release that will get noticed, it is also important to know to whom to send it.

6. Choose your audience based on the anticipated level of interest. For example, if you are announcing quarterly earnings for an international company, your press release should go to as many media outlets as possible. However, if you are discussing a local event in your press release, concentrate your efforts on the local print, radio and TV media.

7. If your audience is on the edge of another market, distribute it to both markets but change it slightly to make it more suitable to the second market. For example, I recently distributed a press release to the primary market of Whatcom and Skagit Counties (Washington) with the title “Local Businesses Help Kick Multiple Sclerosis.” To make this newsworthy to the two counties to the south, I changed the heading to “Northwestern Businesses Help Kick Multiple Sclerosis.” This slight adjustment increased the likelihood that other markets would pick up the story.

8. The Internet has become an incredibly useful tool for instantly distributing news at a low cost. My favorites are PRWeb.com and PRLeap.com, although I have also used Free-Press-Release.com and SBwire.com. I love that these sites are inexpensive, easy to use, and they track statistics on each press release so you know how many times it has been read, forwarded, printed, etc.

9. Press releases can also be distributed in press kits. Normally sent to the media to announce new products or significant business changes, press kits are handy tools to share your company’s message consistently and inexpensively to a variety of media. Each press kit should, of course, include a press release of some kind.

10. For companies who have a press or media page on their Web sites, this is a great spot to include press releases. This not only increases a company’s key words, but it provides an easy place for customers and the media to find updates. When distributing a press release, be sure to post it on your Web site.

While you can’t control when or if a given media outlet will carry your press release, following the above tips can improve your odds.

Dana Blozis of Virtually Yourz is a freelance writer, editor and marketing professional based in the Seattle area. In addition to writing for publication, she writes for small businesses and nonprofits. For more information, visit Virtually Yourz.

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