Top 7 Commandments of Press Releases
By Bill Stoller
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In baseball, itís said that you know an umpire is top-notch when you never notice his presence. If heís doing his job, he wonít call attention to himself in any way. Itís much the same for the writer of a press release. When the recipient of a release focuses only on its content -- and not on its creation -- the writer has succeeded. With that in mind, here's The 7 Commandments of Press Releases:
- Thou Shalt Be Professional. No goofy fonts, rainbow paper or silly gimmicks. Even lighthearted press releases represent a communication between one professional and another.
- Thou Shalt Not Be Promotional. If you canít get enough objective distance from your company to write a press release thatís not filled with hype and puffery, hire someone to write it for you.
- Thou Shalt Not Be Boring. Even the driest subject matter allows for some sparks of creativity. Journalists like knowing that thereís a human being communicating with them, not some corporate robot.
- Thou Shalt Know Thy Recipient. A features or lifestyle editor is a very different creature from a city desk editor. If youíre promoting the opening of a new winery, the food and wine editor may be interested in all the details about what kind of aging process and wine press youíre using. The city desk editor just wants to know when the grand opening is and whatís going to happen there.
- Thou Shalt Think Visually. A press release is more than words -- itís a visual document that will first be assessed by how it looks.
Iím referring to more than font size or letterhead. Iím talking about the actual layout of the words. Whether received by mail, fax or e-mail, a journalist -- often unconsciously -- will make decisions about whether to read the release based on how the release is laid out. Big blocks of text and long paragraphs are daunting and uninviting. Short paragraphs and sentences make for a much more visually inviting look.
When writing a non-hard news release, I often use a simple formula -- the lead paragraph should be one or two sentences at most. The next paragraph should be very, very short.
- Thou Shalt Use The Proper Tense. When writing a hard news release -- a contract signing, a stock split, a major announcement, etc.) use the past tense (Acme Industries has changed its name to AcmeCo, the company announced today...) When writing a soft news release -- a trend story, a personal profile, etc. -- use the present tense (Jane Smith is one of the best marathon runners over 40. Sheís also blind. Thanks to new technology from AcmeCo, Jane is able to...).
- Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness. This may seem an obvious point, but it always bears repeating.
Tell the truth.
Donít inflate, donít confabulate, donít exaggerate. Donít twist facts, donít make up numbers, donít make unsubstantiated claims. Any decent journalist will be able to see right through this. If youíre lucky, youíre release will just get tossed out. If youíre unlucky, youíll be exposed.
Itís a chance not at all worth taking. Make sure every release you write is honest and on the level.
Bill Stoller, the "Publicity Insider", has spent two decades as one of America's top publicists. Now, through his website, eZine and subscription newsletter, Free Publicity: The Newsletter for PR-Hungry Businesses http://www.PublicityInsider.com/freepub.asp he's sharing -- for the very first time -- his secrets of scoring big publicity. For free articles, killer publicity tips and much, much more, visit Bill's exclusive new site: http://www.PublicityInsider.com
Article Submitted On: July 10, 2007