When launching a new product or service, the press can be your biggest ally—that is press coverage, not press advertising.

First and foremost, if a press release looks like an ad, it is either going to be forwarded to advertising or tossed out.

Press articles have to do three things:

1) Be of interest to readers.

2) Illustrate well to the editor that readers will have interest.

3) Not look like an ad.

A well-written press release should grab attention quickly with good headlines and keep readers’ attention with a good lead into the story or body copy. It needs to give better-than-adequate information about your product or services and give the reader something of value.

Grammar and punctuation are important, as well as proper spelling and quality of writing. On any given day, an editor may receive hundreds of press releases. Therefore, make sure yours stands out, is different from the crowd, and most of all, that it’s newsworthy. Editors will give space to new product releases, special events, charities, non-profits and specialty services. Even stunts submitted with polish, creativity, and uniqueness are newsworthy and publishable.

Always send your press release with a cover or query letter, encouraging the editor to publish, and point out why you think he or she should publish your offering.

TIP: The trick about writing a good press release is that you want it to be noticed so you are tempted to write in an original or “off-beat” tone. But press releases are often published as news or editorial content because they are not paid advertising – just publicity. As such, they need to comply with certain formatting guidelines that are familiar to the editors of the publications you are targeting. The best press release is therefore engaging but at the same time traditional enough to conform to the publication’s specifications.

Follow up your mailing with a phone call. Ask if the editor received your mail. If not, fax a copy immediately. Should the editor inform you that they do not plan to run your story, ask why? Was it quality or content? Was it not newsworthy? Once I rewrote a release six times to the editor’s ultimate satisfaction in order to get it published. And that paid off in huge dividends; the result was more than 1,200 press responses to that one article and millions of dollars in sales for the product. Editors will occasionally work with you and tell you what they need. But often they are too busy and do not have the time.

Don’t get discouraged if your first press release is not published. It may take a few attempts or contacts to get your name in the newspaper, which is what you are after. Don’t forget to add a way for your readers to contact you.

The purpose of public relations is to make a person, product or service both well known and well received. Public relations campaigns are designed to be an image builder. It is an excellent way to get people to know about you and your products or services and can be a very cost-effective way to do so. Whenever possible, mention big numbers and big names.

Don’t be afraid to send releases out to radio and TV talk shows. They are always looking for new and interesting people. For example, I sometimes promoted Pammy(my former wife) and myself as “The Edible Flower Children,” and a client as “The Barefooted Violinist”—with great results.

Write in short, easy-to-read, simple to understand paragraphs. Try not to use words people will not readily understand.

When in doubt, hire a professional. If you’re afraid you don’t have what it takes to write good press releases, hire a publicist or an agency to do the copywriting for you. They usually know what it takes to get published. Often they have some press contacts and can be of help to you in getting your name in the paper.

Finally, always, and I mean always, show your appreciation. After being published, your offering a simple, “thank you,” can go a long way. Taking time to do so shows gratitude and class, and it opens the door for the future. You would be surprised how many amateurs leave out this very important component, GRATITUDE.

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