Building Buzz: Tips on writing a readable press release

Let me start off with a few basics. I live in one of the few towns in America that still has a home town newspaper, the Martinez News-Gazette. I work for it. I’m going to let you in on a little trade secret; with ever shrinking newsroom budgets and staffs, journalists WANT to hear from YOU. They NEED to hear from YOU.

So with this in mind, here are a few tips on how to write a readable press release.

Tip #1 Homework: as in do it. Back in the days of homeroom, my homeroom teacher Miss Harringer knew I loved to write and gave me my first copy of Writer’s Market. I poured over the volume and many thereafter, listing the names of editors and submission guidelines of magazines and periodicals imaging one day I’d need to know this information. Luckily for you, dear reader, this information is a mere google search away.

Make a list of all the news outlets in your target market, print, radio, television and web. Then identify who the key contacts are for these (editors for print and web, producers for television and radio) and create a bulk email list. For radio and television those emails can be fairly generic, i.e., producers@abc-sf.com which is why the next tip is so important.

Tip #2 Headlines: like head lashes, quickly ties the key elements together. When crafting a press release I like to keep the old Head and Shoulders’s slogan, “you only get one chance to make a first impression” in mind. A news room is fast paced and headline driven. Your headline (subject line) needs to be compelling enough to compete against the news of the day/hour/moment for attention. The best way to get heard above the din is to quickly get to the point. I’ve provided an example in my own headline.

Most days producers and editors have space or air time to fill; having a soft news story in the can, a feel good photo op, are welcome.

Tip #3 Lede to follow: the headline that is. The first paragraph after the dateline is called the lede; typically a brief, punchy, synopsis of the story to follow. Like a well written headline, the lede is your opportunity to grab an editor or producer’s attention. The best advice I can offer is read newspapers and craft your lede accordingly.

The rest is pretty formulaic: who, what, where, when, and how (as in how to reach you for further comment).

Linda Meza, Advertising Manager
Martinez News-Gazette
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