Press releases are more formulaic than the modern romance novel... and that's a good thing for those of us who want to keep press writing simple. I'll show you the formula and suggest a few tips to increase your chances of getting your releases published. Oh, did I mention that you should be writing your own press releases? (see 10 Marketing Tips For Inventors And Entrepreneurs )
A 117-year-old silver spoon, innovative at the time, inspired me to write a short press release as an example for you. Can you guess why this spoon is innovative in both concept and manufacturing process?
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Daniel Low & Company
231 Essex Street
SALEM INTRODUCES THE "SOUVENIR SPOON" TO AMERICA
October 1, 1890
Today, Daniel Low, a local jeweler and silversmith, unveiled the city's first souvenir tribute to the witch trials of 1692 -- the "Salem Witch Spoon." The new sterling silver spoon is engraved with a broomed witch, the name "Salem," and three witch pins (eerily similar to those used to prick witches in the 17th century).
Salem draws hundreds of tourists every year to the site of the witch burnings on Gallows Hill, and the souvenir spoon, beautiful and utilitarian, offers a lasting memorial to the city's history.
The Witch Spoon was designed by Mr. Seth Low, son of Daniel Low, after his recent return from the Continent, where he found similar spoons, commemorating European events and landmarks, selling to tourists.
The junior Mr. Low has also introduced manufacturing dies for the production of the spoons. This is the first time die tools will be used to produce fine silverware in America, enabling more efficient production and affordable pricing.
"But," the senior Low assured, "We have not sacrificed quality in our production." The crowd of about 200 citizens gathered at Salem's Town Square cheered Low's words, as it circled the dias displaying the spoons.
"I predict," said Mr. Low, "that the Witch Spoon will be a commercial success and that other American cities will create their own souvenir spoons. In fact, I believe that the 1890's will be the decade of souvenir spoons!"
The Witch Spoon will be sold in three sizes and shapes: tea ($2.00), coffee ($1.25)) and orange ($2.25) sizes. They will be available November1 from Daniel Low & Company and by mail order. Those wishing to order by mail may use the coupon from the ad in the November 1st edition of the Saturday Evening Post.
Daniel Low & Company, Jewelry & Sterling, Gold & Silversmiths, 231 Essex Street, Salem, Mass was established in 1867. For additional information about the Salem Witch Spoons, please contact Mr. Daniel Low at the address above.
There! A press release can say everything in less than a page -- at most, two pages.
1. The above format, from "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE" to the symbol "###" at the bottom center, is standard. Follow it. No fancy stationery, no drawings, no frill, no pizzazz. (Yes, there are slight variances permitted, but I don't want to distract you from the content orientation here.)
Re-Designed Salem Witch Spoon (1892)2. Use the headlines of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal as a guide to writing successful headlines. They must tell the whole story in a simple, direct way, and answer the question "What is newsworthy in this page?"
3. Write in the third person as if you are watching the event take place. Pretend that you are someone else interviewing you -- a reporter, for example.
4. The first two or three paragraphs of your press release need to answer the questions WHO? WHAT? WHEN? WHERE? WHY? and HOW? in the order most relevant to the news you are releasing.
Is your company being sold to Goofle? Then you want to answer the WHAT in the first sentence. If a well-known figure is part of the news, then the WHO is important to highlight as in "Lance Amslrong, the six-time winner of the Tour de France, brokered a six million dollar buyout of Led Bicycle by the world's supermagnet, Goofle."
5. The following paragraphs are used to provide more specific information like fabrication, color, size, price and where something can be purchased or when a deal is expected to close. Direct quotes add a human touch to your story.
6. The last paragraph should contain general information about your company, namely, the function or specialty of your company, the service it provides or the products that it sells. Then, contact information is included again, generally introduced with, "For further information, contact..." Include business phone number, website, and email contacts (obviously not available in the 1890 press release included for your reference).
7. The three centered number signs "###," signify the end of the press release. One or two high quality photographs should be attached, however.
Take it to the bank tips...
8. What is new is what sells NEWS. Don't bother writing a press release on something that happened months ago, unless you can make it serve as background to something that just happened. For example, if your patent was awarded months ago, don't write a press release about it now. When your product has been licensed or is on store shelves, write a press release immediately and use your patent information as detail about the product.
9. Write your press release so that it can be published, as is. The more it looks like journalism -- "Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts." -- the more publications will pick it up. But weave a teaser into your release, something that whispers loudly in an editor's ear, "there's more to this story and you want to be the first to publish it!" Getting a release printed is good; getting a story published about your product or service is glorious.
The release above actually discloses two news stories: the introduction of the souvenir spoon and the use of manufacturing dies in the production of silver tableware (the teaser). Although Daniel Low & Co. will produce a second release solely devoted to the to the revolutionary manufacturing process employed in making the spoons, a few keen reporters will likely go after that story before the release is even issued.
10. Disseminate your news release with care, directly, whenever possible, to the person with authority to act on your story. I'll cover news dissemination in greater detail in my next column... so stay tuned...