Media exposure = more money for you as a writer.
For example, if you are quoted in an article, you’ll find yourself negotiating more pay for your next freelance gig due to your expert status on a topic. If you are interviewed on a local radio station, you’ll be able to watch your book sales rise.
Although you can dream up numerous ways to creatively get the media’s attention, don’t ignore that 99% of all media exposure starts with a well written press release.
Writing a great press release isn’t difficult if you understand how the basic core elements involved fit together. A high quality press release grabs an editor’s attention and results in coverage and exposure.
Below are 9 steps to help you write a great, effective press release.
1. Format Correctly
News is both fast-paced and time-sensitive. You need to give editors and reporters the basic information first: who you are, how they can contact you, and when they can run the story. Start off by placing the release date in the upper left-hand corner:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 17, 2016
You’ll use this wording unless you’re sending a release well in advance of an event – in which case, you can give a specific date. For example, if you’re promoting a book signing five weeks ahead of time, you might want to put “FOR RELEASE (date)” with a date that’s closer to the actual event.
2. Include Your Contact Information
After the release date, tell the editor whom to contact and how to do so. It’s incredible how many people make it unnecessarily difficult for the media to contact them about a story. Format the information as follows:
3. Make Your Headline Impress
Below your contact information, type your headline in bold caps. Write it in the form of a question, an eye-catching statement, or an impressive claim to hook the editor’s interest. Search the internet for innumerable examples and tips on how to write a press release headline.
4. Start with a Dateline
After your headline and before you start your story, don’t forget to provide a dateline. A dateline shows where and when the press release was written. This helps an editor categorize the release and ensure that the news is still fresh. Format the dateline like this:
ORLANDO, FLORIDA, (1/17/16) —
Now you can start your story. Double space between lines and use 12-point Times New Roman or Courier as your font.
5. Create a Compelling Lead
Your press release will be one of many that an editor reads in a day. It’s important to provide one or two sentences that not only grabs, but maintains their attention. Don’t waste their time with an artistic but vague first paragraph. This takes us to Tip #6…
6. Use the Inverted Pyramid Technique
You’ve probably learned about this in high school or college journalism classes, but if not, here’s a quick definition. Editors are busy workers with tight deadlines. Try not to waste any of their time by making them skim 7 paragraphs before finding your ultimate point. Instead, put the essential information in the first paragraph of your press release. A good way to do this is by using the 5 W’s: who, what, when, where, why, and how. In the following paragraphs, expand on them with more details and information. Focus on the main news you’re releasing, but also include information about yourself, your credentials, and experience. Be succinct and to the point – a release should be between 300 and 500 words (no more than 2 pages).
7. Let Them Know When It’s Over
If your release runs to 2 pages, number the second page. 2 lines below your last sentence, type either “###” or “-30-” to indicate the end of your release. This ensures the editor that they received the whole release and have found the end.
Do send your release to different kinds of media outlets. Newspapers, online publications, magazines, radio stations, television stations (if it involved an actual event they can cover like a book signing), etc.
Do send your release to a specific editor, if possible. Address the email, envelope, etc. by name to the person you think would be more interested in and enticed by your news.
Do follow up. A phone call or email to make sure they received your release and to ask if they have any questions is never a bad idea.
Don’t pressure the editor. Never make them feel as though they must commit to running a story on your news. Let your follow up phone call or email be brief and courteous.
Don’t send your release to more than one editor at a single outlet. If you don’t get a reply within 4 weeks, write a new one to send to another editor at that outlet.
Don’t send your release to every media outlet in town without regard to their focus. A high fashion magazine will most likely not care to receive a press release about a new Christian nonfiction book.
I hope these tips have given you insight into what goes into writing an effective, professional press release. A quality release can help you gain valuable media exposure across a variety of outlets. Issue press releases regularly and reap the rewards of both recognition and sales!