How to Create a Standout Press Release

[Editor’s Note: Paul outlines many reasons why you may want to think about having your press releases professionally written. Both he and I, and many others, are happy to provide that service for you. I disagree, however, with one suggestion of Paul’s. Rather than sending HTML press releases with pretty layout and pictures, I recommend sending plain text with a link to a formatted version online.

–Shel Horowitz, copywriter and editor, Down to Business]

Someone recently wrote:

“The writing of a press release requires no special skill. There is no
‘magic’ or ‘secret’ involved here. Given sufficient training, anyone
can learn to write a simple release that will be acceptable to
traditional media.”

I’m sorry, I laughed when I read this. If life were only this simple. I
guess maybe it’s true judging from the glut of releases posted at the free
online distribution services. Writing a news release is easy.

But what I see indicates that most of them are not worth looking at and are
not readily publishable for many reasons. So they fail to achieve their
primary goal or objective.

I think the question is one of whether the news release your write is
successful in terms of meeting your publicity goals.

I personally don’t think that writing news releases is easy at all, at least
not ones that are successful in getting publicity that is.

Oh, it may be easy to write a news release, but how about achieving the real
goal, which is turning it into return on investment.

I think writing a news release that is really successful at getting
publicity can be exceedingly difficult. People come to me after having
spent many thousands of dollars with other public relations firms and
copywriters asking me to try and succeed where many others have failed.

To me it is almost like trying to get an agent or publisher for a book, or
getting an article published in a magazine. You have to get used to the
rejection and low response rates. You send out a lot, and hope to get a few
yeses. Sometimes even one will make your day.

Basically you are asking a publisher if he or she will publish something.
They only say yes if it helps their bottom line. They base their decision
on whether publishing your material will increase the number of paying
subscriptions or the number and amount they receive from paying advertisers.

Your news release is the decision document. It competes against all the
other news releases and other publishing priorities these publishers have on
their plates.

So the news release is a VERY IMPORTANT DOCUMENT since your livelihood
depends on it.

I am constantly learning and studying what it takes to be successful as a
copywriter. I believe that it is a profession as demanding as that of being
an attorney (which is what I once was once upon a time ago).

There may not be magic or secrets, but there is considerable science and a
psychology in communicating persuasively and effectively with these special
types of very important people – the media.

I am asked to write news releases to match specific client goals for
publicity. These vary. The goal is not only to get the news release
published, but to have the actual publication produce some ultimate action
on the part of the audience it is designed and intended for. It the case
of most publishers, the most meaningful yardstick at the end of the day is
“how many books did we sell”. In some cases, it might be a politician
asking for votes. In other cases, it’s a downtrodden citizen asking for
public outcry and legal or political change.

It all comes down to the news release you send to the media. Is it good
enough to get them to publish something? Can you meet their needs and the
clients needs at the same time? This is the real challenge. This is the

I believe there is considerable skill involved in learning how to write news
releases, especially successful ones, that is, those that not only get
published, but they result in the desired action, and tangible ROI.

To me someone with a book has to realize that the goal of the publicity is
to sell books and maybe more. The type of articles that motivate people to
action is what you have to craft. You certainly can write a book
announcement, but will it get published and will it produce sales?

I think there are way more than just two types of news releases for books.
You can generalize and think “Book announcement” or “book available for
review” and “other” if that works for you, but I’m a copywriter and I write
news releases and get people publicity for a living. My observations are
that book reviews don’t sell that many books. Feature stories, problem
solving tips articles, human interest stories, issue analysis and commentary
– these are the galvanizing in depth emotionally and intellectually engaging
articles that produce deep and lasting interest.

In my book Trash Proof News Releases (available as a free pdf file download
at my web site), I’ve identified several categories of types of news
releases for book authors and publishers, which I observed worked best over
many years of transmitting news releases. Each of these has special
purposes and design.

Local human interest stories

Major news events

Problem solving tips articles

New, remarkable book, products or services

Public service announcements

Calendar events

Community events

Conference events

Speaking events

People announcements

Fundraising releases

Letters to the editors

Radio & TV interviews

Short feature stories

Full feature articles

Query letters

Opinion editorials

Internet/web site traffic generation releases

Book reviews

I view each of these as a separate tool in the arsenal of the publicist or
promoter. Each has a different style of presentation, organization,
content, and length. Each has a different purpose and target media.

I’ve also written that there are perhaps two categories of news releases,
one intended for print, and the other intended for radio and tv, and that
they should be written differently because of the different needs of each
type of publishing medium. This makes sense because print needs information
because it stimulates thought. Print publication requires printed words
because publishes publish. Radio & TV use orally spoken words and visual
images to evoke emotional or physical response. They talk to the heart to
trigger primal hormonal responses. So when you write a news release to each
you are more persuasive when you take these differences into account and
give the media what they want and need.

So how you write a news release matters. You pitch to persuade media to
write something.

Your goal with a news release is to get the media to take an action:

1. write about you favorably

2. request more information so they can write about you favorably.

3. interview you

You have to give the media what they want and are accustomed to publishing
if you are to be successful in getting them to give you coverage.

You also need to carefully identify what you want people to see about you
that will professionally brand you and get them calling you. Sure, you
could be
promoting a book, a professional service, a product, an invention or an event. But
the media will not give you free advertising. They only will publish
something that fits within the spectrum of news, education, or entertainment
that their readers and subscribers want, and that their advertisers won’t
object to.

You want publicity that achieves a return on
investment that rivals and even exceeds your best marketing. So what you
write in a news release and present and propose to media has to run a
gauntlet and avoid the fatal errors that will result in your news release
being quickly deleted with a click or placed in the trash can.

Your press releases need to be
specifically designed to trigger public interest and media interest. You
must quite deliberately and systematically select and then present
information that:

1. interests lots of people in your target media audience

2. has significant perceived value for that audience.

3. is easy for media to verify and run with.

You maximize your chances of getting feature stories and detailed interviews
if you provide the media with what they need to do their job.

I looked over several years of news releases and success stories we’ve
documented and compiled the common lessons learned. Here is a quick list of
the best possible ways for you to increase your chances of getting favorable
coverage and what you need to emphasize when you write and distribute a news
release. I call this my ”
News Release Content Choices to Maximize Feature Story Coverage and Detailed
Interviews with Major Media

1. a dramatic personal story that describes achievement in the face of
adversity plus a little humor

2. a problem solving tips article on a crucial topic that shows how you
can help the people that you can help the most

3. an innovative product or service that makes people want it because
of the benefits it offers

4. a dramatic and interesting photograph that really tells a 1,000 word
story at a glance

5. a new development or situation that lots of people will be
interested in because of the way it affects them

6. a personal battle between the forces of good and evil, or David and

7. a truly heartwarming tale with a happy or remarkable ending

8. new effective techniques or tactics to improving a problem or
situation that is commonly faced

9. new creativity that makes people feel good or experience heightened

10. a story that makes people cringe in fear, howl with delight, or
experience intense desire or want.

11. an explanation of something that demystifies something complex that
confounds a lot of people

12. news, analysis and commentary on a controversial issue or topic

13. localized people stories and media access to the local people

14. innovative and new ways to have fun, save money, help people,
increase their enjoyment, protect the environment, and help them get more
out of life.

15. unusual, hot and wacky ideas, products, activities, and situations

16. mouthwatering recipes, food, culinary delights or opportunities

17. educational, unusual and hard to believe or fascinating news, data,
information, little known or even secret never revealed before knowledge or

18. record breaking achievements, competitions, paradoxes, dilemmas,
anything that confounds the human spirit

19. knowledge, ideas or information that astounds people, enlightens
people and raises their consciousness to new levels and inspires them to
experience new feelings.

20. remarkable little things people may not know about, that make
people’s dreams come true.

Final observations:

I do not believe that there are any limits on how long a news release needs
to be. It depends on why you are sending it and what your goal happens to

I published Trash Proof News Releases in 2001 at the peak of the fax era,
when one page news releases were the best way to be persuasive and effective
with media.

Times have now changed. Email is preferred over fax. Now with email
technologies, that length and style of presentation isn’t matched to the
technology we use any longer.

With email sent via text, paragraph length matters, font and screen size,
readability, screen changes, and a host of other factors. With email html,
some of these factors matter more or less. But you can also use photos and
graphics. These can be powerfully integrated into a presentation.

We see media responding favorably to short one to two pagers as readily as
ready-to-publish 3,000 word feature story articles with photographs. With
email html, length doesn’t matter. The length of what you send is not as
important as the quality and content and whether it is what the target media
can use. Persuasion matters. Content matters.

The bottom line however is what happens after you transmit the news release.
The end results are what determine your answer and satisfaction with the
effectiveness of the news release. I determine that by the quantity and
quality of the articles that get published or the interviews that are
booked, and ultimately by the sales that result from those events.

My best advice is to write something where you help the people you can help
the most, entertain the people you can entertain the most, or educate the
people who need you advice as well as you can.

When you write a news release, give the media your best shot. Give them a
ready to publish article. Give them a ready to use show script and the Q &
A’s needed for an interview. Give them not only what they need to make a
decision, but to do what you are asking them to do.

That’s what you need to put into your news release.

And if you do that, I’d like to see it. Send it to me and I’ll be happy to
give you comments.

Paul J. Krupin, Direct Contact PR

Reach the Right Media in the Right Market with the Right Message Paul [at] 800-457-8746 509-545-2707