Thursday, April 12, 2012

How to Write an Effective Press Release

Dear Fellow Writer,

It's a beautiful day here in Adelaide - Australia's best kept secret.

Did you know that the weather here in South Oz is exactly the same as Los Angeles? Except the air quality is much better and we have only a little more than a million people clogging up the entire state.

And did you know we did all the effects for The Hunger Games here too? Not only do we have artistic expertise and oodles of the latest technology, we have the Holy Grail for Hollywood: cheap labor!

I shouldn't keep selling the place - it's a secret, remember?

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell


How to Write an Effective Press Release

Rob Parnell

Writers of books, fiction or otherwise, often forget that the best way to get free publicity and interest from the media is to write and circulate your own press releases.

It's becoming a bit of a growth industry because its importance cannot be underestimated. Along with that, it's becoming expensive to get other people to do it for you.

You can pay anything from $350 to $1500 to hire someone to write you a good one, plus additional fees for distribution to all the right places, relevant news outlets etc. 

And the chances of anyone picking up your news item?

Slim to none.

So why bother?

Well, recently Robyn and I wrote two short press releases about a particular issue we wanted news coverage on. Guess what? We scored a direct hit with both.

The first one was picked up by a national newspaper and the second by a local TV station. Pretty impressive we thought.

We must have got something right. Here's the process we used:

1. Construct the Angle

You can't just send out the information you want the media to have. 

Not unless it's what they will regard as newsworthy.

The angle is the way you turn your information into a story, something that makes people go: "Really? That's interesting." 

Because unless you have an apparent angle, your story is probably dead in the water.

Think hard about how you can turn your information into a specific event-based idea for that week. Instead of "author releases book" for instance, make your book newsworthy by enhancing the relevance of your subject matter, or by emphasizing the impact of you, the writer, on the world stage.

2. Pimp it, Pump it Up

You need to make an impact with your title. And it needs to be the kind of title anyone and everyone would be intrigued by - not just your target audience.

Think outrageous. Instead of "author releases book", think, "writer reveals evidence" or "wordsmith alters perception" etc.

You may need to brainstorm the angle and the title until you've found something that makes you either giggle or your heart beat faster.

Once you've found something that makes the hairs on your neck stick up, you're probably on the right track...

3. Let It All Hang Out

For the first draft, write as much as you like. Remember to deal with all the who, what, why, where, when issues, ticking them off as you go. Put down everything you want to say.

Give some thought to having quotes in there. Instead of blandly reporting the information, reword it and have yourself saying it in quotes. The media loves direct, concise quotes. For example:

"My book will change your life forever," the author says.

4. Squeeze it, Make it Wine

For the second draft, edit ferociously.

Compress everything you want to say down to less than 200 words. Take out the boring stuff.

You MUST fit all the information on to ONE PAGE - and that includes all your contact information, title, sub headings and the release itself.

Remember you will want to FAX many news agencies and so it's important you only have a single page to do that with. More and the pages will most likely get separated and therefore become useless.

5. Format the Thing

Using the correct format is as important as the news itself. Your press release has to be instantly recognizable as such to do its job - and to find itself on to the desk of an editor or journalist, reviewer etc.

Put PRESS RELEASE in bold capitals at the top and in the center.

Next, in the top right hand corner, put your contact details.

Underneath, on the left, put FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE in capitals.

Space. Beneath that, write your title on bold capitals.

Space. Under that, write the subheading (the news angle in brief - no more than 20 words) in italics.

Space. Put the meat of your article - with spaces between the paragraphs. Make the whole thing sound objective and impersonal, like a journalist would. Be emotive, sure, but be rational about it.

At the bottom put three asterix to denote it's the end of the release or write 
END OF RELEASE in capitals.

6. Create a Hit List

Scour the Internet for places to send it.

Most press release sites charge you these days, sometimes not for the first one. Even then it's a scattergun approach. 

The best way forward is to create your own personal list of newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations - local, national and international. You may need to Google the publications you want on your list. Do that.

Preferably, find a contact person's name or title. If not, the department's name. 

Get all their email addresses and fax numbers. Yes, their fax numbers.

7. Launch Your Missiles All in One Go

Spend a few hours firing out your press release to as many places as possible.

Fax the ones you can, email the ones you can't. 

We reckon that about thirty places at a time is about right but if you have a list of a hundred, do all of them, all at the same time. 

You just never know who's going to pick your release up - or why.


Make sure your contact information is correct and current.

Have your phone number - with the international dialing code already on it - printed clearly at the top, along with your email address, your website if you have one, and anywhere else they might want to look up for more information. 

You don't need to sign the press release like your its author - and you don't need to follow up on it personally. Unless the press releases works on its own, your mission has failed.

Don't fret, write and send out another one a week or so later.

Many editors like to see you're a consistent news source and will often wait for your third, fourth or fifth attempt before they pick up on you.

Don't think that you're not being noticed just because you don't get any calls back immediately. You are being noticed and your patience, if you're doing all the above things well, will be rewarded.

Finally, don't be too scared to do all this.

The impact of having your book in the papers can be profound - not just in sales but in enhancing your reputation and visibility.

And don't be afraid of criticism or things backfiring - they won't.

Journalists and photographers are all very sweet in our experience. 

And they'll treat you with great respect when they call.


Keep writing!

 rob at home

Rob Parnell
The Easy Way to Write

“I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.”
Peter De Vries

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