PROMOTE YOURSELF: How to Write a Press Release & Create a Press Contact List
December 8, 2010
It’s a summary of a piece of news that you think editors and writers would take an interest in and feature in their publication. This means news of your exhibition, event, new product, new style, etc. can be sent to editors of newspapers, magazines, blogs, radio/television shows–or any other media outlet—for consideration. A well-written press release sent to the right people will get you free media promotion of your event or product. Here’s how:
To persuasively sell your story, first find the hook. The hook is what is interesting about your news. In the first two or three lines, try to catch the reader’s interest.
Then, “Just the facts, Ma’am.” You can leave it for the writer to add all the complimentary adjectives. If not, your press release may sound like an advertisement–not a press release. They may just pass it on to their advertising department to ask if you want to pay for an ad. That’s not what we are looking for here. We are looking for free promotion of an interesting story.
Remember to include Who, What, When, Where, Why & How in the first paragraph. You can elaborate a bit on the basic information in the second and third paragraphs. Quotes are good, too. They can make the story more interesting.
You may want to compose a “boilerplate” ending that you will use for each release. This is a section of reusable text for the benefit of anyone who is not already familiar with you or your organization. For example, SDA uses this at the end of each release:
“The Surface Design Association, a non-profit organization since 1977, is dedicated to raising the level of excellence in surface design — the coloring, patterning, and structuring of fiber and fabric — by inspiring creativity and encouraging innovation through publications, exhibitions, conferences, and educational opportunities. The nearly 4000 members include artists, designers, educators, curators, gallery owners, students, and textile enthusiasts from around the world. New members are invited to join at www.surfacedesign.org.”
If sent via email, put it into the body of the email, so the information can be easily cut and pasted wherever necessary without the use of an attachment (which can cause problems with opening the file).
If sent via snail mail, print the copy double-spaced, so the editor or writer has space to add comments and/or edits.
To Create a Press List: Think Local
It may be that the media most likely to be interested in your news are local; they serve people who can actually attend your event or purchase your product. Therefore, putting together your own local press list is best (unless your event or product is available online, in which case you should research websites and blogs that might disseminate your news).
What newspapers, shoppers, flyers, or local magazines do you read? What radio stations do you listen to? Look online for any you have forgotten or are not familiar with. For example, you can google “Minneapolis area newspapers” and see what you get. Then check their websites to identify which staff member is most likely assigned to writing about your event.
It’s okay if your list ends up being rather short as long as it is properly focused. A short, focused list will be easier to double check and up-date before sending out each press release.
Do follow up with a phone call to see if the recipient received the information and is interested in using it. You can then provide any additional information without the writer having to call you, and you can begin to create a relationship that will serve you in the future.
You might consider focusing on the local “listings”. Many publications have a specific email address just for event listings. In that case, your release will be short, but the chances of getting your information published are high. Look at existing listings to see what form the publication uses, and send your information in that form for the best results.
Use Good Form
Speaking of form, press releases have a traditional form. They may begin with a letterhead–but not necessarily.
Don’t send it too early, but remember that magazines need information at least 3-6 months ahead of their publication dates! Other publications have much shorter “lead times” – you may find this information on their websites.
Then “Contact: Your Name, Title and Contact Information”. Email address and phone number are best. If you are writing this release for someone else, put the contact information for the best person to give additional information to any writer who requests it.
If relevant, then add “Photos: Available upon request.” Photos can enhance your story a great deal, but many receivers will not open emails with attachments (due to concern about viruses). Have the photos available before you are asked for them. It is very stressful to scramble for photos when a writer calls with a fast deadline. (Yes, this will happen!)
(Guidelines for sending a press release and submitting content to be considered for publication in the SDA NewsBlog can be found by clicking CONTACT in the header at the top of this page.-Ed.)
Della Reams earned her MFA in Textiles from RISD, where she specialized in machine knitting and digital weaving. Since then she has been creating one-of-a-kind textiles and apparel and has received both SDA and ATEXINC Awards of Excellence. Reams is Public Relations Manager for SDA and Assistant Professor of Fashion Design at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Doha, Qatar.