Now that you’ve learned what goes in a press release in part I, here’s the secret to formatting a great release (drumroll, please):
The secret is, there is no secret. That’s right. If you have great content like we discussed in part I, then you’re 90 percent of the way to writing a great press release. The rest is basically just common sense. If you Google the subject, you’ll find that everyone has an opinion on the correct format, and it comes down to personal preference. Much like a resume, you want to avoid typos, and be sure to make it easy for the news editor or reporter to find the information they’re looking for. You’ve come this far…don’t blow it with careless mistakes.
Pretend you’re writing the press release just as you’d like it to appear in the newspaper. (Like I said in part I, with small publications that have limited resources, you might be doing just that. They often run whole press releases with few or no changes.) At the top of the page, put your contact info: name, company, phone, e-mail and website. Then, add a headline, factual but captivating, and not in all caps: “Mid-Town Mufflers Silences the Competition, Wins Golden Tailpipe Award for Sales Excellence.”
You can add things like “PRESS RELEASE” or “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE,” but that’s redundant. Editors already know it’s a press release. Some PR professionals or company contacts also add the date they want the item run in the paper. That is presumptuous. Instead, just be thankful that the news outlet is running your piece.
Then, write the story, in third person. First tell the most important information. For example, “Mid-Town Mufflers has won the Golden Tailpipe Award.” Next, add a bit about the award, and why Mid-Town Muffler won it. Is this Mid-Town’s first win? Then, include a quote from the manager, or maybe the Muffler Association of Greater Akron, which sponsored the award.
Conclude with some general info about the company—your mission, how long you’ve been in business, and so on. Include a phone number and website if the reader would like more information. At the very end of the release, put something that indicates the release is over. Symbols like “###,” “,” or just “end” are commonly used.
Where do you send the release? That depends. What do your customers read? Find out who the editors are at those publications. Make a few phone calls and see who the best contact is to receive your information. Be careful about sending the release to multiple contacts in the same company unless they say it is okay; and if you do, “cc” everyone in the same e-mail so the publication staff knows with whom you’ve spoken.
E-mail? Yep, e-mail. Fax and snail mail are out. Even the lowliest monthly rag on revolutionary war-era candle-making has an e-mail address, so use it. After all, it’s the 21st century.
A word about photos: by all means, include them as attachments to the e-mail if, I say, IF, they are a) good photos (good composition, proper exposure, etc.), b) relevant to the story, and c) of sufficient resolution. That 39kb jpeg you pulled off your website won’t cut it—you need photos that are 3 or 4 megabytes in size at minimum to work for commercial printing. Just be sure to include a photo caption and who took the photo. Again, a smaller publication will run the pictures you send, but a larger one is going to send a staff photographer over.
And that’s about it. After a few days, if you don’t see your release in the paper, or just want to make certain that the e-mail arrived, initiate a polite follow-up phone call. Feel free to ask if they have any questions. If you’ve put a good story into an easy-to-read, legible format, you’ll probably see yourself in print soon.