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Get your news out there - Tips to write a winning press release
Image credit: David, Bergin, Emmett and Elliott / Flickr

Get your news out there - Tips to write a winning press release

The best way to let people know about your book is to tell them, and there’s no better tool to tell people than via the media, but you need to tell the media. This is where the press release comes in to play. A bad release will get ignored a good release will spread far and wide. Here’s how to write a good release.

There are a multitude of excuses for putting a press release out there, a new book, an award, exceptional sale numbers, a topical event, or even the time of year, there’s never a bad reason to send a release but it must follow some basic rules.

Fail to plan, plan to fail

Before you even start thinking about writing a press release you should do some research first, and plan how, who, and what.

Research other press releases

Although they may seem complicated, press releases are actually very simple beasts, but are difficult to get right. Have a search for other examples and get a feel for how the better ones are written.

Research the recipients

Don’t just send out your release willy nilly, focus it on the right people. Better to send out a smaller release to the people that will read it than a blanket release which will take up your time with little reward.

Research keywords

Make sure you use the right words to get your release noticed. As well as sending out your press release you should post it online, so you need to make it keyword rich in order for the search engines to rank it highly.

Check your list against Google’s keyword analysis tools to get ideas on the competition and suggestions of better keywords to use.

Write your release

Now it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty of actually writing your press release. Bear in mind that you should keep the whole release short and sweet. Keep it inside a page, under 500 words.

Write an attention grabbing headline

Headlines get your press release looked at. You could have the greatest story to be told but if your headline is dreary no one will ever know. Play around with different versions, test them on friends and family. Be specific. Be unique. Use tricks like alliteration to make it read well but don’t be tempted to use a play on words, or puns which won’t be SEO friendly.

It’s also worth trying to keep it inside 140 characters, making it tweetable. More shares equal more views which should hopefully convert into more sales.

The headline is one of the most important things in your release, if you stumble at the first hurdle you won’t finish the race. Get it right.

Include when the story should be released

If it’s now then write “For immediate release” if you don’t want your news out in the public until a certain time then “Embargoed until TIME/DATE”

Include the date and city

You need to include a date so that your recipients know how old a story is, they won’t want to put out a story they suspect might be old news (olds?). It’s also important to put your city.

Now you’re ready to write the rest. Use the upside-down pyramid style of writing an article. the widest part of the triangle represents the most important information in the text, and the narrowest part the least.

Write your first paragraph

Your first paragraph is just as important as the headline. It needs to convey the whole story in a very short space so that journalists know what they’re going to read. Use the Five Ws: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and make every word count. If a journalist has to hunt through your release to find the story they will ditch it for something else. Get your point across succinctly in the first few sentences to keep them reading.

KISS the rest of the release

  • Keep it relevant and succinct, avoid long sentences and jargon. Every word counts.
    Keep it simple, stupid.
  • Keeping to the upside-down pyramid format, your next paragraph should add more information, expanding on your first as well as the headline.
  • Keep it informational, not self-promotional. This is a news piece, not an advert, so use information and facts rather than opinion.
  • Make sure you include details on where to purchase your book.

Use quotes

After the main body copy of your release include some quotes from yourself, any good reviews, or anyone else that’s relevant. Remember to keep it natural and not too salesy or self indulgent. Journalists can change every other part of your story except quotes, so use them wisely.

Include great imagery and photos

Make your release more compelling by including links to relevant photos and images. Include a good portrait photo of yourself, as well as a good image of your book as well as any other associated pictures. Include links to the photos so that journalists can easily download them. Embedding them or attaching them is a big no.

Use a boilerplate

A boilerplate is the last paragraph of your release, containing details about you, a mini biography, as well as any associated information.

End it

When you’re finished, write the word ‘ENDS’ so that journalists know that the release is finished. Underneath this you should also include contact details so people can easily get hold of you for further information, as well as a link to your media-kit.

Get it out

Now you’ve written your press release, you need to get it out there.

Email your list

Email it to your list of reporters that you should already have researched by now. Don’t use attachments such as Word docs or PDFs with your release, just copy and paste the release straight into the email and use the headline as the subject.

This will make sure there is minimal effort required for the reporter to get to your information, and they’re much more likely to use it.

Submit it to PR sites

As well as emailing it directly, it’s worth submitting it to various press release websites. Journalists regularly have slow days and have to go hunting for a story, or maybe some news that is linked into an article they’re already writing, so they visit press release websites and search for news that would be useful to them.

Don’t forget to post the press release on your own website, either as a blog article or in a dedicated press release section, so that it’s readable by all the search engines, and findable by your readers.

Share it

Share the hell out of it, across Facebook, Twitter, etc. Your fans will then share it themselves, giving it a higher profile and hopefully making it trend.

Google alerts

One of the easiest ways to see if your release has been picked up is to set up a google alert for your name and book title and any other key details. This will monitor what’s going on around the web and email you when it discovers something. You can then share those pages, get in contact with whoever used it for more details, and use it for promotions and quotes.

Follow up

Make sure you follow up with any journalists that you’ve sent your release to directly. If you can answer any questions they may have had before, and give any further details, then they will be more likely to run it rather than consign it to the press release bin.

Remember, your job is to make a journalist’s job easier. The less work they have to do to make a press release work for their own readers the more likely it is to be used.

Let us know what you think about press releases below, and be sure to sign up to our newsletter which includes tips and tricks, and special offers for our services, including press release templates and media-kits.

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