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How to write an effective press release?

Press releases can be a highly cost-effective way to promote your business or organisation, and should be an integral part of any marketing campaign.

Electronic and print media receive many thousands of press releases every week, and while this presents a challenge, it should certainly not deter anyone, whether they are the CEO of a multi-national corporation, or a small business person operating out of their garage.

The prospect of writing a press release might seem daunting, but by following a few simple guidelines you can maximise your chances of publication.

Before you start, it is important to be sure that your news is ‘newsworthy’, that is, that it will be of interest to the general population, or at least part of it. It should not be confused with an advertisement or it will be quickly sent to the bin.

Look for a point of difference in the story you are telling. If there is an interesting human-interest angle to your story, tell it. For example, if your local charity is holding a fete to raise money for a local family in need, don’t just announce that the fete is on – tell the story of the family. If you are about to open up a new business selling flowers, look for your point of difference. Maybe you have overcome a sever pollen allergy to fulfil your dream of opening a florist shop. Readers will be far more engaged with the human side to your story, and if you think hard there always is an angle.
Once you are ready to write your press release, set it out on letterhead if you have it, with the date and a short headline. The headline and the first paragraph are the most important parts of the press release. They will capture the reader’s attention and determine whether they will read on.

Your press release should contain the basics of any complete story – who, what, when, where, how and why. It should contain all the facts in clear, simple English. Avoid use of jargon and exaggerations. Do not make claims you cannot support. It is important to indicate whether there are photographic or video opportunities available to the media. This will be especially important to newspapers and television media, which rely on the use of visuals to support their stories and broadcasts. You should also provide a contact name and number at the bottom of the press release for further information.

Distribute your press release far and wide – an easy thing to do in this electronic day and age. It is a good idea to develop a media database so that you can simply email your press releases out. This makes it a highly cost-effective promotional tool, especially considering that some of your efforts may not be rewarded. You should never be deterred if your first, second, or even third effort goes unrewarded. You should also be aware that your press release may not be used in its entirety and may be edited, often dramatically. It may also be picked up to provide the basis for a feature.
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