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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Press Release

Recap:  If you've been following this series on promotion you may want to scroll down to the next section "What is a Press Release?"

             Today we go a bit deeper into the topic of press releases.  What has turned into a topic series began with a challenge to the Blogging from A to Z participants.   I am encouraging all of you to try to get a story about the A to Z Challenge published in your local paper or some other special paper or newsletter, receive coverage on the airwaves (radio or television), get mentioned on an internet news or information site, and/or wherever else you can come up with.  In other words, I'd like to see our efforts get greater recognition.  I will post any efforts where you have been successful on my blog and may even give you an opportunity to do a guest post on Tossing It Out.

            Next, we talked about the reasons why you would be interested in getting press coverage for A to Z and how getting press can help you and whatever it is you are trying to do.   This post examines what news is and how you can spin your own story in order to make it news.   There is a sample press release included on this post.

              Then yesterday, we talked about getting press by talking to the right people.  This is often the easiest way since you might not even have to write anything to submit to the paper.  You've just got to make the right contacts to help you receive the coverage you need.  I gave some examples in that post.

              If you think that you will ever need to promote yourself or even if not, I encourage you to go back to these posts and read them.   Self-promotion is essential to the success of anyone who doesn't have a publicity machine behind us--and that is most of us.

What Is a Press Release?            

        A press release is an announcement of anything that someone wants to be made public by the media.   It can announce events, relationships, or the release of a new product.  Using the example of an author this could include a public appearance at a local venue, getting a contract with a major publisher, or the release of a new book.  The press release might be a combination of the above.  It can apply to anybody in any situation they deem might be of interest to some segment of the population.

         Press releases are used by individuals, businesses, organizations, or any entity that wants what they wish to convey to be treated as newsworthy.   In order to be deemed newsworthy it should have some special significance.   If you have self-published a book, the newsworthiness might not be as strong as having published the book, then appearing at the local library where a minor local celebrity will be introducing you.   You want to pack as much relevant content into the release without cluttering it with non-essential information.

       The press release should follow the standards of any news story in answering the questions of who, what, when, where, and why.   The story should be well-written with good grammatical style.  My suggestion would be to read some informational announcements in the paper and see how they are written.   A good place to find these articles is in the business, entertainment, or community news sections of the paper.   You will begin to identify a particular style of writing and presentation in articles based on a press release.

How should a press release be prepared?

        Typically a standard informational press release will be written tersely in a straight-forward manner.  If you are writing a press release you are probably better off to avoid too much creative writing and stick to reporting.  This is not to say a creatively written piece won't be accepted, but it's better to save that until  you've talked to someone beforehand and they've invited you to write one.   Often if the story is considered of enough interest, the press media will have a reporter get more info and they will embellish the story into a feature.

        It's usually very important to follow the standard rules of formatting your release.  My advice is to do a Google search for terms like "press release format" or "press release template".   A search engine will provide you with many sites that will give you the proper way to format your article for submission.

What do I do with my press release when it is ready?

         Once you've gotten your press release written, contact the places you want to send it to either via in-person visit, email, or phone.   It's a good idea to actually find out the name of the person to whom the press release should be delivered and directly communicate with that person.   You can start with the local papers.  The contact lists are usually somewhere in the front pages or on the editorial page of the paper.  I've found that now it's even better to see if the paper has a website.  The website will usually have the names of who is responsible for what and explicit information on how to submit your story.

Some real-life examples

            Now for some specific examples taken from my past experience:   For many years I managed a touring theatrical production.  Like any author or business should have, we had a press kit that was sent to whoever was promoting the show before we arrived.  The kit included 3 to 4 generic fill-in-the-blank stories that could be submitted to the local paper and radio or television stations.  Every town we visited had the same generic stories to use and the person submitting them would merely copy the stories and fill in the blanks for time, place, and name of sponsor.  The paper or media source would use them as they received them or rewrite them to be more entertaining.

           All of the examples I am using are from the 1979 tour of The Magic of Cinderella performed by "The World of Fantasy Players".  First here are two examples of stories that were put in the paper exactly as submitted according to our press release script:


Generic press release stories
click on image to enlarge

Including Photographs

           Also included in the press packet was a sheet of 4 photographs depicting scenes from the production.  These were publicity photos staged prior to the tour and taken by a professional photographer.  It is always preferable to include a photo in any press release because it attracts more attention.  If you are sending out a press release about the A to Z Challenge and including something about yourself in the story,  you should include a photo of yourself.  

           But going back to our show--sometimes the paper would use a photo and include a very condensed version of the press release to use as a caption.  Photo with press release info condensed into caption is shown below:


Publicity photo with portion of press release used in caption
click photo to enlarge


The Biggest Coup of All!

            One of the best things that can happen is that you score not only the press release story, but also an accompanying photo.   Beyond that, a feature story inspired by your submitted press release with a special photo spread is the ultimate goal.  This is very achievable if you've put the right spin on the story and made yourself accessible for an interview.  That's when you can really self-promote. 

              Below you can see where the paper has used the complete press release story and included a publicity photo (the guard in the funny hat and the beard is me):


Complete press release with publicity photo

A Final Thought for You

          I keep hearing hints from some of you that you don't feel comfortable self-promoting.  My question is "Why?".   Don't think of it as bragging or anything like that.   Believe in yourself and what you have to offer.  Then be ready and willing to share it with the world.   If you have a book or some product that you want people to buy, then you need to have total confidence and believe that people need what you have.  If you are at that level of thinking, it shouldn't take much more to be excited about wanting to tell others about it. 

          If it's rejection you are afraid of then get over it.  You've already been rejected plenty in your life and there will be more rejection to come.  Get over it and just keep pressing forward.  If you've got some big things coming up that you fear may be rejected, like book queries and the like, trying to get some press on how you are participating in the A to Z Challenge and how other bloggers might like to join us should be small potatoes.   If you've put together your press release the right way, your press release shouldn't be rejected and even if it is you haven't lost anything over it.  You will have overcome some fear and that should help you in the things you do in the future.

        Just try it to see if you can do it.  I'm anxious to hear some of your stories about what you encountered.  If you have any questions or comments feel free to contact me.   One of the reasons I've been stretching this story out into this series is that I've had more direct emails regarding this than for anything else that has appeared previously on my blog.  A lot of you are interested in this topic of promotion and for good reason.  I'm looking forward to seeing some of the stories you get in the public eye.

         Tomorrow I'll conclude the series with some examples of how to spin your story to make it more interesting to the reading audience. 

         Have you tried writing a press release yet?   Have you made any attempts at submitting a story? 
             

11 comments:

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Very interesting Lee, I haven't done a press story for the A to Z,
But did one many years ago when I was doing charity work.


Thanks for your visit and wonderful comment, very much appreciated.

Yvonne.

Jen Daiker said...

I think this is great if someone is willing to put in the effort. Excellent detail and I wish all the luck to those who try it out!

Diana said...

I have had a story and a poem published on another website for women. Other than that no press releases. Love Di ♥

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Were you in the skunk suit as well?

Lynda R Young said...

No press release yet, but this info is so helpful. Makes it less intimidating.

Arlee Bird said...

Yvonne -- A connection to a charity is a great way to get press.

Jen -- It can take effort, although once you have established your contacts, future submissions of press releases get easier. Researching the sources and getting linked up to the right people is what takes the most work.

Diana -- There are on-line news sites and those can be good places to submit stories.

Alex -- I may have been in the skunk suit. That was a long time ago and I don't recall. The gal playing Cinderella is my first wife.

Lynda -- It's not really that difficult. It's mostly just doing it.

Monica said...

There is a lot of interesting info here. It's gonna take me a bit to review it all. But I am gonna sign up for the challenge. Sounds like fun!

L'Aussie said...

Arlee this is a truckload of information. I'll need to come back to it. Great stuff. I've already signed up for the challenge, as soon as it was announced. I'm going to use my travel blog and post about a country or some aspect of travel each day. Never be lost for a topic.

Denise<3

Julie Musil said...

Wow, this is a lot of great information. Thank you!

Stephen Tremp said...

I have. and sent them out to numerous papers across the country. So far ... nothing. But I'll try another round and maybe something will open up.

Paula Slade said...

Good solid advice Lee!