Thursday, November 20, 2014
How Authors Should Pen Press Releases
As a writer of books, a blog, and marketing material, you no doubt want your writing to be strong. Avoiding errors of spelling or syntax is a given, but can you deliver inviting content that captivates one’s attention and then inspires an action step, such as purchasing a book? More to the point, are you capable of crafting a press release that will interest the media enough to cover your story?
Here are seven things to avoid when concocting your release:
1. Make sure it’s not too long. How long is long? When it gets boring and seems filled with too many details or secondary points, that’s too long.
2. Don’t use redundant phrases or terms, even though your goal is to emphasize certain concepts or words. For instance, there’s no such thing as an “advance preview” or a “free gift” or an “unexpected surprise.” Every breakthrough is major, so please no “major breakthroughs.” So what’s the “end result”? Let’s be “completely unanimous” and declare war on repetition.
3. Don’t inject an opinion into your release unless you are quoting yourself or someone else.
4. Avoid jargon and buzzwords – they are overused and lack punch.
5. Don’t forget to sprinkle visuals, statistics, lists or bullet points and quotes to break up the release.
6. Never include quotes that don’t sound strong. Say something that’s controversial, critical, eye-opening, demanding, or outrageous. Being polite or neutral gets you nowhere.
7. Forget the passive voice (“John’s head was smacked by the train”) and only use the active voice (“The train smacked the boy’s head”)
A quick checklist of things you should do when putting together your release includes the following:
· Have someone else edit it. Let sometime pass and reflect on what you wrote. Read it aloud to see how it sounds. Re-evaluate if there’s anything else that can be cut or tightened and make sure nothing is ambiguous or contradictory.
· Make sure you included accurate and complete contact information and all necessary links and websites -- and make sure they all work.
· Put your release through a litmus test, as if you were the media receiving it. Ask yourself: Is it really newsworthy? If not, try again.
· Make sure your release doesn’t sound like a commercial.
· Keep it absent sensationalism, gimmicks or bloated language. Make sure whatever you claim, predict, demand, or criticize or lobby for can be documented, proven, substantiated and verified.
· Don’t offend anyone or violate libel and defamation laws – and don’t put out something you know is a lie, not factual or a distortion of the facts.
· Do you use short, compact paragraphs and deliver the release in a journalistic style and format?
· Stay focused on a singular topic or subject, and avoid bringing in irrelevant details.
· Look at models of press releases online at places like prnewswire.com – learn what to do and not do by seeing how the rest of the world feeds the media.
· The key to getting your release read is a great headline, followed by an explanatory sub-header, and a fantastic opening paragraph.
· Make sure you use the third-person (he/she/it/they) and not I, we, us, our – unless quoting yourself.
· The release needs to tell a story, not necessarily in chronological order. Rather, tell it in the order of most important facts to least important.
Remember, the press release needs to be written with the media in mind. You are not talking directly to consumers and citizens. The release is like a love letter – you seek to win over one entity, in this case, the media.
A press release must set a tone. Is it written to announce something (new book launch)? Is it to criticize a policy, praise an individual, or demand an investigation? Are you issuing real news or merely your reaction to it? Who should care – and why? Once you know that, aim all of your bullets in that direction.
A great press release should either inspire the media to contact you for more details and an interview, or it should be complete to the point the media feels it could quote the release as a story by itself. Good luck.
Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014