Ten Hooks to Resuscitate the Press Release

Ten HooksThe press release is still alive, but it needs resuscitation. Here’s why: sometimes we forget how little time media have to read our press releases, which is the reason we know to produce only a one-page document, double-spaced. It’s easy to forget, though, especially when a client wants to see scores of facts packed in to a release. Then, it often evolves into a two to three pager, single spaced.

Here are 10 hooks, reminders, if you will, for besting other releases that hit an editor’s desk, and ensuring your news gets read:

  1. Plan the news hook before you ever start writing. You can help shape your hook by using trends that support your subject, and other topical news angles as tie-in’s.
  2. Set your margins at least an inch on both sides of the page and double-space.
  3. Put a date at the top under your contact material, NOT in the dateline. This may seem counter intuitative, but protocol-wise, it’s only the purview of the news media to feature the date in the dateline. One Associated Press Stylebook of the best resources for checking such rules is the .
  4. You only have 10 seconds to get the attention of a busy editor or blogger, so title the release as a veteran traditional media writer would; use a headline that grabs attention. Use caps and lowercase, not all caps, because most of us are distributing releases by email.
  5. Open your release with a sentence that makes the reader want to continue. If you’ve drafted your story and it’s ho-hum, look farther down the first paragraph; you may have buried the perfect lead.
  6. Humor, poignancy, pathos (not melodrama), expressions of generosity, and tie-ins to current events can be components of a first paragraph that takes the reader to where you want him or her to go.
  7. This may seem a no-brainer, but publicity writers sometimes forget to put the most important information in the first paragraph and supporting facts, thereafter.
  8. Media love an articulate writer. Instead of flamboyant words, adjectives and superlatives, try using evocative, descriptive language. After all, you’re “painting” a picture for the reader; it’s a form of “show” don’t “tell.”
  9. Don’t feature a protracted “boiler plate” at the end of your release. People who represent hotels, destination, and resorts, often add these and they simply take up precious news space. A few lines will do.
  10. Write an interesting release with the who, what, when, where and why on one page by using spare prose with hard-hitting action nouns and well-chosen words. Use “active voice” only and no passive sentences.

Partnership Between a Business’ PR Counsel is Essential for Optimal Results

prcouncilOf the multi-channels of product and service marketing, public relations seems to be the one most often misunderstood to the degree that it’s sometimes viewed as an amorphous promotional device, a little like ectoplasm that occasionally takes solid shape as media stories. Some corporate marketers see it as the stepchild of advertising, and still others find it so mysterious, that they adopt a laissez-faire policy with their PR people until it’s time for them to account for how they spent the PR budget. This is fine if the company and its PR people could read minds, and since that’s not possible, the next best thing is verbal communications.

The corporate marketer must communicate goals and objectives, and the PR representative must advise client or employer of how it intends to fulfill those goals and quantify results. Information sharing is at the core of a successful PR program. This means that the company must provide the tools for PR, including feedback and a budget commensurate with the level of PR activity. It must dedicate time for brainstorming story angles, and above all, approve content in a timely manner:

  • Explain your goals and objectives thoroughly to your PR representative. He or she should prepare an annual plan that meets each goal with strategies and tactics for achieving it. Included in the plan should be clear methods for measuring the outcome. One way to measure publicity is to arm your PR counsel with a dedicated 800 telephone number or code they can use in their press releases. This way, callers who read a published article can refer to the code, and you can trace back the call to publicity. Unless the company product or service is brand new, upscale, and/or unusual, which endows it with a virginal message to editors, on-going development of story hooks is essential. Set aside face or telephone time each month to explore story ideas with your PR counsel. Story hooks can be hinged on lifestyle and behavioral trends, providing fresh media fodder.
  • Approve press releases and kit materials, quickly. Many small PR agencies cannot afford errors and omission insurance, which is why they insist on written approval of their press releases. The sooner you approve the material, the sooner your stories are published.
  • Budget for results. Your PR people cannot provide $5,000 a month in services if you have only budgeted $2,500. It must assign staff to the account, and because the process is service-intensive, press kit reproduction, media request fulfillment, media clipping services, long distance telephone and other costs have to be billed back. If you are keen on keeping down costs, make a deal with your agency that if they refrain from marking up the bills, you will pay within 30 days.
  • Give your PR people enough time to produce. It can take up to a year and beyond to plant stories, because media lead times are getting farther out. If an editor promises a full-page feature but the results are only a quarter page, it is likely that more advertising space was sold that month, eclipsing editorial space.