Tips for Crafting a Press Release
When crafting a press release for a bookstore sponsored event, here are a few tips.
Keep it readable. Newspapers typically do not have a standard reading level that they try to maintain, but friends in the industry tell me they’re always encouraged to simplify. Sometimes press releases that are too wordy, use flowery language or redundant expressions are rejected because of the time required to rewrite them. Never utilize utilize when you can use use.
In the book industry, we are accustomed to stories building to a climax revealed at the end. This approach cannot be used with press releases. Instead, we need to hook the reader immediately with our main point, and then fill in the details later. If a release is well-written, editors can cut and paste it into their publication. But they’ll cut it to fit from the bottom up, so we need to make sure the release can stand on its own no matter where it is cut. This is the reversed pyramid. The most important facts–who, what, when, where, why, how, and how much–must be included in the first paragraph of the news release.
If you place the copy of your press release into the body of your email, also attach a Word document and any high quality images that you want to make available. Never embed the image directly into the press release, no matter how pretty it looks. Also, name your image file so it is recognizable, then list the attachments at the end of the release.
Have you allowed enough time? A daily publication can turn around a story quickly, but weekly and monthly publications have earlier deadlines. If the timing of your announcement is an issue, you can embargo the release by stating the date and time your story can be used. This way publications with longer lead times can determine if your story is usable. Otherwise, just place ‘for immediate release’ at the top of the release.
Remember to build in enough time for proofreading. You can read the press release aloud to yourself to hear the flow, but do not try to proof it yourself. Instead, print a copy and hand it to someone else for review. Make a good impression by paying attention to spelling and grammar.
Another reason to send the release earlier rather than later is to allow time for placement. Sometimes the news is beyond our control and our story just won’t fit. But write a good, usable, “don’t-make-me-work-to-fix-this” piece, and your chances will improve considerably.