Press Release Week:: Part II:: Format

This is Part II of a five-part, weeklong series about how and why to write a press release. Click here for other installments. Come back tomorrow when we discuss the 5 Ws. Friday evening (August 7, 2009) one winner will be drawn to receive a special package from Market Mommy, including a press release, business card design and button ad design. The package is valued at $75! Please read the fine print at the end of the post for details on how to enter. You can register up to six times each day!!

If you want your release to be taken seriously it needs to be correctly formatted, plain and simple. An editor can take one glance at a release and by that first impression decide whether to even read your release, much less publish it. There are a few other acceptable variations to this format, but I am going to walk you through the format that I use and that has been successful for me.

1. Logo:: If you are sending out a hard copy press release, either by mail or fax, this is probably going to take care of itself. Logos are usually found on letterhead and other office stationary. However, if you are sending out an electronic release, which is now the norm, you will need to make sure that your logo and business identity are clearly recognized. It all goes back to basic branding!

2. Date:: You definitely want editors to know when the release was sent out. This keeps them reassured that the information is timely and gives them a reference if they ever do any type of historical piece in the future.

3. For immediate release:: In some very rare instances press releases are distributed before they are to be made public. In other words, they are sent out as a sneak peek or heads up to editors. This doesn’t happen very often, but it is still common courtesy to let your contacts know the information is fair game, immediately.

4. Headline:: A strong, attention-grabbing headline is crucial. It should be direct, descriptive and one line or less. A headline can make or break your release. A factual headline will get you much further than a fluffy one.

5. Subhead:: In some instances it is necessary to provide additional information to your one-line headline. For instance, when I launched Market Mommy I included a subhead because I felt I needed to further explain the new concept of the site. Use your best judgment, a subhead can be helpful in clarifying a headline.

6. Dateline:: This tells the media where the release is originating from, or where your company is physically located. This is very important for regional publications or if you are announcing an event. It should be formatted as shown. The city should be placed in all capital letters followed by a comma and the state name. There is more information about datelines in the Associated Press Stylebook, which we will talk more about on Thursday.

7. Lead:: Aside from your headline, the next most important line in your release is your first sentence, or lead. It should be packed with facts, answer most, if not all, of the who, what, when, where and why, and leave your reader wanting to read more.

8. Link:: If you are sending out an electronic release, it will save your contacts an extra step by including a link within the text of your release. Launching a new online store? Link to it. Launching a new line? Link to that line.

9. Body:: This is where the meat of your information goes. Give your essential details here. If you can include a quote, maybe from a satisfied customer or the business owner, place it here.

10. Boilerplate Statement:: Every company should have a general boilerplate statement that describes the company. A few sentences that summarize the company’s history and offerings can go along way if you use it consistently.

11. Contact Info:: It doesn’t matter how you decide to format your press release, it is CRITICAL that you include your contact information. Editors work on short deadlines, if they want to contact you and follow up on your release they will want to do it quickly. If they do not have your contact information, they will not seek it out, rather they will toss your release aside. If there is no contact information it is a quick sign of incompetency.

12. Photo caption/Media opportunity:: If you have additional information to provide, i.e. a photo caption or details about setting up an interview, it should go at the end of your release. I typically use asterisks to let the reader know it stands apart from the body of the release.

13. ###:: Always let the reader know they have reached the end of your release by placing three pound signs at the bottom.

As you can see, a lot goes into writing a press release. But, if you take your time and go step by step, you can write a great, attention grabbing release! Be sure to stop by tomorrow when we’ll visit the 5 Ws.

The fine print::
First and foremost the marketing package won must be used to promote a legitimate, mom-owned business. (Market Mommy reserves the right to disqualify any entrant on the basis of this criteria) Winners will be chosen by Below are the ways to register, you may come back and do the following EACH DAY for each new post! Be sure to leave a comment with a link for each entry or it won’t count! (Comments close each day at 11:59 p.m. EST)
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