No-one can expect media coverage without doing a little hard work! By identifying stories and making press announcements
about major news within your industry or your organisation, you can raise the profile of your organisation.

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DOs and DON'Ts for press releases

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by Graham Wilson

No-one can expect media coverage without doing a little hard work! By identifying stories and making press announcements about major news within your industry or your organisation, you can raise the profile of your organisation.

This can differentiate your business from the competition - all helping support sales and improve the bottom line.There may well be occasions when you will want to make your own announcements. You can increase your chances of getting press coverage (and avoid major blunders) by following these guidelines...

You should ALWAYS..

  • Produce your press release on headed paper with the standard company logo at the top and the words Media Information (or similar) printed clearly on it.
  • Put the date on the press release.
  • Put a contact name at the end of the release of someone who will be available for further comment and who knows about the story. This will allow journalists to follow up and personalise their stories.
  • Include your company's standard 'boilerplate'. A boilerplate is a description of the company and its activities. It should be used consistently on all material sent to the press. Normally it is one or two paragraphs in length.
  • Send the release to the most appropriate journalists only. Basically you are selling the story and so targeting is important. Sending press releases to journalists who have no interest in the subject will only reduce your chances of getting their attention next time round.
  • Keep the release short and punchy. The first paragraph should include only two or three sentences each of a maximum of 15-20 words each. The first paragraph should summarise the whole story with further details coming later on the page. Try to keepreleases to one page of main text if possible, or two at the most.
  • Remember to check that you haven't forgotten anything from the story. The simple checklist is : Who, What, Where, When and How. Ask yourself these questions to make sure nothing has been left out.
You should NEVER..
  • Send out meaningless releases that have no news value. If you do then more important stories run the risk of being overlooked because the journalist automatically spikes your releases.
  • Phone up journalists to ask if they will be using your release. This will only serve to antagonise him or her and reduce your chances of getting published.
  • Take it personally if a journalist doesn't cover your story. Neither should you let a journalist upset you by his manner if he phones for further comment. Journalists are often cynical (it comes of hearing hype from our competition) and usually working to a deadline. Over time by giving him/her valuable information you will win respect and their attitude will improve.
  • Talk 'off the record' - this simply does not exist. Journalists are always competing with each other to get a scoop,so the only safe way to talk to journalists is to assume that everything may appear in print.
  • Use inappropriate language. There are two things to remember here - don't use jargon and don't use strong language. Jargon gets in the way and may not be well understood. Strong language looks terrible in print!
  • Forget to get written approval from any third party who may be mentioned in your release - customers, suppliers, etc. The consequences of failing to get approval can be unpleasant.

Graham Wilson is Marketing Communications Manager at EUnet Communications Services B.V., Amsterdam,

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