FICTION - For writers of all genre, and the readers who love them.  Find what you want to know.

by Megan Potter

Beamsville, ON, Dec. 21 1999 – Writing press releases is a relatively easy way to make money, once you get all the essentials down. Anyone can write press releases in their spare time as a means to supplement their creative income. All that they need is a little bit of marketing and practice. Writing Corner wants to be sure you know everything there is to know about writing press releases.

Content for a release is not like that for articles or other business materials. That is because releases are not intended to inform the general public or attract the consumer but instead to attract the attention of the press and the content should reflect that. Be sure that your P.R. is covering a newsworthy issue or event (release of a product, company, etc.), and that you include all the important facts and statistics in the release. Double check for accuracy!

The opening paragraph of a release, much like any other writing, needs to have a hook. Make sure your first 10 or so words grab the attention of the reader, or else you won’t have a reader. Keep the first paragraph short and snappy. Make sure the questions who, what, where, when and why are all answered in a quick sentence or two. And always be sure to mention the news before the newsmaker.

The body is where the details will be introduced. It is here that I would explain in depth the 5 answers. It is also here that I will expand on the facts and add any additional information. But remember, much like a query, a press release needs to be short and tight; the intention is to get the reporter interested in seeking more information. There are two key things to keep in mind when writing up your content. First, keep the flowery language to a minimum. Press releases should be short on adjectives and description and high on facts (note the repetition on this word). Second, make sure what you are saying is appropriate for the audience you have chosen to direct it to. As you write it ask yourself if the reader, and his readers, will be able to relate to the information.

Speaking of audience, check that you are directing the release to the appropriate editor or reporter. And most important make sure you have spelt his or her name properly. Remember, the press release is to make the reporter’s job of gathering information as easy as possible. Write out the content so that it hands the information over clearly and won’t require too much clarification and be sure to tell them why this information is right for them and their readers.

The technical aspects of the layout are equally as important as the content itself. Take note that we have laid this article out in a way so that you can use it as a template for your own press releases. Though you will find our length here to probably be longer than you would normally use. E-mail releases should only run several paragraphs, and definitely not more than a “page”. While press releases that are being distributed by mail or fax can run over a page (8.5″ x 11″ ) but never more than two. It should be noted that email is the preferred method of distribution.

The release opens with the FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE under the letterhead, and always in all caps. The contact information should come directly underneath. Contact information includes the name and position of the person who is most informed on the subject, the company name, the phone number (be sure to include a day and evening number), the fax number, the address, the URL and the email address. Again the reason for the inordinate amount of contact information is to make the reporter’s job easier. So include everything you can.

The next thing on the release is the headline. The headline should be to the point, and yet be catchy enough to peak the reader’s interest. Remember that this is news not fiction, so don’t go overboard on the creative end. Like a title, the headline should have each word capitalized, except the little words like a and is, it is also the only part of the press release that should be in bold font. Once you have the headline in you are finally at the text line. But first be sure to include the dateline. That is, put the city and state the release is being sent from and the date it is being mailed, followed by two hyphens (–) and then you can start on the text.

The pages should be set to have one inch margins all the way around, and that is the only indentation your text will receive. Business correspondences of any kind never have tabs at the opening of paragraphs. Paragraph length will vary, of course, but try and keep them short because it is important that the paragraph on the bottom of one page does not run over to the top of the next. Each page should be complete unto itself. You will note that when you end a page of a continuing release you put – more – centered on the bottom line. The second page should have an abbreviated form of the headline (in bold) and page 2 in brackets on the top line. The first part of page two will be a new paragraph and so should be laid out as such. When you reach the very end of the release you place ### on the bottom line.

Once the text is finished there are just a few finishing touches. These are called the recap, where you cover all the essential information. First you will recap the contact information, not all of it just the name and number(s) and maybe email. Then you will recap the product, company, or other news bit with a brief summary of what the news is. Finally, you should end with one, very short, paragraph of the companies history (if the news isn’t a company release). You will be finished. It’s a lot to remember but once you get on a roll they are relatively simply to do, and an essential part of business. All you have to do is learn how to market yourself to local and online businesses and you should be able to make a decent supplemental income.

Press release writing is easy, and doesn’t take too much time, but best of all it can be profitable. Print out this article and keep it on had to use as a template for p.r. layout.

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