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The Top 10 Dos and Don'ts of Press Releases for PR Professionals

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As a PR specialist, you know that a company's best and most effective promotional tool is publicity. For less than what it costs a company to advertise with the same effect, publicity can craft a specific public image. One of the most effective vehicles for doing so is a press release. However, most companies still underestimate the effectiveness of press releases.

Newspapers always need to content to fill their pages. Shrewd PR strategists can step in and effectively meet those needs. However, keep in mind that the information you choose to make public must pique readers’ interests and hold their attention spans, which can be short. Therefore, make sure that the information you release is authentic, traceable, and transparent, not merely an example of your creative writing skills. You could introduce your company’s latest product, tell of the awards your company has earned, or demonstrate corporate social responsibility by publicizing the events that your company sponsors. Whatever your purpose, make use of your public relations skills and befriend news editors and media people who can guide you in the right direction.

The following are the top 10 dos and don'ts of press releases. Although they do not form an exhaustive guide to press releases, they can help you get on the right track.

1. Remember that relevant headlines get attention quickly, whether your release is in print, radio, or television.

2. Be factual, straightforward, and answer the “Five Ws” about the topic: who, what, when, where, and why.

3. Always address your publicity material as releases, regardless if the material is for media or news—media is all encompassing and continues to grow.

4. Brevity can pay rich dividends. Nobody has the time to read stories in press releases. The objective: KISS. (Keep it short and sweet.) This is the most effective method.

5. Press releases should contain all of the information that needs to be conveyed in the first paragraph. This will ensure that if space constraints arise, you can still convey what you need to convey. In later paragraphs, you can elaborate.

6. Always remember press releases or promotional materials are mirrors of the companies that disseminate them. Thus, you should make sure that releases are free from mistakes of any kind. An error-filled press release can stain a company’s name.

7. Keep the language of the release simple, easy to understand, and free from technical jargon. Also, no media will allow outright advertisement materials to pass for news: don’t try to circumvent this rule.

8. If possible, address all materials to the relevant people concerned and include a short cover letter that states the purpose your materials are intended to serve. If your materials are received by a responsible person who if familiar with you and your company, he or she can correctly interpret your intentions.

9. Remember that media people, like you, are busy doing their own jobs. Don’t expect them to drop everything the minute you walk into their offices. Also, do not include too many photos. Ask what the designated number is. Because you are getting free publicity, you must be considerate.

10. Do not forget to include a contact name and a phone number on the release. Ensure that the contact person is knowledgeable and will be available to take related calls. Finally, if need be, politely check on when the news is due for release. Do not make excessive phone calls. Irritating people is bad PR practice. Nevertheless, if the release takes more than 10 days to be published, a gentle reminder could be helpful.
On the net:A Press Release Primer

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