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October 9, 2014

Three Attention-Worthy Ideas for Your Next Press Release (and Why They Work so Well)

Press Release
Photo Credit: US Mission Geneva via flickr

Practically everybody has dreams of earning a bit of media coverage and being flooded with business. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. The main reason most press releases fail is because they are self-promotional. Promotional copy is the cardinal sin of press releases.

Reporters want news, not advertisements, so before you begin to write, pick up an industry journal or two, read through a couple of newspaper articles that pertain to your occupation and take some notes.

1. No First or Second Person — Notice how all the news is written in third person (they, she, them, etc.)? You won’t find “we” or “us” or “you” unless they are included in quotes from various people.

2. Your Target Audience is the Reporter, Not Your Target Market — Unlike writing copy, you are not directing the press release to your target customers. You should be writing to a reporter. So, you aren’t answering the age-old question of “Why should I buy from you” that is constantly answered when writing website or other copy. Instead, the question you’re answering in a press release is, “Why would my readers care about what you have to say?”

3. Everyday Business Activities are Usually Not Enough to be Considered Newsworthy
— The launch of a website (unless it does something super-cool), the addition of services (unless they are highly desired and free or never-before heard of) are typically ho-hum in the eyes of most reporters. I’m not saying you can’t get media attention for such things; just that you’d have to have a pretty clever twist most of the time.

4. Have it Professionally Proofread
— Unlike other people who fear the Grammar Police, journalists ARE the Grammar Police. Sending press releases out that contain spelling and/or grammatical errors is a sure way to have your submission deleted instantly.

So What Exactly Is “Newsworthy” Material?

I found an excellent course the other day that I’ve really enjoyed called Project Toolkit: Presto Press Releases by Melissa Ingold. With Melissa’s permission, I’m going to share three of the 52 clever ideas for creating press releases with examples and explain why they work so well.

1. Launch of a Product Line — Yeah, yeah, I know what I said. “Everyday business activities are usually not enough to be considered newsworthy.” True. Here’s one example of a launch press release that uses one of those clever twists I mentioned.

Diversity Awareness Comes to the Classroom and Scrapbooking
Marlton, NJ – New scrapbooking company launches first in a series of product lines promoting diversity awareness.

Scrapbooking is one of America’s popular pastimes that allows individuals to preserve their memories and express themselves in a creative way. Scrapbooking themes and supplies are in abundance, but Kim Luty, owner of Same-Differences, saw that there was something amiss in the world of scrapbooking.

“A missing segment of scrapbooking products are those that focus on diversity,” says Luty, “disabled, elderly and different ethnic segments of our population who often cannot find products which adequately represent themselves.”

Same-Differences seeks to fill this gap and has begun by launching its Everyday Kids line.

See how this company captures attention by positioning its new product line as the solution to a problem? If you use promotional language and say, “Hey! Come look at our new product line” a reporter will likely yawn and think, “Another one? Big deal.” But if you use this company’s approach and say, “Hey! We’ve solved a problem that bugs a lot of people. Here’s how we did it” that’s something a reporter in the scrapbooking industry would be excited about.

2. Give Away a Free Ebook – “Come get our free ebook” isn’t going to cut it as far as press releases go. So how do you offer a free ebook or report in a way that journalists will be eager to pass the info onto their readers? By solving a problem. (Sound familiar?)

Babies Are Learning Speak to Their Parents
Before They Develop Verbal Skills
City, State – Simple hand gestures can eliminate frustration for parents as they try to communicate with their babies.

Long before a baby can speak, he has the ability to understand language and even communicate. Certain biological development is required to communicate verbally, but parents can teach their babies different hand gestures to communicate various needs and desires.

This communication is commonly called “Baby Sign Language.” With simple gestures, babies can tell their parents when they are hungry, thirsty or when they want more.

…at the end was this bit of text…

Parents are encouraged to instantly pick up a free report on teaching their baby sign language at XXXXXXXX or call toll-free XXXXXXX to order their free report by mail.

See how it’s written? It’s written to tell someone else’s story, not their own. It doesn’t say, “We have a new report to help you and your baby communicate.” A third-person approach is taken and it’s as if the company interviewed someone else and is relaying the information they found out (which is exactly the process reporters use when writing stories).

3. Give an Award — Don’t have an award to give away? Create one. People love being considered for awards because it gives them a bit of credibility and exposure. It’s simple enough to do. Just decide what you value and choose to offer an award (monthly, annually, etc.) for accomplishing that task. Need some ideas?

• Best New {product/service/idea} of {year}
• Excellence in {industry/niche} Award
• Best Collaboration Between {nonprofits, corporations, hospitals, whatever}
• ______ Love Award {for showing kindness to our earth, children, pets, the homeless, etc.}
• Innovation in {industry/area of business/compassion}
• Anti-_____________ Award {anti-waste, anti-hate, anti-litter, anti-crime, something funny, etc.}
• Responsibility in ________________ {processes, money, caring for others}
Set your criteria (the highest number of nominations wins, those who apply must write an essay, etc., dates for entry/nomination, date you’ll announce the winner(s)) and send out your press release.

It’s difficult to swap hats after years of writing about your company from the business owner’s standpoint, but when it comes to press releases, it’s vital that you do. Think of it like you’re interviewing yourself. Then combine that authoritative tone with a newsworthy idea and you’re bound to see better results than you’ve gotten in the past.


Karon Thackston is president of Marketing Words Copywriting Agency helping Amazon sellers, eCommerce site owners and content marketers rank higher, convert better and make more sales.