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Practical Pointers for Powerful Press Releases
Let your dinosaurs out to play.
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 by Pari Noskin Taichert
Bad Girls Press

Pari Noskin TaichertPicture this: you're an assignments editor for a local television station's nightly news. It's your job to assign stories to reporters. Your desk is piled with 110 press releases. The first one you pick up is two pages long, has typos, and is written in a florid style. The second is short, to-the-point, and easy to read. Which one will you prefer? Kind of obvious, huh?

Formulas, Rules and Reality

There're oodles of information to steer you through the do's and don'ts of writing press releases. Here are my little tidbits-guidelines to catch that busy editor's attention.

Make sure it's newsworthy. Use the Who Cares? test. Be honest with yourself. Will the general public be interested in the fact Tiffany won the lead in her class play? My rule of thumb is: a gob of people need to be impacted by the story to make it worthwhile.

Other pointers:

  • Use letterhead-it gives your release credibility.

  • Have accurate contact information-you need a real person who'll bend over backwards to get the information reporters want. So put a person's name, phone number(s), e-address etc. at the top of your release. Better yet, include an alternate information source for the reporter's convenience.

  • Remember to date the release and indicate when you want the info released (usually immediately).

  • Write a catchy, informative title.

  • Refrain from verbosity-try to keep the release to one page. If you have to go to another page, be sure it has all the contact info again.

When possible, I include a short bulleted section with the who, what, when, where and how much-right up front. Some reporters want more flesh. After the shorthand section, I write brief descriptive paragraphs to fill in the details.

And don't forget, your goal is to get news professionals' attention and spur them to give you media coverage. You can have fun with a release if your event or topic is entertaining. When I worked for the New Mexico Museum of Natural History Foundation, we had a playful group of puppeteers to publicize. I thought, what the heck? Why not write a playful press release?

My lead was: Come one, come all, to the dinosaur boogie-woogie ball.

Imagine my delight when newspapers printed it verbatim and confused news anchors haltingly repeated the words on their six and ten o'clock television broadcasts.

Pari Noskin Taichert has worked in PR for eons.  Of course, she considers waitressing, selling textbooks, and belly dancing part of her PR experience. Her more traditional clients have included corporations, small businesses, nonprofit organizations, 
writers and artists.
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