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The Five Pieces to the Press Release Puzzle

Mar 15, 2008
Most people seem to believe they can write a press release, mail or email it to a radio or television station and sit back and wait for the avalanche of phone calls. But as time passes and no producers are beating down the door, they make a few phone calls only to discover that no one even read the release.

The following five important components of radio and TV press releases will make your show idea come to life for producers and hosts, and also position you ahead of the pack.

1. Headline! Headline? HEADLINE!!!
Arguably the most important aspect of your press release, headlines are so vital that entire books written and seminars focus on how to construct the most effective ones. Now, don't let this scare you. Writing a killer headline is definitely a skill that can be developed; all you need is a clear and concise overview of your topic.

Write down your show idea and look it over. Now look it over again, remembering that it should be an idea for an interview that relates to your book but most definitely not a summary of the book's theme or content.

What is your key message? Is your show idea newsworthy? Are there any well-known people you can tie into your topic? Do you have any impressive statistics that are relevant? Does anything controversial tie directly into your subject? The answers to these questions will help you develop a headline that will capture the attention of producers and hosts.

Your headline must communicate the topic of the show instantly in an eye-catching way. It should not be longer than one sentence and it should be designed to function as the sound bite on your topic. Now that's a lot of weight to put on a single sentence!

Sometimes, you will need a subhead to support it. If your headline gives just a taste of your show topic, then a subhead will be useful for explaining it further. Anyone who reads the headline and subhead together should immediately click what the concept of the show is.

Here are two examples of the successful headline and subhead combination:

GLOBAL ECONOMIC CHAOS?
Expert Reveals Predictions on Grim Future of US Economy

WISH YOU WERE FIRED?!
The Secrets to a Happier Life

2. Topic Summary
This is your chance to present a concise summary of your show topic. It should continue naturally from the headline and expand on it. The headline gets the attention and the discussion topic gives the reader more.

The discussion topic component of your press release should be two or three sentences, tops. Again try to tie your topic to current events, big names, big money, or controversy. Don't be worried about repeating yourself in different sections of the press release. After all, you want to get a cohesive point across! Tip: try writing the headline and topic summary together.

Here is an example of a headline and topic summary which were written together. Notice the bolded words and how they tie the two together.

Topic Summary:
The United States is about to move into a period of major economic chaos and poverty that will wake up people to overthrow the rule of money in society in a ballot-box revolution. Let internationally renowned expert reveal predictions on the grim future of our economy.

Headline:
GLOBAL ECONOMIC CHAOS?
Expert Reveals Predictions on Grim Future of US Economy

3. Talking Points/Questions
These are an absolute must for radio and TV because they are the shaping tools that guide the host through your topic. Often, hosts read directly from press releases during an interview. This not only makes them look knowledgeable; it saves them heaps of time. So why not have them read questions you've created that you can answer very specifically, making yourself look knowledgeable and also making for a great interview.

Yet again you will need to tie in current events and any controversy that will stir interest. Generally, it is good to give no more than 10 of these conversation shapers. For example here are a few examples of questions that were used in a release for a radio show on "How to Find the Perfect Pet for Your Lifestyle":

*What are the primary reasons people decide to get a pet?

*What criteria should people follow when choosing a pet to make sure it fits into their lifestyle?

*What can families do ahead of time to determine what type of pet is best for them?

*How can families prepare children for the responsibility of caring for a pet?

*What are some of the things people need to consider before adopting a puppy or other young animal?

If you do get invited as a guest, your interviews will generally last anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, so concise is a word you should keep in the forefront of your mind.

Remember: the more interesting the questions, the more interesting your interview.

4. Topic Overview
Once you have gained attention with your eye-catching headline, topic summary and talking points, it is time to present your full show idea. This is your opportunity to position your author (or yourself if you are your author) as an expert on the show's topic.

Do not write a sales piece here. Write the show. Work the author's name, personal quotes and product name into the overview. Use the following liberally to build your topic and profile: statistics, testimonials, current facts, specifics from relevant news stories, and professional credentials. Use anything that will interest the producer, the host and their audience. Try to limit this section to no more than a page; the ideal range is 4-6 paragraphs with no more than 4 sentences in each one.

Here is an example of a Topic Overview of the pet show discussed earlier:

For some people "cute" is the only criteria they follow when choosing a new pet. But deciding which pet to adopt based solely on the animala's appearance can set new "pet parents" up for disaster. After all, puppies don't look quite so cute when they're chewing your furniture! Lack of foresight is one of the top reasons an estimated 6 to 8 million unwanted pets end up at local animal shelters each year.

Enter pet expert Dr. Diane Pomerance, author of the new book, "Pet Parenthood: Adopting the Right Animal Companion For You." As a bonafide animal lover, she wants to help prospective pet owners understand how to make the best decision when choosing a new pet - and to recognize that adopting a pet is a lifetime commitment and responsibility that requires much thought and planning.

"There's no denying the attraction to a cute puppy or kitten," says Dr. Pomerance. "But people need to be fully prepared for what's truly involved in caring for that animal. Realistically speaking, they are bringing a child into their home. If you don't have the temperament, the schedule or the space requirements to meet those needs, you should consider a pet that does fit your lifestyle."

Another important factor that often goes overlooked is how children in a family will interact with the new pet. Pets make wonderful companions for children and can help teach them compassion, responsibility and respect for all living creatures as well as boost their self-esteem. But it's important to determine ahead of time what type of animal best suits the household and what role each family member will take in caring for it.

Money also comes into play when adopting a new pet. Vet bills can be expensive and upkeep for some animals can be costly if they develop health problems.

"The reality is, pets can be expensive and time intensive. When you love your pet, obviously you want to provide the best care possible. So it is important to understand the costs and responsibilities ahead of time when choosing your pet."

5. Biography
Oddly, this is the element people tend to forget, underplay or overplay. It is important to position the author as an expert. You can cite a variety of qualifications -- education, career, relationships, memberships, travel history, odd pets, and more. If the book is about religion, for example, anything the author does that pertains to religion is applicable.

Two warnings: Sensationalizing an author's credentials will immediately turn producers and hosts off, and simply rehashing a resume with bullet-points is an absolute no-no.

If you take your time developing exactly what a book-related interview segment will be about, and then put lots of thought into developing a press release that clearly reflects your planning, you will command more media attention.
About the Author
Marsha Friedman has been a leading authority on publicity for authors for nearly two decades as CEO of Event Management Services, Inc (EMSI). If you would like to receive her free Ebook "How to Be a Great Talk Radio Guest" visit http://www.emsincorporated.com.
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