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News is a Four-Letter Word

Jun 22, 2008
This week I received a press release to inform me that the company sending the release had changed email service providers. Are you kidding me? Is this really news?

Did you hear that? It was the sound of that release hitting my circular file. No doubt it will suffer a similar fate at many, if not all of its other intended destinations.

It is frustrating to think that there are actually companies shelling out their hard-earned money to pay for such drivel. Press release writing can be a bit daunting at first, but it is certainly a skill that can be mastered. Armed with the proper tools and a bit of patience, you can be crafting your own killer press releases in relatively short order.

To simplify the process, let's consider this: news is a four-letter word.

N - Neutral Voice. We all have expectations that the news that we read, listen to, and watch will be objective. That said, there is no room for sales jargon, hype, or in-your-face pitching. Sending out a release that is anything less than an objective, well-written, third-person piece is simply a waste - a waste of time, money and opportunity.

E - Entertainment/Education. A solid press release will be framed within the concept of entertainment or education. If you are promoting a product, you need to tell the market why they need it. Was there a recent medical study that provides you with a tie-in? The same holds true with a service. When you are deciding upon the topic of your release, be sure to give it the "so what?" test. If you can't answer that question, you need to dig deeper, or find another angle to approach from.

W - Well-Written. Never underestimate the power of the spell checker, folks. Before you send your press release out in the world, be sure you have checked it over thoroughly, both for spelling and for grammar. Then, give it to a friend or colleague (preferably one with a strong grasp of the language), and ask them to do the same. Make sure that you have followed the proper release format. Have you crafted a strong, attention-grabbing headline? If not, head back to the drawing board. Be sure that you have included all of the necessary contact information to allow interested media outlets to have instant access to you, your business, and your website, if applicable.

S - "Sexy Factor." Don't raise your eyebrows - this is used an attention-grabber. It worked, didn't it?

The "sexy factor" may not be a technical term, but there is no denying its power. It governs not only your headline, but the entire release. In order to harness this power, you need to think like a journalist.

This is an area that you may need to practice; the good news (for lack of a better word) is that there are examples everywhere. Surf on over to your favorite news outlet website, and scan the headlines. The good ones will make you want to click on them. The truly great ones will make you click on them, even if you aren't especially interested in the subject matter. In the eternal words of Paris Hilton, "now that's hot."

The important message that you should take away is this - don't be fooled into thinking that you can't create a press release for your business. Who knows your subject matter better than you do? If you are willing to spend the time studying the good, the bad, and even the ugly examples around you - your patience will be rewarded. But, more importantly, your release will garner the attention that it deserves.
About the Author
Traci Hayner Vanover, The Promo Diva(R), is the publisher of Create the Dream magazine, http://www.createthedream.com, and the president of Market Outside the Box Trade Association, http://www.marketoutsidethebox.com. She works with private clients as a publicist, copywriter and consultant.
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