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Brushing Up on Some Press Release Basics

Even seasoned public relations pros sometimes need to be reminded what makes for the most effective press release. Whether you’re a press release newbie or have written hundreds of releases during your career, the following tips should serve as a reminder of what to do—and maybe more importantly, what not to do.

1. Don’t put an important press release out on a weekend. The press release wires are slow on the weekend and generally companies who are trying to hide news or put out a press release to satisfy a contractual commitment with a partner send out something on the weekend. The weekend press release will get ignored and it will be a waste of money and time for all involved.

2. Is Friday a good day to put out a press release? Yes and no. Yes if you put it out first thing in the morning and work the phone. Friday is a good day to work the media because you’ll usually find people in better moods with the weekend coming up. But be careful. I’ve seen people put out press releases on Friday and then inexplicably take off early and not return calls until Monday. What was the point of letting the press release fester for sixty hours while a voicemail message about it sat unreturned?

3. Should I put my press release out in the morning or afternoon? Mornings are best, but don’t do it too early. If you put out a press release at 7:00 AM, it may end up ignored. By the time journalists get through everything in their inbox, there are already 200 other releases that have come after yours. Public companies generally put out releases before 9:30 AM EST if they want to beat the opening bell on Wall Street. Private firms should wait until after 9:30 AM and let the big guys have their say. Afternoon press releases should hit before 4:00 PM EST to avoid after the market close releases from public companies. And of course to give journalists enough time to meet daily deadlines.

4. How about putting out a press release around the holidays? Avoid press releases the day before Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s and on the Friday before a three-day weekend unless the release has something to do with the holiday or is absolutely necessary because of the timing.

5. The vacation press release. Here’s a simple tip: Do not put out a press release and then go on vacation. No joke, I’ve received press releases and called the contact info listed on the release only to find the contact has gone on vacation. If you’re planning on going on vacation, any releases in the two or three days preceding your departure should list someone else as the contact.

6. Contact information. Ask any journalist and they will tell you that they want the following contact information listed on all press releases: a single person of contact with a direct phone number and direct email address. You should also include your web site’s URL in every press release if applicable. And to those who don’t put contact info down for strategic reasons, you should know that from a journalist’s point of view it makes your company look shady. In fact, most newswires won’t issue a press release without an actual press contact and telephone number.

7. If I’ve partnered with a company, should we both put out press releases? I’ve never understood the concept of dueling press releases. I’ll often see a partnership or deal announced and see both companies involved put out a press release. Sometimes it’s necessary, as with a merger or acquisition. Other times it’s a waste of time and money. Work with your business partners to put out a single, coherent press release announcing a deal. Put out the release with contact info for both companies and devise a plan ahead of time for both public relations teams to communicate and deal with media inquiries effectively.

8. A press release is an announcement, not a marketing gimmick. Think of a press release as an oral statement. Imagine having to read the release in front of a room full of people with cameras, microphones and tape recorders. A press release should be unemotional and to the point, not full of catch phrases and attempts at subtle advertising.

9. Should I post the press release on my web site immediately after putting it on the wire? Yes. Why wouldn’t you? As soon as that sucker hits the wires, put it on your web site. Often times I’ll see a press release on the wire, read the headline, and then move onto something else. But the headline will stick in my mind, especially with a deadline fast approaching. I’d rather be able to just go to the company’s website and find it than sift through the wire.

10. Need to send out a correction? Why did you screw up in the first place? The first press release I ever sent out for my web site included an incorrect date that confused journalists and basically ruined the release. The fault was all mine because I didn’t check the release for factual errors. I was excited and my brain froze. But that’s no excuse. The press release failed and journalists were even more miffed when I sent out a correction, further flooding their inboxes with a release they had already read or ignored. Take the time to fact and spell check your press release. It will save you time, money and grief.

Once again, these are just some basic press release tips and pointers to make your life easier. In a perfect world, every press release gets media coverage and every journalist reads every press release. This is not a perfect world, but by following some basic rules, you’ll be able to accomplish your public relations tasks easier. The payoff will be a press release that screams, “Read me and write about me!”

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.


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