"HARNESS" column for Beefyboyz.com - May 2004
Ten Tips for Writing a Press Release
"I'm in charge of publicity for a leather/ bear event and need to write a release to send out to the local press. Do you have any advice?"
If you advertise with the publication or media outlet in question, then you can expect some editorial coverage in return for your investment. However, if you are not a paying advertiser they are under NO OBLIGATION to cover your event. None. You have to persuade them with the power of your prose.
You can be funny, you can be unique, you can be well presented, but the one thing you can't be is boring.
Here are some ways you can make your press release stand out:
- Buy a copy of the publication, or listen to the radio/ TV programme you wish to target and write your release in their house style.
Is the magazine full of smut? Then be sexy and funny in your release. Is the TV programme local news? Then write the release as if a local reporter is reading it to camera. In my opinion this is the single most important thing you can do. No one wants to read a generic piece of text that looks like it's gone to 100 outlets indiscriminately. They want to feel flattered that you've taken the time to get to know their output. If a media outlet wants to insert an item at the last minute they will look for the press release that requires the least amount of modification.
- Even if you can't target your press release to each individual publication, have something attention grabbing to say.
Too many releases are merely statements like "This event is here! It's on this date! We want you to come!" .... which beg the question: "why should we?" Consider what makes your event different. Is it the first time it's happened? Is a visiting speaker making their only appearance in your country or State that year? Is it a Hawaiian Luau in the middle of a Canadian winter? Decide on your unique selling point and make that the headline, followed by any other reasons why people should be interested in what you're doing.
- Spend time making the release well written, well presented and easy to understand.
Try to fit it on one side, double spaced, at least 10 point (if not 11), with correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. Avoid using too many adjectives, fancy language, clichés, exaggerations, jargon and exclamation marks. Write one thought per sentence and one sentence per thought. If it contains too many mistakes it's likely to be deleted or go in the bin.
- Include everything the journalist needs to know to write their article.
Make sure your press release answers all of the rookie journalist questions: "what, when, who, why and where". I often receive event information which does not include the date or city where the event is being held. It's as if the writer assumes that their event is so famous no-one would possibly need to be told where and when it is! When that happens, it's more food for the bin ...
- Place your paragraphs in order of importance.
It is unlikely that an editor will reprint the whole of your release. If they only print the first three paragraphs, does it still make sense? Put the most essential information at the top of the page, and background information about the event at the bottom. The first paragraph must be the strongest to grab the editor's attention.
- Make sure the release is approved by everyone you mention.
Don't assume that everyone involved with the event has given consent to their name appearing in the press. Show a draft copy to every person, club or company mentioned in your release, and obtain their approval before you send it out. Make sure members of the public have signed consent forms if you wish to use their names or pictures in publicity after the event.
- Make it as easy for the editor to contact you as possible.
Include your name, phone, email, website address, cell phone number and a second contact person if possible. Editors are busy people, if they try to contact you and can't get through then they will choose another event to cover.
- Be timely with your release.
Send your release out in good time before your event, at six week's notice for monthly publications, three week's notice for weekly papers and ten day's notice for last-minute news. (The deadline for daily papers is usually 3pm the day before.) If you want to issue a release after your event, do so within 24 hours. Yes, 24 hours. If you wait a week to write up the event it will no longer be newsworthy.
- Copy the text of the release into the body of the email, as opposed to an attachment.
Sometimes attachments are blocked and editors prefer the information to be right in front of them. Also check the size of the press release before you send it. I've received press releases which are 3 MB in size. Always ask before mailing large files.
- If the event has already happened, try to say something interesting about what went on.
Yes, we need to know the name of the person who won the contest or how much money you raised, but did anything else happen? Was your British visitor humiliated on stage? (very likely...) Was he a good sport? (after several vodkas...) Then put in a couple of anecdotes. They might not make it into the finished article but it will make the poor editor's day a little less dull, and (s)he's more likely to look forward to your next release.
Good luck with your event!
International Mr Leather 2003