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Effective News/Press Releases
After 22 years in the newspaper business, I offer you these thoughts:
- Keep 'em short. If you can't hook the editor in two or three paragraphs, you won't do it in 3
- Do not hesitate to highlight with a colored marker the city where you are from. This helps
local editors understand quickly that you can be the "local angle" to a national story. Remember
that scientific studies have shown most editors take only 5 seconds to read a release and make a
decision whether or not to use it.
- A news release sent to an editor with a customized cover letter suggesting a specific angle
that fits in well with the publication is always helpful. If you're sending out 100 copies of a news
release, this idea isn't practical. So pick your 5 top publications, and send customized letters to
- Never, EVER call an editor after you send a release and ask: "Did you get my news release?
Do you know when it will be printed?" This will brand you as a pest--one of 99 pests who have
called that day and asked the same question. A far better strategy is to call and say, "I'm just
calling to follow up on the news release I sent you three days ago on my new book blah, blah,
blah.....You might be interested in knowing that the topic ties in with a story you had on
Page 1 of today's paper," or "I'm calling to let you know that there's a good photo opportunity
that ties into my release," or something like that. You can also tell them you are calling to find out
if they need more info. Most newsroom people are far too busy to drop what they're doing and
sift through 300 news releases to see if your arrived. Many PR people disagree with this. To that,
I say, "You haven't worked in a newsroom, have you?"
- If possible, send news releases to a specific reporter, not just "Newsroom." That way, you can
follow up with the specific reporter.
- Sometimes, at the bottom of a news release about me, I will add something like this: "Joan
Stewart is a media relations consultant who can be used as an expert source on the topics of
media relations, crisis communications, marketing for small businesses, and how to use the media
to recruit and retain employees."
- Include phone and e-mail contact info at the top of the release.
- If you know the publication accepts e-mail releases, write much shorter than you would for a
print publication. A good idea is to just offer a paragraph or two, then provide a link to the longer
- NEVER send news releases as attachments.
- Eliminate all jargon in news releases. I've read thousands of news releases loaded with
industry definitions, particularly those dealing with technology. Makes me scratch my head and
- Post news releases at your web site.
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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