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How to Write a Successful Press Release

Pete Cooper

If you manage to say the right things at the right time, and talk to the right people, you and the Press can have a mutually beneficial relationship.

Unfortunately, the burden is on you to maintain this relationship. The press have to deal with large numbers of people and other publications on a daily basis, this is the same with every press related association, whether it be Wired, The New York Times or a weekly magazine. As such, it’s important that you consider what the press want, as well as your own needs.

So what exactly does the press want? What we all want. They want their job to be easy, and they don't want their time wasted with pointless information.

By and large, most people who write professionally are pressed for time and have rapidly shifting priorities. They get very short deadlines for stories because it’s crucial for them to get stories out quickly before the competition does. They don't have the time or the inclination to look for deeper meaning in 99% of the material presented to them. Additionally, you will probably be telling them about things outside of their areas of expertise (if they know about technical news, they may not understand your web site about genetics for example, and vice versa), and they are likely to find what you are saying both difficult and boring. Presenting boring stories to the press is one of the worst things that you could ever do. Sure, present them with a wide stretch of information, but make sure it is stuff which is reportable. If it’s merely that you received your 10,000 customer then it probably isnt worth writing about. If that 10,000th customer won a car though, then it might prove more exciting.

Now we move onto your interests, so what do you want? You want two things. First, you want an occasional mention of your site/product or service in their publications, whether they are online or in the regular paper industry. More importantly, you want them to think of you and your product when some outside force (probably an editor or breaking news) makes your area of expertise or product interesting. This is extremely important to standard ‘reporters’, who want to make breaks with stories relevant to the current ‘hot topic’. Let's concentrate on the first object, getting mentioned in the press.

A press release is the orthodox way of accomplishing this objective. In a moment we'll dive into the mechanics of writing and distributing press releases. Most medium-large organizations/sites make press releases available, so it is important that you are not left out.

The second, more important objective should be your long term goal. The way to do this is by maintaining a low key relationship and by keeping it simple. Really simple. One word. The word may be different from one writer/editor to another, but for the two of you, that word is your mantra. Use it consistently and frequently. Every time the press does a story on viruses, McAfee is quoted. I assure you, that's not an accident.

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