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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How to Write Good Press Releases

Last week, I did a training session for some really nice folks at the Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library.

I covered how to write good press releases, how to communicate with the media, and how to prepare to be interviewed. Since I'm not only a marketing person but also a member of the media (who has been press-released to death over the past 20 years), I'm in a good position to give advice on this topic.

Here are some of my rules for writing press releases that members of the media will actually read:

  • If you're emailing your PR, make a clear, useful subject line. Subjects like "Press Release" or "Dempsey Library News" are not helpful. Tell the busy reporter exactly what you're talking about in the subject: "Obama to Speak at Dempsey Library."

  • Include the name & contact info for at least one library rep; two if you can. You should use contact people who are always available to the media whenever they might need to call. A staffer who only works on Mon-Wed-Fri is not a good choice. (If your PR person is part-time, always list a second contact. Reporters on deadline cannot wait; contacts must be easy for them to reach now.)

  • You all know to include the "who, what, when, where, why" prominently at the beginning of your press release. I advocate mentioning it again near the end, just to make it easier to find when busy reporters or editors skim.

  • Write clearly and with focus. Don't try to be too clever. Media people who are reading your PRs want to know in 15 seconds what's going on. Don't try to make them figure it out; just get right to the facts. This is not the place for creative writing.

  • Shorter, clearer PRs are always better than longer, fluffier ones.

These are just a few of my basic points, but they are ignored too often by those (librarians or otherwise) who are beginning PR writers. Take them to heart and your media contacts will appreciate it, I assure you!


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Nancy Dowd said...

Great post!

A tip- don't forget to post all press releases on your web site and include key words in the headline and text!

Another tip- if you have news that won't make the newspapers, write it up anyway and post online. The only difference is that you can drop the AP style and add a bit of PR flair to make it interesting for your readers.

A sure bet many libraries forget about- send a photo and short caption to business sections for new hires. Also send to person's local paper, college alumni magazine and library trades.

~Kathy Dempsey said...

Good additions Nancy. There's so much to know about PR writing... I know we could both add lots more, but then this would turn into a book instead of a blog...

I couldn't agree more about libraries needing to send out more personnel announcements. As an editor who has long tried to fill "People" sections in my publications, I've always wondered why so few libs announce their new hires... and never send headshots either! The library press wants and needs these; don't ignore this chance for free publicity about your great professionals!!