How to write press releases that will get the media's attention

Whether you're announcing a new product or an appointment to your executive team, you need the media's help getting your message out.

Whether you're announcing a new product or an appointment to your executive team, you need the media's help getting your message out. After all, if the public or others in the industry doesn't view your company as making significant progress or standing out in your field, then they won't think of you when they're ready to buy.

So how do you get the media, whether mainstream publications, television or the trade press, to take notice and feature your company in their pages or on their show? The key is to write and regularly send out media announcements that elicit attention.

Unfortunately, most sheet metal and HVAC contractors don't know how to write effective media announcements. In their attempt to supply the media with information that generates interest, they inadvertently write nothing more than a long and often boring advertisement that ultimately ends up in the trash.

The fact is that 95 percent of all media announcements never make it past an editor's or producer's desk. So your goal is to make your media announcement one of the 5 percent that actually gets read and acted upon, not tossed in the recycling pile or trash.

So what exactly is a media announcement? It's typically a one-page announcement of some newsworthy event. Depending on your company, your news item could be the fact that you merged with another company, that you have a new spokesperson, that you have a new and improved product, or that you won an industry award.

Realize that your media announcement is definitely not an advertisement. If you want to place an ad for your company, then call the publication's or station's advertisement department. They'll be happy to help you.

Regardless of what you're announcing, all successful media announcements follow a few writing and formatting rules. As you create your media announcement, be sure to adhere to the following:

Size matters

Use a clear typeface on 8 1/2- by 11-inch paper with 1-inch margins. Times New Roman in 10-, 11- or 12-point font is best and keep the announcement to one page. If you have to make your print tiny in order to squeeze in additional details, then you're saying too much. Three hundred words or so is all you get to make your point.

As William Shakespeare said, "Brevity is the soul of wit." In the case of media announcements, "Brevity is the showcase of your wits."

Know your focus

Even though you likely have many exciting things happening in your company at the same time, your media announcement must focus on only one. Nothing turns the media off more than an announcement that attempts to cover multiple topics or goes off on various tangents.

Prior to writing your announcement, determine the one specific topic your press release will be about. Resist the temptation to add side points or to brag about unrelated items. While you may believe that giving additional information enables the media to select something that interests them, in reality you're simply showing that you're unprofessional. Keep your focus laser sharp at all times.

Grab 'em early

Craft a compelling headline that immediately conveys why your information is important. If you've ever wondered how important headlines really are, consider the facts: First, you have exactly five seconds to impress the media enough to continue reading. And your headline is the first thing people see. If your headline is weak, then no one will bother reading the rest of your announcement. Second, studies say great headlines can increase the response to your announcement by as much as 2,100 percent. That's a huge response, and well worth the additional effort it takes to create a winning headline.

The most popular headline style for the media is the "new formula" (state the new product, service, or thing, then state the benefits). Such a headline works because people naturally respond to new things. Plus, using the word "new" in a headline sparks curiosity. Some examples include: "New CEO of ABC Company Puts a Focus Back to the Customers" and "New Widget 1000 Increases ABC Company's Profits by 2,000 Percent."

Be clear

State the purpose of your media announcement in the first paragraph. Never expect someone to search for information or the "point" of your announcement. If media professionals can't understand your message immediately, then they'll think it's too complicated to be conveyed in a two-minute radio or TV spot, or in a one-paragraph story.

Use quotes liberally

Talk to the media directly in your announcement. Show them that you're not just a faceless company trying to get some free press. Quote your CEO, a member of your executive team, your spokesperson, or even a key client in your media release.

Write it right

Sure, you want to gain attention, so breaking a few grammar rules for added impact or emphasis is OK. But don't overdo it or you may appear careless. Remember, you're showing the media your professionalism and selling your ideas. If your announcement is riddled with errors, the media will think your company is too. Always have another qualified person read your announcement prior to sending it out.

Who you gonna call?

Always prominently list your company's contact information, including a person, phone number, Web site and e-mail address. The goal of any media announcement is to elicit attention and get them to call you for more information. If they have to hunt for your contact info, they likely won't bother.

Write your way into the headlines

Media announcements are a great way to keep your company's name in the limelight. And the more you structure your announcement according to the media's preferences, the higher your chances of being one of the few that gets results. When you follow these rules for creating media announcements, you'll reap the rewards of more name recognition, which ultimately leads to higher profits.