From Alexandra Greer –

Free publicity sounds like a great way to get your business name out there and known – and it is…. But only if you know how to do it and do it right. It's all very well writing a 'press release' about your company or a new product, but if you don't know how to present it to the journalist you are targeting then, no matter how fancy it may look or how great you think your new product is, then the release WON'T get published. And that's the key – a lot of publicity consultants or gurus or the like will tell you that you have to write your release for your target audience, and yes you do, but they are nowhere near as important as the (possibly hungover and/or very grumpy) journo who decides whether your target audience ever even sees it!

As a journalist by trade, and having been raised and trained by one of the best photo-journalists in the world (and here I am not kidding, my late father was awarded, among other things, The Photographer of the Year Award for his work in Vietnam), I know how journalists think – I AM one!

I am also a publicity person! I have seen both sides of the coin and know how to win the toss – heads or tails. I know how to talk to them as a fellow 'conspirator' if you will and not a PR person who wants to get a piece of non-descript news into the publication. And that brings me to the main point of this article.

Having information to give to a journalist is not enough. He or she will have hundreds of press releases coming at them every week or month (the nationals – every day!). So you have to set yourself apart – find a new spin on an old story, and believe me no matter how wonderful or exciting you think your company or your new product is, that journo will have probably heard it all before.

Think of your angle – it has to be catchy, relevant and newsworthy.

Get a great headline that sums up what the release is about but is also either attention grabbing or a clever play on words – this is where you hook them in!

Write your release in the house style of each particular publication so they don't have to re-write it – they LOVE not having to re-write stuff.

Keep it as short as you can but giving all the relevant information (relevant to the angle of the release and not when your company was established, for example) – if they want to know more they will call you (don't forget your contact information.)

After your press release ends, then you can include a Notes To Editors section giving all the background info you want – this tells the journo that this info isn’t crucial to the release but if they need to fill a bit of extra space then you have just made it that much easier for them.

And if you can provide a picture – not a product one – but one with faces and action then great. A press release with a picture is more likely to get used than one without, and a release with an interesting picture is much more likely to be used (don't forget to provide a caption with your picture including names if you can.)

Finally, make sure that you have stated a release date on the top of your release, that your logo and contact details are on the top of it and it says somewhere on it in big bold letters PRESS RELEASE – journalists just DON’T have time to work out what they are reading, sounds silly, but trust me there is nothing worse than trying to figure out what you have been sent and more importantly why you should even bother reading it.

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