How to Write a Killer Press Release

Press releases can be be a powerful PR tool that can promote key developments for your client. However, if written poorly, the media may ignore it no matter how newsworthy the topic.

To write an effective release, here are a few points you should carefully consider when sending your release to the media:
Pick your targets carefully. Many newspapers and trade publications routinely publish certain business happenings, especially promotions, new hires, or calendar listings of special events. While not exactly front-page news, these sections guarantee that you will get your client's name nto the paper or magazine, and you should take full advantage them.

Meet their needs. If you want a newspaper or television station to do a bigger story on your client, it needs to appeal to them. Your needs do not concern them, and they will run stories that serve their interests. But you can help pique their interest by making things easy for them.

Be available. Make sure your company's press release says the owner or CEO of your client company is available for interviews—that's whom reporters want to meet. Reporters also appreciate press releases that include the names of people who are not associated with your client but with whom they might speak for background information. Ask customers, vendors, business partners or industry experts if they would be willing to be interviewed. If they consent, include their names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses in your press release. Make your point quickly.

Don't be pushy. For the same reason, don't lead with an aggressive sales pitch. The hard sell doesn't work with most journalists. Don't say your client or product is "great" or "one-of-a-kind"—especially if it isn't. Instead, be specific. Tell the reader exactly what is unique about your product.

Include the basics. Your press release should always contain certain basic information: the name of a contact person, a phone number, e-mail and Web addresses, and your company's location. You should write a short paragraph that describes your client's business and use it at the end of every press release. Keep your sentences short, simple, and jargon-free.

Less is more. If your press release is longer than two pages, it's way too long. The best press releases fit on one page.

Consider the timing. Daily reporters -- print, broadcast, or online -- usually have daily deadlines for breaking news, but they may also be writing feature articles up to a month in advance. If you want feature coverage, send them releases at least a month prior to expected publication. Monthly magazines typically close their editorial content about two months in advance of the issue date. If you want a story to run in the May issue, you should submit the idea no later than February. Radio, television, and electronic journalists run short but timely stories based on breaking news. Given the dynamic nature of these media, be prepared to give an interview or a demonstration when they call.  Don't make mistakes. Always spell-check before you send out your press release. Also have someone else read it over for errors and omissions. Even professional writers make mistakes, and, if you aren't a professional writer, it's even more important to have a second set of eyes to check out anything you send. Remember you are sending your release to writers and editors -- and journalists are notoriously critical. A typo in a press release can label you and your client as "small-time" no matter how big your news may be.