Think of a press release as your ticket to publicity -- one that can get your company coverage in all kinds of publications or on TV and radio stations.
First, be sure you have a good reason for sending a press release. A grand opening, a new product, a record-setting sales year, a new location or a special event are all good reasons.
Second, make sure your press release is appropriately targeted for the publication or broadcast you're sending it to. The editor of Road & Track is not going to be interested in a new baby pacifier you've invented.
It sounds obvious, but many entrepreneurs make the mistake of sending press releases at random without considering a publication's audience.
To ensure readability, your press release should follow the standard format: typed, double-spaced, on white letterhead with a contact person's name, title, company, address and phone number in the upper right-hand corner.
Below the information, put a brief, eye-catching headline in bold type. A dateline, for example, "Los Angeles, California, April 10, 2010" follows, leading into the first sentence of the release.
Limit your press release to one of two pages at most. It should be just long enough to cover the six basic elements: who, what, when, where, why and how. The answers to these six questions should be mentioned in order of their importance to the story to save the editor time and space.
Don't embellish or hype the information. Remember, you are not writing the article, you are merely presenting the information and showing why it is relevant to that publication in hopes that they will write about it.
Pay close attention to grammar and spelling. Competition for publicity is intense, and a press release full of typos and errors is more likely to get tossed aside.
Some business owners use attention-getting gimmicks to get their press releases noticed. In most cases, this is a waste of money. If your release is well-written and relevant, you don't need singing telegrams or a bouquet of flowers to get your message across.
Once you reach the reporter on the telephone, remember that he or she is extremely busy and probably on deadline. Be courteous, and ask if he or she has time to talk. If not, offer to call back at a more convenient time.
If the reporter can talk to you, keep your initial pitch to 20 seconds; afterward, offer to send written information to support your story ideas.
Know exactly what you're going to say before you telephone the reporter. Have it written down in front of you -- it's easier, and you'll feel more confident. Don't be a pest. You can easily be persistent without being annoying.
Be helpful and become a resource by providing reporters with information. Remember, they need your story ideas. There are only so many they can come up with on their own.
Always remember that assistants get promoted. Be nice to everyone you speak with, no matter how low they are on the totem pole. After you establish a connection, keep in touch; you never know where people will end up.