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The Cardinal Rules of Creating a Press Release

Don't annoy editors and reporters with an amateur press release. Follow these guidelines.

If your press releases aren't getting any press, chances are you're breaking one or more of the cardinal rules-rules by which most reporters and editors live by when it comes to public relations. Before you send out a release, ask yourself these questions:

1. Have you done your homework? A big-and understandable-pet peeve of reporters and editors is that too many pitches display an ignorance of the publication's editorial slant and content needs. In other words, just because you're a fan of tech magazine Red Herring, that doesn't mean you should submit a press release to its editor on your gift basket business. (This might sound like common sense, but you'd be surprised at the number of pitches that so blatantly miss their target.) The cardinal rule here is to be sure that you're familiar with the kinds of articles your targeted publication publishes.

2. Have you spelled your recipient's name correctly? If you can't take the time to make sure a reporter or editor's name is spelled correctly, how can you expect him or her to take your business seriously? Enough said.

3. Does your release have a unique angle? It's not enough that you own a gift basket business. To get ink, you need to persuade an editor to be interested in your business. To make an editor care, offer them something unique, whether it's an interesting background story about yourself or how you got the idea for your product or service. Similarly, unusual obstacles on how you got your business started can be just as titillating. Just don't say, "It all started in a garage." (That was one of Bill Gates' lines).

4. Have you included all the necessary contact information? Again, this isn't brain surgery, but if you hope to display a modicum of professionalism, you need to make sure the editor knows whom to contact when he or she has questions or decides to run your release. In most cases, you'll be the sole contact listed. But if you're working in conjunction with a PR agency or a partner who helped you create a product, those names will also need to be included. Include all contact information-address, phone number, fax number, e-mail address and Web site-so the publication can contact you in their preferred manner.

Editor's note: To learn how to successfully distribute your new and improved press release, check out the second half of our PR lesson in next month's "Marketing" column.
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