Q: Last week I sent my first press release for the personal chef business I'm starting to a small, local paper. I used a template other personal chefs around the country have been successful with. I sent the release by e-mail, because the paper listed an e-mail address for news stories.
The next day the publisher of the paper responded: "Stop sending this trash. We don't print puff." I felt like I had been slapped in the face. Was this a normal response, or is this guy just lacking professionalism and manners? Am I being overly sensitive?
A: While we don't believe you committed any gross errors, and the response you got was unusual, there's a lot you can do to get a better reception.
Since this was a local paper, might you have delivered your release in person? Your business is food, so you could have lubricated your reception with a sample. Chances are, this publisher, who may be a one-person shop, is under stress and could use some TLC. If not, the impression he gave of being a lout is true. After all, as a local entrepreneur, you're a potential advertiser and already a reader.
In general, you should send a news release to the person responsible for editing the section of the paper you're targeting. To get that section editor's name, check the paper's masthead or a directory like Bacon's Newspaper Directory or at most public libraries). If the articles have bylines, call or e-mail the reporter and ask whom you should send a news release to and how that person prefers to receive it-whether by mail, e-mail or fax.
In writing a news release, remember you're not writing an ad-you're imparting information. Make sure the editor sees the potential value to readers. Keep the release brief and exciting. Omit most adjectives, use action verbs, and eliminate nonessential descriptions. Give your story local flavor. For example, if you prepare diabetic-safe meals, a statistic on the number of diabetics in your community helps localize your story.
Focus on one point per release and make sure your release answers who, what, when, where, why and how. Organize the information from the most important to the least. Finally, develop an attention-grabbing headline.
Even if your news release doesn't lead to a specific feature, don't be discouraged. If you continue sending interesting, relevant materials, chances are, you'll eventually get attention.
Self-employment experts Paul and Sarah Edwards are the authors of 14 books. Send them your start-up business questions at www.workingfromhome.com or through us at Entrepreneur.