The Basics of Tip Sheets

Get publicity by providing publications with useful information.

Q: Sometimes I seelists of tips on various subjects printed in newspapers andmagazines with the name and Web address of the author at the end ofthe list. This seems to me to be a very effective way to get freepublicity, but how do you go about getting these lists to editors?Do they call you on the phone and interview you, or do you sendthem the tips?

A: They'recalled tip sheets, and they're a very powerful way to getthousands of dollars in free publicity without ever having to buyan ad or spend a cent. Most of the tip sheets you see in the mediaare sent to media outlets.

A tip sheet is a simple list of six to a dozen tips that tellpeople how to do something-usually how to solve a particularproblem. Examples:

"7 Waysto Complain About Bad Customer Service-and Get What YouWant"
"8 Tax Tipsthe IRS Wishes You Didn't Know"
"11 MistakesYou Don't Want to Make When Buying a Used Car"
"9 Easy Waysto Winterproof Your Home"

Editors love them because they're ready-made lists thatrequire no extra work on the part of the reporter. So they canreprint them verbatim. TV stations love them because they providecontent for the short bulleted lists that are flashed on the screenand often accompany stories. Sometimes even editorial writers usethe sheets as fodder for their editorials.

Anyone can write a tip sheet, usually in less than an hour.Here's an example of a tip sheet I wrote that explains how towrite tip sheets. Notice the identifier paragraph at the end thatgives contact information and leads people to my Web site.

8 Tips for Tip Sheets ThatPosition You as an Expert
1. Use numerals in theheadline. There's something psychologically enticing aboutthem.

2. Limit the tips to onepage. Six to 12 tips is ideal.

3. Start with the first tipimmediately after the headline. You don't need an introductorysentence.

4. Begin each tip with averb.

5. Tell people what to do inthe first sentence. If you use a second sentence, it should explain"how" or "why."

6. Avoid the temptation topromote yourself or what you're selling in the tips. Instead of"9 Reasons to Buy Car Insurance from the Honest InsuranceCompany," write "9 Ways to Save When Buying CarInsurance."

7. Use tip sheets to tieyour company to an upcoming holiday, to lobby for a particularissue, or when you're introducing a new product or service. Ifyou're a seamstress who specializes in custom-made clothing,your tip sheet might be "9 Things to Look For in Well-TailoredClothes."

8. Let your tip sheet doubleas a news release.

Tip sheets can also be used in your media kit, at trade shows,to stay in touch with customers, on your Web site, offered free atyour store, or used as a premium for current customers if they buysomething by a particular date.

Joan Stewart is the "Ask the Experts" PR columnistfor Sign up for her free e-zine, The Publicity HoundisTips of the Week.

The opinions expressed in this column arethose of the author, not of All answers areintended to be general in nature, without regard to specificgeographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied uponafter consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney oraccountant.

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