Please do not include the day’s date when making a press release. I know what day it is. My email tells me the date received. The file will even tell me the creation date, if I’m that interested. It is anachronistic, and it is superfluous information.
Some other modern press release style notes I made for a friend after the break:
The obvious job of a press releases is to generate favorable coverage (and inform). Mostly, it revolves around understanding the recipients of your press release, rather than pure eloquence.
Remember that these recipients are gatekeepers. Generally, people want to do the most amount of work for the least amount of effort. The easier you can make your recipient’s job and the more time you can save them, the better chance you have of achieving the results you want. In a last minute pinch, your recipient is going to grab the item that is the clearest with the most amount of additional resources. A good photo / art can win every time, but descriptive paragraphs, quotes, links, graphs–whatever–are always looked upon favorably. Especially when it means your recipient doesn’t have to track it down or create it themselves.
99% of press releases are emails. Let’s stop doing things like listing the press release’s date (Internet knows when you sent it) and making subject lines horribly opaque (they’re looking at 200+ emails–please clearly tell them when and who you are). An ideal email press release should have all of the information the recipient would ever need without being overwhelming or presented in a garish, jumbled manner.
The recipient should have enough information to never have a need to contact you (unless for interviews, other specifics or whatever). Yes, of course, you still want them to contact you.
SUBJECT LINE: “07.31.2009 – Name of the Event + Special Guest.” Keep this short and simple. Always start with the date. This is how most people will organize the press releases they have received (and queued up) in their inboxes.
First: Tell the who, what, when, where, $, address, phone, email, website, etc. at the very beginning. This is the meat recipients are looking for. Don’t make them hunt for it.
Second: Provide your contact info (versus the event info or whatever). This is also where you briefly entice with interview availability and “extras.” Be saucy: people pay attention to things they’re told they may not be able to have.
Third: a couple paragraphs outlining the who, what, when, etc. in detail. This is your chance to shine and catch someone’s eye. You’re shooting for either choice nuggets they can lift whole-cloth (yes, plagiarize), or themes they may be able to expand into greater coverage. The more detail, the better, but don’t go crazy. Anything more than three smallish paragraphs, and you are pushing the limits of the human attention span. They have 200 press releases that take 30 seconds each to read. Do the math. Are they as attentive / receptive reading the last one as the first?
Fourth: Website links, if you have them. These would be event participants, reviews or additional information. Each should only need a one sentence explanation. Make sure you type out the URL completely so it can be an active link in their email (i.e. http://www.. versus just www..). Avoid linking to stupid websites with crazy music and shit. These people are at their desks at work.
Fifth: Attachments. If you have written a more detailed write-up beyond the three paragraphs, include it here in a Word .DOC or similar format. Do not send text-only press releases as PDFs. People want to be able to copy and paste your descriptive words to save themselves time. Help them. PDFs and JPGs are great for images, logos and art, but should be included separately–not in the text document. All of this can be sent at once (email writeup, .DOC, .PDF). The point of sending the same information in multiple ways (in the email, in the .DOC, linking to your website) is everyone works different. Multiple options make your press releases flexible to fit different work styles.
A side note on art: An email over 10MB is probably too much, but otherwise, send your photos, logos and art as big as possible. A compelling image is desired, but art has to be the correct size to print clearly. Bigger is better. Send multiple versions, if you have them. Just don’t go completely crazy. Keep all attachments at the very bottom of your email so as not to interfere with the basic info.
Find out when submission deadlines are. Find out when submission deadlines are and memorize them. Now exceed expectations. A writer can’t turn your press release into a story if you send it in at 4:45 on a Friday afternoon. Generally, most media outlets ask for submissions one week in advance, but everyone is different. An easy way is to work everything around the earliest. Find out when submission deadlines are and memorize them.
Your first press release should be brief and sent about 8-6 weeks in advance. There is no hard rule for this. You’ll have to gauge it yourself.
Your second press release should be at the halfway point (4-3 weeks in advance). This is a good time to (re)highlight interview opportunities, photo opportunities, extra promotional material available upon request, etc.
For the third press release, your goal is to ensure coverage for the week of your event. Send it to recipients a few days before their deadline.
You can send a press release the week of your event, but realize that it is now nearly useless for traditional media. If you are targeting individuals, mail list members, last minute remindings, bloggers, etc., there is utility, though. Just realize that that audience is slightly different.
Squeaky wheel gets the grease.