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How to write and target a news release

The most profitable and often overlooked free publicity generator is the news release. News releases are not only great marketing tools but also far more credible and believable than advertising since they appear to come from an objective third party. All too often, however, business owners view news releases as a form of advertising. If you're guilty of this, the media will most likely tell you that you should have called the advertising department instead.

The media are constantly on the lookout for good stories that are of interest to their audience. Reporters, writers, and particularly editors also have a particular interest in reporting on stories that help to enhance sponsorship interest in the medium that they represent. So, what makes a good story? While the answer to such a subjective question can be difficult, here are a few pointers in order to guide you in writing and targeting your news releases.

Be Newsworthy

More often than not, reporters like stories that are related to a current event or issue, or those that have emotional appeal. They also like stories that appeal to a wide audience, which is particularly true for the larger media. Targeted or specialized media, on the other hand, love to report on stories that appeal to their specific market and in turn help to capture more of it.

A news release should "tickle" reporters. In other words, it should provide enough information to generate interest but just enough to incite them to want to know more. In doing so, it is only logical that it must provide good contact information if they wish to follow-up. (You would be amazed to know how many news releases fail to mention even the simplest of things, like a phone number or a contact name.) It must give all of the relevant data (i.e., phone numbers, email and postal addresses, contact name, dates, references, etc).

More important, your news release must be devoid of any conspicuous fluff. Remember that a reporter is not just a middleperson whose job is to report your story for you. Keep in mind that your release must sell the reporter on your story as well. Therefore, write it to read like a story. Look at it from the reporter's perspective. In other words, write the story for them.

News releases are often used as excellent business tools. They can announce important company changes, new recruits or appointments within the organization, recently or soon-to-be launched products or services, and so on. There are many more ways that new releases may be used, including identity branding or pre-empting negative publicity. In short, it could be anything new -- hence, the preference of the word "news release" over "press release."

Be First

Being the first in some way is an effective tool that can also help spark more interest in your news release. If you can support the fact that your firm is the first to provide a certain product or service, that your product or service is the first in its category, that you're the first to provide an ordinary product or service in a unique way, or that your event is the first or the largest in its category, you can and should use that information in your news release.

A company claiming to be the best is certainly not a news item. But a company claiming to be the first in some way is. Capitalize on that leadership when approaching the media. Try to sell your story in a different way, possibly with a new angle or twist. Adding your unique experience, even blending your story with a current news item or issue, will up your chances.

For example, someone sends out a news release in which he announces the opening of his new company. Sounds like a trivial story? It's not if that person suffers from a disability. In other words, bring your unique angle into your news release. Give it a human feel. The key is to capture the reporter's interest. It must appeal to him or her and not just the marketplace.

Be Unique

For a great example of an effective news release, see one by Leslie Spencer at http://www.bizine.com/prhbwm.htm. She sells memberships in her company called "Home-Based Working Moms," which offers information and resources for home-based businesses run specifically by mothers. Her goal was to get exposure to, and to increase memberships of, a specific target market. (By catering to a specific niche, Leslie also follows the first rule.)

She wrote an excellent release that successfully blended the benefits of her business with a current and important social issue: The challenges faced by work-at-home mothers. Her news release, entitled "The New Entrepreneur: Shorts, Shirt and... a Stroller? Moms Find Ways to Combine Career with Children," provides the media with a great story to tell.

Remember that the media get thousands of releases each day. So being unique or having a unique story to tell is what can often captivate attention. For example, if your release is about an event, then how different, unique, or special is your event when compared to any other? Think of it this way: If you were a reporter and had your release in your hands while at the same time there is another interesting story on which you could report, what would cause you to choose your story above the other? The answer is by being different.

Be Focused

Finally, targeting the media is just as important as targeting your market. Special features writers, columnists, radio show hosts, special interest publications, and specific programs are particularly beneficial for two reasons. First, targeting your release to specific reporters, news anchors, or programs (instead of the newsroom or media entity) increases your chances. While it may require a little investigating, remember that the media are made up of people. They like the personalized approach just as much as your clients do.

Second, targeting your news release is more effective for the purposes of marketing since it will be reported in a medium that caters to your specific target market. Ask: "Where does my niche or target market hang out? What publications do they read? What shows do they watch? What radio programs do they prefer?" Your hit ratio will thus increase proportionately.

A previous article mentioned that targeting your release is just as important as market targeting (http://SuccessDoctor.com/articles/article5.htm). The media love to report on stories that inform or affect their specific audience. And if that audience matches your own, you'll know that your story will be noticed by people that are in a more qualified position to buy from you. The more focused you are the greater the outcome you will achieve.

About the author
Michel Fortin is a direct response copywriter and consultant dedicated to turning sales messages into powerful magnets. Get a free copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning," when you subscribe to his free monthly ezine, "The Profit Pill." See http://SuccessDoctor.com/ now!

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