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By: Krista L. Mohr
President, MarketInK.

1. Only issue press releases that are newsworthy.
What is a newsworthy press release? In general, a newsworthy press release addresses issues that your prospects or customers are grappling with and demonstrates why they, as well as the press, should care about the press release as well as your company. Here are some examples: a new service offered by your company that has unique positioning against competitors;
a new product (1); a special pricing deal; a product or service bundle; an announcement with another vendor such as a strategic alliance or joint development; results of a survey which positively impacts your business; several key customer wins; winning some sort of contest; and so on.

Keep in mind that a newsworthy release doesn’t guarantee that it will be covered immediately, or at all, in your target publications. There are different levels of news that can be assigned to press releases. For example, a Level I release is newsworthy, has customer references, and industry analyst references. These releases are posted on a wire service and are typically covered. A Level II release is newsworthy and has one type of reference such as a vendor, a customer, or an industry analyst. These releases are typically posted on a wire service and have over a 50% chance of being covered. A Level III release is newsworthy and is basically an FYI to keep people up to date on your company. An example might be winning a contest, or a new service or pricing offering which lacks an analyst reference. Level III may be posted to the wire. This type of release is typically mailed to your target editorial list and to customers/prospects. Level III releases issued by start ups have less than a 50% chance of being covered but are an important way to maintain editorial mindshare.

2. Define Target Press List .
Your target press list consists of the names, addresses, phone, fax, and email addressed of the key press you’d like to cover your company and technology. Press lists can typically be divided into three parts which include: Tier 1 press, or press and freelance reporters who write for publications that publish weekly or bi-weekly; Tier 2 press, target monthly publications; and Tier 3 publications typically include your target vertical market publications, like Selling Power, given that the vertical marketplace (in this case consists of sales professionals) is not your primary customer/prospect base.

Your tier 1, 2, and 3 press lists may include a variety of publication types. Trade press are reporters or editors of publications in your specific area of business. For example, if you are in the PC business, PC Week would be one of your target trade publications; or Rolling Stone might be a target publication if you have a music-oriented product or site. Business publications focus mainly on business. These publications, such as the Wall Street. Journal, do have a variety of reporters and columnists including the technology "beat" or area. Articles in business publications typically cover topics/news from a business angle such as how the technology is changing the way a company does business.

When developing your target press list, make sure you determine who at the publication covers your product or service area. Do not use a blanket distribution strategy to disseminate your press release to publications. It drives reporters and editors crazy. Netpreneur Exchange has a list of technology and Internet beat Reporters and Media Contacts you can use to get started building distribution plan, just remember that journalists frequently move between beats and publications.

3. Capture the reader’s attention with the headline.
In order to capture the reporter’s attention, the
headline (2) is in all capital letters, boldfaced, succinct, includes an action verb, and gives a benefit if possible. Let’s say you’re issuing a press release on a new version of a product. The headline should be something like:


Net Impact Announces its new product E@SY and its Entry
to the Marketplace

The first four or five words are what people will see when they log into the wire services such as PR Newswire and Business Wire. Wire services are discussed in #10.

The text underneath the headline is called the subtitle. The subtitle is just that-- additional title information that explains the news value of your press release. It’s not necessary to include a subtitle.

4. Include your product’s positioning, key features, and benefits to end users.
Positioning, key features, and benefits (3) are key elements that press will want to include in an article. Positioning is something that can be conveyed succinctly in a company representative quote or in the first or second paragraph of the release. Key features and benefits are deserving of their own subhead (capital letters and lower case) in the press release.

5. Include a customer and, or analyst quote if possible.
Including a
customer or analyst quote (4) in your release helps raise its level of newsworthiness and chance of being covered by the press. It’s also helpful to offer these references to key press contacts to encourage them to write an interesting article. You will need to obtain permission from the analyst or customer to take press calls, and you will want to coach them on what to say before the press release is issued. It’s also wise to call customers to let them know a member of the press will be calling.

6. Include a quote from the president of your company or other appropriate spokesperson.
Including a
quote from the president (5) or company spokesperson is a useful way to convey what the release means to the company and its future. (It also promotes the name to the press to get exposure.)

7. Include pricing and availability information.
Your press release must include
pricing information, (6) such as the cost for software or subscription fees for content products. Sometimes exact pricing may be inappropriate, for example with consulting services or businesses based on advertising model. In such cases, provide as much information as appropriate, especially if it is a key distinguishing feature of your business, site, product, or service. Price points are facts reporters want to include in an article. If you make the pricing information succinct, it helps ensure accurate coverage. If you don’t want to list the high-end pricing, give an example for typical customer usage.

Press will want to include availability information (7) in a subsequent article - whether the product/service is available immediately or within a few months. Keep in mind that you will also want to include where the product or service can be purchased as well as number to call to make the purchase. For example, let the reader know if the product or service is available directly from your company or through an integrator or other reseller. If the product may be purchased over the Internet, let the reader know the URL.

8. Include contact information for press to receive additional information.
So press know with whom to follow up, it’s important to include company contact information, a telephone number as well as an email address, at the top of the press release under the heading
"For more information contact." (8) Contacts are typically whoever handles marketing or marketing communications for your company, and your PR representative if you have one. It is also crucial to include your company’s boilerplate (9), which is essentially your company’s mission and strategy, at the end of the press release. You will also want to include your company’s URL address in the boilerplate. For releases about joint ventures or partnerships, it’s common to include contacts from each company.

9. Remember press release formatting rules.
Your press release should be double spaced or 1.5 spaced with the appropriate usage of boldfaced characters. Also, your press release should be succinct and not exceed three pages in length. If the release is longer than three pages, see what you can take out and put into a separate document such as a product or service overview. When deleting information from the press release, you need to make sure that it can still stand by itself without any accompanying documents. Your press release should also include
(more) (10) at the end of the page so the reader knows to continue. A ### is used to mark the end of the press release. Trademark information follows the ### (11).

10. So you’ve written the release, now what do you do with it?
When planning a press release, you will need to determine its Level of newsworthiness
(I, II, or III) and plan accordingly. Typically, Level I and II press releases will be placed on an electronic news wire service such as PR Newswire or Business wire, and are faxed or emailed to your target list of editors/reporters. Journalists log onto the newswires daily looking for areas of interest. Also note that you can control the geographic areas and publications/media that receive your press release through the wire service’s select distribution list. You can find links to wire services and other online PR organizations and services in the Netpreneur Exchange’s PR Machine. And be sure to send your release to List is Inactive.

After you put your release on the wire, you’ll want to follow up via snail mail and mail the press kit, which includes the release and accompanying information such as company backgrounders or product/service white papers. Level III releases may be placed on the wire and should be mailed to your target press list.

Don’t forget to add your press release to your Web site. Press release pages are typically added to the "Press Release" link, which is often a link under the "About Your Company" area of your home page. This is important because your press release invites people to your Web page, and because you don’t want to miss any opportunities! Make sure your page is up-to-date and looking good.

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