The basic tool used in public relations is the press release. Ultimately, the goal of a press release is to convince the media to do a story. At one time, press releases were printed on paper, however, today press releases are most often exchanged electronically.
The email press release is now the format preferred by most reporters. While some basic information has remained the same in the electronic press release, an email press release differs somewhat from a printed press release.
First, try to avoid attachments to your press release. Unless the reporter is actually expecting the attachment, all releases should be made within the body of the email text message. Firewalls at some news organizations will automatically block an email with an attachment.
The subject line of the email should replace the headline. This is the most important line of your press release and you have an extremely small amount of space to grab the reporter’s attention. At most, you have five words to sell the story, so choose them carefully.
One of the advantages of the email press release is that you can include URL links to more information. When it comes to the basic format of the release, remember to keep contact information at the top of the release, followed by the headline and then the body of the press release. While email may be a slightly different format, reporters are still accustomed to the traditional paper format.
Make sure you never include any text formatting, such as underline, bold or tabs as some email programs ignore them. If you need to use bullets, use stars or dashes. The entirety of your release should be kept to a minimum of 500 words and between four and six paragraphs.
Always test out the release by sending it to yourself first.
Finally, if you are going to send the release out to more than one reporter, include the addresses as blind cc’s. Never make the mistake of broadcasting a reporter’s email address.
To learn more about the best way to craft press releases and other media relations tips, sign up for TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day course Media Relations for Public Affairs Professionals, or the 2-day Advanced Media Relations Workshop.
Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 2.5 Email Press Releases
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