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Attention seeker: writing a press release? Think about your audience and make every word count.

If your company or organisation has a story to tell--be it the merger with, or acquisition of, another company, the launch of a new product or service, the appointment of a key executive, or the opening of a new office or store, an essential tool for telling your story is the press release. And the preparation and distribution of press releases, followed by efforts to ensure that the media understand the merits of the press release's message, is one of the fundamental services provided by your PR agency.

A good press release will have something newsworthy and interesting to say, and will say it in clean and clear language. And a good press release, like a good news story, would answer all of the "W" questions in the first paragraph or two: What happened, When and Where it happened, Who made it happen or Who did it happen to, and Why it happened.

Know your audience

A common mistake of companies and organisations (and some PR folk) is to send a press release to the wrong journalists or news outlets. When you write a press release think about who you are writing for and think about your audience. Your PR agency should be able to get your news releases and information to the right reporters at the right media; if they cannot, you have the wrong agency. Your excitement about something does not necessarily mean that you have a newsworthy story. Will reporters find your story interesting? Ask yourself if you would find it interesting to read. Is your story unique, or does it set you apart in some way?

Write for the media

The press release must pass the "so what?" test that any journalist should ask if it lands on their desk or in their email box. It also has to pass a reporter's "bull*h*t detector". If it passes these hurdles, the next test is "how much work is involved?" The less a journalist needs to seek information or to re-write the text, the more chance of publication. Some media, especially online, often cut and paste the release and publish it with little or no modification. More commonly, journalists would use a press release as a springboard for a larger story. If what you have to say is genuinely relevant to, or resonates with, topical issues or themes, then ensure this is caught in your press release.

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Keep it concise and factual

Use just enough words to tell your story. Avoid unnecessary adjectives, flowery language and redundant expressions. If you can tell your story with fewer words, do so. Wordiness distracts the reader. Make each word count.

Your press release must be truthful. Your release should be positive and preferably written in the active tense, but it should never exaggerate or boast. And it should never mislead--not least because that could be illegal. A decent journalist is naturally skeptical and will downsize the importance of (or just ignore) your news release if it sounds too good to be true.

A notes to editors (or "the boilerplate") paragraph is placed after the main body text and contains additional information about your company or organisation. It should be concise and factual. A link to your website would also appear here.

Last but not least: always remember to put your contact details at the end of the release: full name, land-line and mobile telephone numbers, email address and fax number. You want journalists to call you, to talk with you. Make it easy for them. Make them feel welcome.

Miroslava Kostadinova is Country Manager (Bulgaria) at Cook Communications Tel: 02/ 980 7185 www.cook-comm.com
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Author:Kostadinova, Miroslava
Publication:The Sofia Echo (Sofia, Bulgaria)
Date:Jan 15, 2010
Words:608
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