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Got a pencil? Start spreading the news

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Can you write a strong opening sentence? Are you a ravenous newspaper reader? Then try your hand at writing a press release.

What’s in it for you? Two things: First, if an editor picks up the story, you’ll have scored a major victory for your organization. Second, you’ll gain a new marketable skill.

Talk to your boss about what news your company has to publicize: a change in management, a major expansion or a new product. Then send your release by e-mail to local newspapers, business journals and industry magazines.

Follow this format:

1. Date. In capital letters, write “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” at the top of the message. Or write “FOR RELEASE ON (date).”

2. Contact. Two lines below the date, write “CONTACT: (your name).” On the two lines that follow, add your e-mail address and phone number.

3. Headline. Grab the reader’s attention with a headline that sells the story. After all, this is what an editor will glance at to determine if the story is worth printing. Use upper- and lower-case letters. Articles and prepositions of three letters or fewer should be in lower-case. Example: “XYZ Inc. Wins Industry Award for Innovative Retention Tactics.”

4. Dateline. It appears two lines below the headline, and two indented spaces from the left-hand margin. Write your location and the date, followed by a double dash. Example: “BOISE, IDAHO (November 12, 2008) --”

5. Lead. A strong introductory paragraph should grab the reader’s attention. Answer the five W’s—who, what, when, where and why. This paragraph summarizes the press release and compels the reader to read more. It should follow the double dash after the dateline.

6. Copy. Write the main text using the inverted pyramid style, with the most important information and quotes first. Tip: Quotations add interest to a release. If you quote an authority, review the finished copy with the source.

7. Company boilerplate. End with a short paragraph that describes your company, products and services.

8. End. After the final paragraph, center either “###” or “(END)” to indicate the end of the piece.

9. Contact. Two lines below the end, write “For more information, contact ...” and repeat your name, e-mail address and phone number.

Take a final look at what you’ve written and make sure it meets these objectives:

  • Short paragraphs.
  • Written in an objective tone.
  • Active voice, where possible. Example: “XYZ Inc. announces a new line of widgets” instead of “XYZ Inc. announced.”
  • Concise and clear writing, with no unnecessary words.

To see examples of press releases, visit PR Newswire at prnewswire.com, an online distributor of news releases.

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