Free publicity has a price

How to write a news release:

You probably have heard the old saying, “Advertising costs money, but publicity is free.” That runs counter to the older saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” You can get the word out about your product or service without having to buy newspaper space, broadcast air time or text in an online publication. The fee, however, is your precious time and energy.

To increase your chance of getting “free” publicity, there are a few things to consider.

1) Before the internet, all news releases were on paper and complied with specific construction requirements. Not following them announced the releasing agent as an amateur and the piece quickly was stuffed into a shredder. Today, however, email releases are common and designed with a variety of looks. So, the most important thing is to include your name and complete contact info at the top of your release.

2) If you have no experience writing for publication, refrain from faking it. You will be unable to fool the editors. Just give the facts and be brief without leaving out significant items.

3) If you think you frequently will be doing  new releases (hoping for lots of free publicity), get a recent edition of The Associated Press Style Guide and Libel Manual.  Following its rules will increase your chance of getting published because editors will have less to edit. That saves them time and earns you credibility.

4) Whatever story your news release tells, or event it announces, make it sound interesting. Present it so the audience of the intended publication will have a reason to pay attention.

5) Expect no miracles. Certain publications will be easy to break into, others impossible. Here is a breakdown:

a) Daily Newspapers. These folks consider themselves exercisers and guardians of the First Amendment. Printing your news release verbatim would look like propaganda. They won’t do it. Thus, your job is to get them interested so they will assign their own reporter. (Don’t be surprised if the reporter’s story looks similar to yours.  It just means you did well in writing it.) This only applies to feature stories you send. If you announce an event of interest to the community, they may plug your “who, what, where, why, and when” right into a calendar section.

b) TV and Radio Stations. There is fierce competition for air time and usually it takes money (advertising dollars) to snag it. Still, if your story is incredibly interesting, you may have some luck. Your event could make a calendar announcement.  Expect little or nothing and you won’t be severely disappointed.

c) Weekly Newspapers. These publications often starve for quality submissions from their readers. They are on tight budgets and have difficulty affording staff for wide coverage. They may be very grateful for your release and give you lots of space in print.

d) Digital Online (Internet) Sites. These folks have no real limits like newspapers or TV and radio. Text takes almost no space. This avenue is ripe for exploitation and that means lots of free publicity for you. These internet sites should be a regular target of your news releases.