How Not To Write A Press Release. There have been many articles on this topic, but this may be the only one written by someone who works as an editor and writer. Using real-life examples, Scott G examines some ins, outs, dos and don’ts of public relations and publicity.
You have just announced your latest accomplishment (album, product, song, tour, Podcast, interview, press kit, etc.), but no one seems to be paying attention. News editors and feature story writers are all too busy commenting on celebrities who are drunk, stoned or cavorting nude in public.
Clearly, it is time to call attention to something more important in the world, namely your magnificent work.
So, you decide to send out a press announcement. Do it right and your story will be seen by hundreds of thousands of people. Do it wrong and it will be seen by zero of thousands of people.
Before PR professionals begin to write a press release, they ask three questions: What are you selling? To whom are you trying to sell it? What are the interests, or “hot buttons,” of your target audience?
We’re going to use real-life examples in this article, so let’s pick a subject that will be of interest to everybody. Something like, oh, say, my seventh album, Burning Man Soundscapes, which will released by Delvian and on iTunes and Rhapsody.
Naturally, you’re fascinated by this news, but the trick is getting a ton of other people to be aware of it. If I proceed like a pro, I would look to those 3 questions and do the following:
* Define the product (it’s an album of groove-oriented electronic-pop instrumentals)
* Describe the target audience (lovers of new styles of rhythmic music; people with an affinity for the Burning Man event)
* Determine the target audience’s hot buttons, or things that turn them on (describing Burning Man Soundscapes as being like “Gnarls Barkley meets Booker T and the MGs”)
Now, let’s examine the mistakes you can avoid when you create your press release.
Mistake 1 – No Go Pro
You can get off to a bad start by not hiring a professional PR person. Instead, just Do It Yourself and “save money.” Well, sure, it costs less for a DIY approach, but unless you really follow the advice in this article, you’re not likely to achieve much in the marketplace. Ask yourself if you know how to:
* Have your press release submitted to the news editors of the 1,200+ daily newspapers, 5,000+ weekly newspapers, 2,500+ magazines, 12,000+ radio stations, and 1,700+ TV stations in the country
* Get your information indexed by Google, Yahoo, and the major search engines
* Have your press release distributed by RSS feed
* Feature your story on Web portals
* Submit your information to social networks like DIGG, Fark, Furl, Newsvine, Del.ico.us, YahooMyWeb and others
* Embed keywords to enable Technorati to cover your news
* Get your press release onto News.Google, Moreover.com, XTVworld, BlogBurst, eNewsChannels.com, and hundreds of other news content sites
* Have your announcement run as a news item on more than 10,000 Web sites
* Get your information considered for further dissemination by such organizations as the Associated Press, Newsflash, and the Viral Syndication Network
* Make sure your story is “spidered” by news clipping services and news-robots like eWatch, CustomScoop, WebClipping.com, CyberAlert, and InBox Robot, among others, so they deliver your news to their subscribers
Mistake 2 – Ban the Plan
If you avoid those three critical questions mentioned earlier, you might turn out a press release with no purpose or direction. A lot of musicians do this. As an editor at the Music Industry Newswire, I see about three cubic tons of press releases each year, and the majority of them are anemic, muddled, ham-fisted and/or stylistic monstrosities.
Mistake 3 – Heads Down
Another easy goof to make is sending out a press announcement using a headline only you and your mother could love. Here’s an example of a perfectly wretched headline: “Scott G (recording artist The G-Man) releases 7th album called Burning Man Soundscapes on Delvian Records.”
That’s a boring headline. Bore-ing! Stuff like that is virtually guaranteed to be ignored by editors, news directors, music writers, bloggers, ezines, publishers, and wire services because it doesn’t give their readers any news they can use.
Do not write a headline that is “inner-directed.” In other words, don’t write about what you want to say. Instead, write about what your audience wants to read.
Consider these possibilities for headlines:
* Burning Man communal festival inspires creation of electronic-pop music
* Subsonic harmonics create controversy on new CD release
* Music genres are bent, blurred and blended on new indie album
* New album is a soundtrack to the Burning Man festival
It seems counter-intuitive, I suppose, not putting your name or the album name in the headline. Yet the point is to gain readership for your release by creating a story that intrigues your intended audience. Only then do you mention your album title and artist name.
Mistake 4 – Open With Nothing
There are many creative ways to write the first paragraph of a press release and none of them work very well. As a songwriter and composer, I enjoy and respect creativity, but the fact is that a unique approach to writing a press announcement is usually not effective. There are exceptions (as when your audience already knows who you are), but usually what works best is the tried-and-true method of putting a few important points in the opening sentence (or at least in the first paragraph) of the release:
* Name of the person/place/product
* What that person/place/product is doing (especially if it does something for you, the reader)
* Web site of the person/place/product
* UPC code of the product
It may not seem very original, but using the old newspaper story requirements of Who, What, Where, When, Why and How will hardly ever steer you wrong.
Mistake 5 – Babble On
Hey, what is your story all about? Just say it. Say it in a straightforward way without too many adjectives. Say it as soon as you can in the release. And please forget the techno-terminology and psychobabble jargon.
After all, wouldn’t you prefer to read this:
“Burning Man Soundscapes was designed as an electronic-pop film score with dynamic tunes and mysteriously swirling ambient tracks.”
Instead of this:
“The composer has developed the 14 stunning tracks on Burning Man Soundscapes into what can only be termed an electronic-pop film score utilizing a full range of ultrasonic configurations in a program that alternates between exciting up-tempo tunes and mysterious ambient sounds.”
Shorter is better.
If you’re not sure about what to write, pretend you’re sitting next to someone at dinner and they ask you “What are you up to lately?” How would you explain it? Would you attempt a snow job with big words and convoluted concepts, or would you just speak normally and let them know about your project? Take that approach with your press release.
Mistake 6 – Spel Ling & Grammericality
Sorry, but spelling counts. It’s a credibility issue. If you don’t know the difference between “there,” “they’re” and “their,” or “two,” “too” and “to,” hire someone who does.
Mistake 7 – Embellishments
There’s usually a paragraph near the end of the release that has a subhead like this: “About Scott G” or “About The G-Man.” Unless you have sold numerous humor columns to several different publications, don’t be funny here. Just write the facts.
The Right Way:
Scott G is co-owner of music production and publishing company, Golosio. As recording artist The G-Man, he has a half-dozen albums in release and has composed music you’ve heard on commercials, in clubs and on college radio.
The Wrong Way:
In addition to his ongoing efforts to bring more zip codes to Antarctica, Scott G is astonishingly erudite about the insect population of Wisconsin. Being one of only a handful of people to have survived encephalitis as a child, he has only two passions: revenge politics and groove-oriented music. So, purchase Burning Man Soundscapes or he will be forced to give your e-mail address to every inhabitant of Nigeria.
You may find it funny, but I guarantee you many editors won’t be laughing and your release will not achieve your desired goal. Besides, even if people find it humorous, it distracts readers from the main point of your release.
Mistake 8 – Who Ya Gonna Call?
Hey, everyone knows you. You’re famous! So there’s no need to put contact information in your release, right?
There are two contact names and numbers that accompany every press release. One goes into the press release itself. It might look like this: “For information about Burning Man Soundscapes, visit www.delvianrecords.com or www.burningmansoundscapes.com.”
The other goes at the end and looks like this: “Media Contact: Scott G, 818-223-8486, email@example.com.” This is not for the public; it’s for members of the press. It can be your name, or your brother’s name, or whoever. But make certain the number and e-mail work because this is where the press will try reaching you if they’re interested.
Mistake 9 – Put In Everything
Editors have lots of spare time and would love to read a 5,000-word essay on the history of your band and your philosophical approach to sonics. Sure.
Keep your press release between 300 and 400 words. And that counts the headline and the contact information. If you truly have more to say, include a link to an online press kit or PDF file. Or send out more than one press announcement.
Mistake 10 – Getting Attached
Yes, everybody is going to fall in love with that high-resolution TIFF image of you pretending to eat your guitar while standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon with that cool PhotoShop image of a Lockheed-Martin X-35A Joint Strike Fighter attacking a stegosaurus over your shoulder. Yup, that’s especially keen because it takes up so much space in an editor’s e-mail in-box.
If you e-mail your PR, remember: no attachments. Well, possibly a .txt file. But usually you should just send an e-mail with the text of the release and a link to your site. Then ask politely if you can send a file as an attachment or mail them a full press kit.
Mistake 11 – Oh, the Humanity
Just because editors also make mistakes, that doesn’t mean they’re human. They may not recognize the brilliance of what you’re sending them. In other words, they may not write about you. You’re going to contact them with profanity and screaming until they say something like, “We’re so sorry, we didn’t realize this was an important news announcement.” Oh yeah, that’s going to happen.
Don’t do anything about it. No angry calls, cards or e-mails. After all, you’re going to want to send them something else in the future (you do have an ongoing career, right?) and you don’t want them thinking “here’s something from that rude bozo.”
Mistake 12 – Throwing in the Towel
Sometimes people get discouraged. Not enough press, not enough sales, not enough gigs, not enough income. But if you give up, the doubters win. Keep going; it’s the only way you can win.
[tags]PR, press release writing, gman, Scott G, Burning Man Soundscapes, guide to PR[/tags]