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Copywriting Tips for News Releases

Cover letter or news release? Book review or feature story?

  by Paul J. Krupin

Local newspapers are perhaps one of the easiest places to get publicity. They are without a doubt one of the initial places where you should pitch to get the ball rolling on your publicity plans.

I believe that if you are going to write and submit a letter or a news release then don't aim at just trying to get a book review.

Go for a feature story that really gets people interested. Don't offer up just descriptive information about the book and what it's about. That's boring. Instead, offer up a great story that's educational and entertaining. Offer up story ideas about what your creation does to people and how it enhances their lives. This will get you better coverage and I believe this will also help you sell a lot more books.

Now whether you use a cover letter or a news release doesn't really matter, since the media will review the ideas to see whether you have a newsworthy story. Regardless of what you've written a novel or adult non-fiction or a children's book or whatever, they'll still decide to write a story or do an interview or send a photographer depending on what type of story ideas you present. Now they do want you to provide them with certain information. So I'll give you some of the best "rules" I've developed to help people create the right type of news releases or letters that will open the doors to publicity.

Over the years I have asked many many editors "what do you want or need from me so that you can do a feature story" and then listened very closely to their answers. (You should do this too). I've then compiled their responses and looked to establish the common threads in what they say. The bottom line results show amazing similarity in media expectations. Here's the answer:

=== Tell me story (a short, bed time story), give me a local news angle (of interest to my particular audience), hit me in the pocket book (make me or save me money), teach me something I didn't know before (educate me), amaze me or astound me (like in WOW!), make my stomach churn (in horror or fear), or turn me on (yes, sex sizzles).

So what you have to do when you write a news release is give the media what they want! And guess what -- what "they" really want turns out to be what most people in America wants! Surprise! Look around you and you'll see that all news coverage is basically designed to cater to what the American Public wants = Stimulating Entertainment and education.

And if you look around you, you'll see that this is really easy to identify. It's everywhere. It's simple to see. And once you see it, a light will go on. I boil it all down to one simple formula:

DPAA+H

These letters stand for "Dramatic Personal Achievement in the Face of Adversity plus a little Humor."

If you look at almost every media around you, from the front page of USA Today to the Olympics to the evening news to the sitcoms on TV, you'll see this is what the American public wants, desires, and craves.

As a culture, we crave to see the human spirit triumph in matters of the heart, and in trials of hardship and tragedy. We ask to be uplifted right out of the humdrum of our everyday reality into the exhilaration and extreme emotional of those who are living life on the edge. It galvanizes our attention. It rivets us to our seats. It captures our attention and our hearts.

And this is what the media seeks to provide. This is what works. You will see these elements everywhere you look in varying degrees. It is a rare media feature that doesn't contain these items. The media uses technology to increase the assault on our senses, enhance the effect, and make our experience ever more compelling and memorable.

And if you are writing a news release, what you have to do is recognize this insane desire and need, and then cater to it.

Now you may be stuck trying to decide what to write about. What you need to do is always, always, always try to identify and focus on the things you can offer that will interest the maximum number of people in the audience. Ask yourself who these people are and talk to them. Do your homework and know who your book, product or service will appeal to. Then, write your news release so that it tells a story.

Make sure you describes the 5 W's: the what, who, where, when, and why, in dramatic personal adversity and achievement terms. This helps you cast your spell to the widest possible audience.

There's a real business reason why this works. Media are publishers, and authors and publishers need to look at them as publishers, in business, trying to do what all of us are trying to do -- make a living. Good news release converts to more subscriptions or market share for ad dollars.

So when you write a news release say this to your media recipient:

"Fellow Publisher -- will you give me space in your publication?"

"Fellow Publisher -- will you give me time on the air on your show"

The answer depends simply on whether they can use YOU to make more money. Then put yourself in their shoes, and understand that the media executive is going to ask the following question:

"Is this better than everything else I have today?"

Finally -- there's one last question the media asks themselves before making a final decision.

"How much effort will it take for me to publish this?"

This is a money question. If it takes a lot of effort (a reporter, time, a photographer, plus research, travel and editorial involvement), then the answer is obviously expensive. If on he other hand, you've written the story for them in their style, provided photography, are willing to travel to them, and clearly eliminated all questions in advance with your well thought out presentation, then the media costs are low, and it's easy for a media to say yes to doing what you ask.

The answer determines their bottom line == Revenue!

So grab today's newspaper, and start thinking about it with a new set of eyes.

Here is one last little trick I suggest you use is my 3 I technique. You don't have to strain your brain being creative. Relax! Believe it or not, it's easy to have fun when you write a news release. You can minimize the hassle and help yourself if you do the following. The 3 I Technique is pretty simple and works like this:

1. Identify a successful model.

2. Imitate the structure and content of the success model.

3. Innovate with your own information.

Here's what you do at each step:

Step 1: Select your top media or publication and find article you wish could be about you. Study it carefully and identify a successful article or book or product review similar to what you want to offer. What you are looking for is an article that is just like what you wish would be written about you. If you want to be in USA Today, study USA Today. But whatever you do, find a single article at the very least.

Step 2: Imitate the structure and content of the success model. Develop a general outline of the structure and purpose of each sentence and paragraph in your chosen success model article. Do this so that your own
article will parallel the outline of the successfully published review article. Then start at the headline. Then go on to the first sentence, then the second, then the third, and so on. Describe what each sentence is all about and what the editor is writing, and how he or she is communicating with his or her audience.

Step 3: Innovate with your own information. Using the success model as a guide, you now write sentences, one at a time, which match the length, tone and function of the sentences and paragraphs you see in the article you are using as a model.

As you do this, something very interesting and magical will happen. You will come really close to matching the editorial interest, readership interest and style of USA Today, or whatever publication you are aiming at.
You are putting yourself in the position of the writer as if one is writing a news release so that an editor can use it for an article.

At the top you place "News Release" or "For Immediate Release" and the contact name and phone number. To this you add the name or title or description of whatever you are offering, price and ordering information plus words. You also express offers to the media for free media kits and review copies, high-resolution color photography, and contact information with the statement "available for interview". This lets them know you will go the extra mile to make it easy for them to do what they need to do.

Then you are done. You can transmit your news release. You can send it to your specific target media and every other media in the similar and related categories of potential interest.

If you do use these techniques, send me what you've written. I'd love to see it. Then send it to your local media and tell me what happens. I'd love to hear or see what you get.