The reading level for this article is Novice
Just so you don’t accuse me of making you wade through the entire article to get these words, the first eleven words are: "Are you the person I should send this press release to?" Story follows&ldots; Face it: the most valuable single page in all of marketing is a press release. A press release is a one-page typewritten sheet of paper that is sent to editors who, if they like it, will publish it in their magazine or newspaper. If your release is selected, the publication will typeset it, format it in the same style as the rest of the publication, and print it as a story. Free.
Most magazines have new product sections where press releases are published. And newspapers — outside the first few pages of hard news — get about 70% of their editorial content from press releases. Yours could be one of them.
Imagine being the editor of the travel section. Ugh. You’d have to fill up that section of a newspaper every day. It would be impossible if you had to do all your own writing. Press releases are your lifeblood. The entertainment section — even more so! The editor of the entertainment section lives on stories generated from press agents. Television talk shows rely on press releases to find interesting guests. So do radio talk shows. The media WANTS your news stories as long as you follow a few simple rules.
I’m not going to go into the rules in depth; you can read those details in either of my books, How To Market a Product for Under $500! or Uncommon Marketing Techniques. But here’s a quick synopsis: large header at the top stating "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE." Follow directly by "For More Information:" and then a contact name and phone number. Next line, a kill date (I usually write "No Kill Date"). Then the release headline (format: New Product Offers Benefit), centered and in bold. Follow with the body copy in a brief, newspaper style of writing (no adjectives) — if it looks or smells like an ad, it won’t get printed. Double space the body copy, and keep the whole release under one page. Simple, even if you’re not a press agent.
Prepare your release and a well-written cover letter (to build credibility) along with a high-quality 5" x 7" black-and-white photo to be sent to the editor. Here’s the old way: most people send the release, wait a week, then call the magazine or newspaper and ask the editor if he received their release. The editors must get really tired of hearing that. "Sure," says the editor, "I got your release. I get everyone’s release!"
The caller explains what the release was about, and then the editor usually doesn’t remember which release it was or where it’s hidden amongst the 100 or so other releases the editor received that week, the 10,000 other papers, and the half-eaten pizza all competing for space on his desk. And the press agent winds up sending another. Hmmm&ldots; double effort.
Here’s the Jeff Dobkin trick way to send a press release: I usually don’t like to recommend phone calls in any of my campaigns, but this call is not a "selling" call. You simply call an editor and use those 11 words you found at the top of this article: "Are you the person I should send this press release to?" What does this do?
It sets up a "Can you help me?" relationship with the editors. And they help you.
Editors — like teachers — are generally helpful by their very nature. If the editor answers, "Yes, I’m the person!" that’s the signal to give him a 30-second pitch of your product and the nature of your release. Tell him your release will go right out and thank him for his time. Send it promptly.
The other four words you need to say, and you say them in the first paragraph of the cover letter you send with your release, are "Nice speaking with you," even if it wasn’t. That reminds the editor you cared enough to call, and that you spoke with him personally on the phone. This will assure his personal attention to your release – and his help and some push.
What happens if the editor you speak with isn’t the one you send your release to? When you ask, "Are you the person I should send this press release to?" and the editor says, "No, send your release to Jim Reidy, he gets all the releases," then what do you do? You call up Jim Reidy and — knowing full well he’s the correct editor to send your release to — you say, "Are you the person I should send my release to?" You see, this sets up a "Can you help me?" relationship&ldots;.
Editors want quality releases. They rely on press releases for news about new products, people, companies, and current events. If they didn’t like press releases, they wouldn’t be editors. It’s part of the business. But they get so many press releases, your release — and your pitch — must stand out from the crowd. Most press agents haven’t the time or the inclination to call every editor every time a release goes into the mail. So your call and pleasant conversation separate you from the pack. You become special.
Editors delight in talking to real people, not just press agents. If you have a product or service to sell and can come up with a well-written press release and a nice pitching angle, by all means give it your best shot. The cost is just two sheets of paper, one photo, an envelope and stamp and a phone call to get perhaps $10,000 worth of publicity. At my office, we send out 400 press releases a month, every month. Do I call the magazine editors with every release we send? Sure. I call the magazines where we really want our press releases to be published.