5 Tips for Writing Effective Press Releases

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A press release is a form of written communication that is meant to bridge the gap between an organization and the media. They are meant to announce newsworthy stories, special events, upcoming promotions or contests and any other interesting and timely content. Using the information from press releases, members of the media can then choose whether to publicize the story. When written and distributed properly, press releases will attract the attention of members of the media and encourage positive publicity for your organization.

Press releases are a vital component of any organization’s public relations and communications efforts. This article will provide you with five essential tips for writing effective press releases.

  1. Start with a Captivating Title — The title and first paragraph of your press release are two of the most important elements. Since most newsrooms receive dozens of press releases a day, including a strong title and opening paragraph can help yours stand out. When crafting a title and subject line, decide on something that is newsworthy, informative and straight to the point. Your title should hook the reader as quickly as possible and give them a reason to invest their time into reading the rest of the content. Also, make sure that your opening paragraph includes the essential five W’s: Who, What, Where, When and Why.
  2. Don’t Oversell — The goal of a press release is to educate your audience about a newsworthy event, person or organization, not to overtly advertise and promote the product or service. This can damage your credibility. Be honest when presenting the information to your audience and let them decide what to make of it. The content or news that you’ve highlighted in your press release should be able to sell itself.
  3. Be Concise — Never ramble on just for the sake of having your press release appear longer. Ideally, press releases should be one page in length. Since the goal of a press release is to spark the interest of reporters, you don’t want to bore them with a text-heavy piece. Include only what is necessary to the story and do so in a concise, well-written manner. Visually, your press release should also be easy to read. Choose a simple, clear font and an appropriate size and line spacing.
  4. Include Contact Information — What’s the use of a press release if it fails to provide a clear way to get in touch? Always include an accurate business name, phone number, fax number, mailing address, email address and any other information for the public relations contact person or agency.
  5. Proofread All Content before Publication — Take the time to proofread and fact-check all content that your business publishes, most importantly press releases. Before you send your press release out, check for grammatical or spelling errors and make sure that all numbers, facts and names are correct. For more information on the importance of proofreading and flawless writing, please read our series of articles, “Proofreading — The First in a Series of Three Articles,” “Write Like You Mean It: 5 Ways to Use Better Grammar” and “Words Mean Things: 5 Tips to Avoid Spelling Errors.”

For more information about effective press releases, please contact The Public Relations and Marketing Group at (631) 207-1057 or johnzaher@theprmg.com. You can also visit our blog for more valuable articles, advertising spotlights and more.

Words Mean Things: 5 Tips to Avoid Spelling Errors

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By Hank Russell

It is said that people judge you by the words you use — whether they be spoken or written. How you write is an indicator of the quality of your work and your communication skills. Spelling errors in your document may show that you are unfit for a potential job (if they appear on your résumé), you are not an effective communicator (if they appear in a presentation) or you do not have a grasp of the written word (if they appear in your article).

Using the wrong word or not spelling it correctly prevents you from getting across the message you want to send to your clients or associates. (To learn more about this, please see “Proofreading — The First in a Series of Three Articles“). In the case of the former, your message takes on a new (and unintended) meaning. For the latter, the only message you will convey is how lousy a speller you are. Here are some tips to prevent these errors from appearing in your document:

Watch out for words with double letters.
Take extra special care when using these words. You should know whether to use one “l” or two in parallel and how many “c”s or “r”s there are in occurrence. Although spell check might do the trick, it is better to do the job yourself and look it up in a dictionary for the proper spelling. If you let a misspelling go through, it may result in another double-letter word: embarrassment.

Know which word you want to use and make sure it’s the right one.
Do you know the difference between compliment and complement? What about there, their and they’re? Then there is the difference among insure, ensure and assure, and advice and advise. These words — known as homonyms — sound alike, so it is easy to misuse them. Unlike a patently misspelled word, spell check will not identify the mistake if the wrong word was spelled right. If you are unsure about which word to use, use a dictionary or thesaurus and check the definition to make sure it is the right one.

Watch where you place the apostrophe.
The apostrophe is probably the most misused punctuation mark in the English language. Like using the wrong word, misplacing an apostrophe alters the meaning of a word and the sentence. Probably the most common mistake is the use of the word it’s when the writer means its. It’s is a contraction of the phrase it is, whereas its is a possessive. Also remember that there is no apostrophe at the end of its (another spelling error that is also commonly made).

Avoid spelling words phonetically.
In the age of texting, people write words phonetically rather than correctly for the sake of brevity and due to the restrictions on character count; for example, they will write “ur” instead of “your” or “l8r” rather than “later.” Such communication is fine with family and friends, but it will not work with business associates. It is easy to write skool instead of school, dum instead of dumb or criticly instead of critically. Many words have letters that sound differently or, when joined by another letter, make the same sound; other letters are silent and are not pronounced. Once again, if you are unsure how a word is spelled, look it up.

Do not write in the Queen’s English.
Unless you are writing for a Canadian or British audience, avoid writing in the Queen’s English — that is, writing theatre rather than theater, centre instead of center or manoeuvre instead of maneuver. However, there are exceptions: when the spelling is used in a proper name such as Rockville Centre or NYCB Theatre at Westbury. Otherwise, it will not meet domestic standards. Think locally, write locally.

As always, be sure to proofread your document before sending it to print or to a client or business associate. Here are some resources you can use to help improve your spelling:

• The Associated Press Style Manual (www.ap.org)
• Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary (www.merriam-webster.com)
• The Bedford Handbook Seventh Edition (bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/bedhandbook7enew/Player/Pages/Frameset.aspx)
• Thesaurus.com (www.thesaurus.com)

If you would like further information, please contact The Public Relations and Marketing Group at (631) 207-1057 or info@theprmg.com .

Proofreading — The First in a Series of Three Articles

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Steps to Better Proofreading, Grammar and Spelling

As a society, we are heavily reliant on the written word. No matter what profession or industry you belong to, strong written communication skills are vital to your organization’s reputation and success. From lengthy articles to quick emails to customers or clients, proofreading every piece of writing you create is essential. Substandard and poorly written brochures, newsletters and website content can seriously hinder your organization. Even the smallest error can distract someone from the message you are trying to communicate to them, whether it be through a blog post, social media update or press release. This article will provide you with five steps to strengthening your organization’s written communication skills through effective proofreading.

1. Don’t Rely on Spell Check — There is no doubt that computers can do wonders when it comes to catching repeated words, reversed letters or common spelling errors. However, this should never be your only method of proofreading. Your computer’s spell check tool can only do so much. For example, certain misspellings can form other legitimate words, and so spell check is unable to detect the errors. Also, spell check is unable to catch mistakes with homonyms, such as whether you meant to write “they’re,” “there” and “their” or “your” and “you’re.” While it is still beneficial to use spell check, it is important that this tool is only one part of your overall proofreading approach.

2. Read Aloud — Reading your copy aloud, even if it is only in a whisper, can help you pick up on mistakes that you might not have noticed through silent reading. Reading out loud at a slower pace is helpful for spotting run-on sentences, jumbled phrases and missing words. You will be able to hear your mistakes and recognize if a sentence doesn’t flow or sounds too wordy. We would also recommend printing out the pages for one final read-through, especially if your writing is going to be published in a print or online medium. It is much easier to proofread from a hard copy rather than just a computer screen.

3. Double-Check All Facts — If you have included any statistics or hard facts in your article, they must be verified. An article or press release that contains factual errors can not only be misleading, but it can cause your audience to lose trust in your writing and professional expertise. For example, if someone spots an inaccurate statistic or numerical figure in your article, they may refrain from reading your future pieces and instead turn to a new, more reliable source. When proofreading, it is essential to check that all of your URLs and hyperlinks are valid, as well as any phone numbers, email addresses or other contact information. You must also ensure that people’s names are spelled correctly and that all numbers or figures are accurate. One of the most common mistakes you hear or see is confusion over whether a “million” was supposed to be used instead of a “billion.” That’s a 1,000 times difference!

4. Don’t Be Redundant — While proofreading your copy, look out for repetition. You should avoid using the same words or phrases over and over to make sure you aren’t constantly repeating yourself. You also don’t want to make the same point twice because all professional writing should be clear, concise and to the point. Although there are times when repetition may be necessary to prove a point, you don’t want to bore your readers. A tip here is to use a thesaurus to spice up your vocabulary and make your writing more interesting.

5. Have Someone Else Read Your Writing — No matter how many times you proofread your writing, it is essential to have at least one other person read it before it is published. It is almost impossible to spot every error yourself because sentences that may flow fluidly in your head may not make as much sense to others. Because you wrote the material, your mind often plugs in the missing words. You may also overlook spelling, grammar or capitalization mistakes. Having a second set of eyes proofread your work is necessary to help catch what you might have missed.

In following these steps, it is important to devote an ample amount of time to your proofreading session. Put your cell phone aside, close out of your email and really take the time to concentrate on your writing. Sometimes it helps to proofread away from your desk on an empty surface. Remember: it takes a devotion of concentration and time to write clear, concise and error-free copy.

If you would like further information, please contact The Public Relations and Marketing Group at (631) 207-1057 or info@theprmg.com .