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How to Write and Send a Press Release
by Suzanne Glass - Indie-Music.com - July 2000


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In the music business, the press release (or news release) is a common tool used to bring an artist or business "free" publicity. Basically, a press release is a simple, neat-looking sheet that provides news to reporters, editors, and other media people. Any publication you get from your press release will be free, so it's easy to see why writing a good press release is a valuable skill.


When To Use A Press Release

You can use a release to notify the media about any sort of happening - such as a new CD release, special gig, or label signing. The key thing to remember is, this is supposed to be "news", so your press release needs to be "newsworthy".

So what is newsworthy? Well, that requires a little research into your media contacts. What types of stories or articles are usually published? Will the readers of the publication care about your music? You need to target your releases to proper sources - that is, someone who actually cares about your news. If you continually send announcements of gigs to a paper that does not print calendar listings, it will be a total waste of time... your time, and the editor's, which is unlikely to make you popular around the paper's offices.

Make sure you do your homework and find out what kind of topics get coverage in each media outlet. Naturally you will send a press release announcing your new CD to the local music paper. But you will also want to explore different "angles" with other outlets. For instance, if your band has a popular website, perhaps internet magazines would be interested. If you offer a percentage of sales on your CD to the Save the Rain Forest organization, perhaps environmental publications would find your news worthy of printing.

Remember that a writer or editor has a duty to the readers - not you - to report interesting news. They do not owe you a story, so you must make it interesting. If you can send news that will appeal to the readers, you are far more likely to get printed.

The free publicity you generate with your press release will be many times more valuable than any advertisements you could buy. Studies have shown that people respond to articles at a much higher rate than ads, because they are perceived to be more credible. After all, anyone can buy an ad, but if there is an article written about you, you must be "important".


How To Write The Release

Most press releases follow a similar format, and it's easy to learn. First, spend some time defining the Main Message you want to get across. You will need to tell the who, what, when, why, and where in your press release.

Start with an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of your letterhead. Many people suggest double-spacing your type, as well as leaving a minimum 1 inch white border on all sides. Use an easy to read font. You can use any simple word processing program to build your release, and print it on any decent computer printer. Lower-priced laser printers have sharper type than ink jet printers, but lack color printing capability.

The first lines you want to include are:

"FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE" (or FOR RELEASE JUNE 30, 2001) and

"For more information, contact:"

followed by your contact information. (Make sure the phone number you give will be answered promptly during the period right after the release is sent out. Editor's who are interested in running your story may need to talk to you.)

Then, write your headline, which looks good in all capital letters. The headline is the single most important sentence of your press release - if the headline sounds interesting, it compels people to read further. If not - your release may be passed over quickly. Spend some time and creative thought on the headline. Read other headlines and notice what makes you read an article. This is the same kind of thing you need to accomplish. Don't be afraid to be dramatic, as bold headlines can draw the reader in. Don't make it too boring. "HELPING STOP DEAFNESS: ONE SONG AT A TIME" is a lot more enticing that "LOCAL BAND PLAYS AT DEAF SCHOOL" if you're doing a show at the Deaf School.

After you have crafted the perfect headline, you need to write the body of your release. Here's where you give all the details of your story. Write it in third person (using "He" or "She" instead of "I") and make it read like a news story. Press releases should be, at maximum, two pages long, and one page is better.

Special mention should be given here to the first paragraph. Just like the headline, the first paragraph needs to grab the reader's interest. In fact, many busy editors will only read past the beginning if you have "hooked" them in the first few lines. Make sure you include ALL pertinent details in this paragraph, since often papers will run releases verbatim. Use full city and state descriptions (Seattle, Washington, not just Seattle), and include the month, day, and year in dates (May 4, 2001, not May 4th).

Describe your news without adding flowery adjectives (it's supposed to be NEWS). You can use quotations to add more interest. ("We always wanted to help deaf kids, and this benefit is how we're doing it", said Johnny about the band's gig at the Deal School.)

At the end of the release, summarize your story and add any "About Us" information that is necessary. Follow it up with a contact for further information.

End your press release with the symbol "###" (without the quotation marks) after your last lines of text. This lets the editor know they have successfully received the entire release.

-----

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For more information, contact:

Your Name
Your Street Address
City, State, Zip Code
Phone
Fax
Email

HEADLINE


MONTH DAY#, YEAR (CITY, STATE) -- Important information answering the who, what, where, when, and why. Make sure the first paragraph summarizes your news clearly.

Add additional details here.

About The Band: blah, blah, blah

For further information, contact Your Name at (xxx) xxx-xxxx.


###

-----


Sending Your Release

Almost any newspaper, magazine, radio station or other media can be an outlet for your music news release. You need to build a media list that you regularly send your releases to, and add to it as often as possible. Make it a habit to pick up copies of all publications you see when traveling, and record the information in a contact management program like ACT! or FileMaker Pro.

To build an effective media list that will work for your time after time, you need to build relationships with the journalists. Research the media outlets, and make sure you only send in news that is relevant to the editor's interest.

It's also wise to contact each journalist personally, and find out how they like to receive press releases. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to sending releases by mail, fax, or email, so you need to ask. (To be safe, use snail mail if you haven't inquired.) Be aware that most journalists do not like to be contacted via telephone and asked if they received your release. If the release is newsworthy to their readers, they will print it. Writers and Editors are generally very busy people, and will appreciate it if you respect their time.

Address the envelope neatly and clearly, making sure to spell the contact's name correctly.( If you are unsure of the name, try "News Director", "Music Editor", or "Features Editor".) Include a photo and caption if you have one.


Wrapping Up

You can get some great free publicity by learning to write effective press releases. The coverage costs you nothing more than time and the paper to write the release on, and can bring invaluable promotion to your music or business.

-----

Suzanne Glass is the founder of Indie-Music.com and still collects all the information and programs the site by hand. She began as a musician, and expanded into studio ownership, founding an independent label, management, PR, production, CD replication... whatever it took to make a living. She ditched her day job in 1997 to pursue music full time. Indie-Music.com was founded in late 1996. Recently she has been attending music conferences all over the country as a panelist.


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