Just so you don’t accuse me of making you wade through the entire
article to get to the 15 words, the first 11 are: “Are you the person
I should send this press release to?” Story follows….
Let’s 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. For free!
Most magazines have new product sections where press releases are
published. They often also have new book sections. 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 week. 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.
Step A: Preparation
I’m not going to go into depth about the rules of preparing a
release; 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.” Followed 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 Book Offers Benefit), centered and in bold. Followed 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.
Step B: Contacting the Media
Here’s the old way of operating. 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… double effort.
Here’s the Jeff Dobkin trick approach to sending a press release.
I usually don’t like to recommend phone calls in any of my campaigns,
but this is not a “selling” call. You simply phone 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 the release 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 assist in bringing 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 that 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….
We Need Them; They Need Us-So Call!
Editors want quality releases. They rely on press releases for
news about new products, new books, 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 can separate you from the pack.
Editors delight in talking to real people, not just press agents.
If you have a product, book, 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.
Jeffrey Dobkin, author of “How to Market a Product for Under
$500” ($29.95), now has a second book, “Uncommon Marketing Techniques”
($17.95), offering over 33 of his latest columns on small business
marketing, just like the one you read above. Dobkin is also a speaker,
a direct mail copywriter for both large and small firms, and a consultant
who will help you with your marketing and advertising. To contact
Dobkin, call 610/642-1000 or write the Danielle Adams Publishing
Company, Box 100, Merion Station, PA 19066. Visit his Web site at
This article is from thePMA Newsletterfor April, 2000, and is reprinted with permission of
Publishers Marketing Association.