The Five Pieces of the Press-Release Puzzle
by Marsha Friedman
Most people seem to believe they can write a press release, mail or email it to a radio or television station, and sit back and wait for the avalanche of phone calls. But as time passes and no producers are beating down the door, they make a few phone calls only to discover that no one even read the release.
The following five important components of radio and TV press releases will make your show idea come to life for producers and hosts, and also position you ahead of the pack.
Headline! Headline? HEADLINE!!!
Arguably the most important aspect of your press release, headlines are so vital that entire books and seminars are dedicated to the art of constructing the most effective ones. Now, don’t let this scare you. Writing a killer headline is definitely a skill that can be developed; all you need is a clear and concise overview of your topic.
Write down your show idea and look it over. Now look it over again, remembering that it should be an idea for an interview that relates to your book but most definitely not a summary of the book’s theme or content.
What is your key message? Is your show idea newsworthy? Are there any well-known people you can tie into your topic? Do you have any impressive statistics that are relevant? Does anything controversial tie directly into your subject? The answers to these questions will help you develop a headline that will capture the attention of producers and hosts.
First and foremost, your headline must instantly communicate the topic of the show. The test is, if you can envision what the conversation will be about just from the headline—you’ve got it!
Generally, headlines should be no longer than one sentence. As this is a lot of weight to put on a single sentence, sometimes you will need a subhead to support it. The result is that anyone who reads the headline and subhead together will immediately click on the concept of the show.
Here are two examples of the successful headline and subhead combination:
Global Economic Chaos?
Expert Reveals Predictions on
Grim Future of US Economy
Are Personal Conflicts Ruining Your Life?
How to Successfully Resolve Squabbles in
This is your chance to present a concise summary of your show topic. It should continue naturally from the headline and expand on it. The headline gets the attention, and the discussion topic gives the reader more.
The discussion topic component of your press release should be two or three sentences, tops. Again, try to tie your topic to current events, big names, big money, or controversy. Don’t be worried about repeating yourself in different sections of the press release. After all, you want to get a cohesive point across! Tip: Try writing the headline and topic summary together.
Here is an example of a headline with a topic summary. Notice the bolded words and how they tie the two together.
Global Economic Chaos?
Expert Reveals Predictions on
Grim Future of US Economy
The United States is about to move into a period of major economic chaos and poverty that will wake up people to overthrow the rule of money in society in a ballot-box revolution. Let an internationally renowned expert reveal predictions on the grim future of our economy.
These are an absolute must for radio and TV because they are the shaping tools that guide the host through your topic. Often, hosts read directly from press releases during an interview. This not only makes them look knowledgeable; it saves them heaps of time. So why not have them ask you questions you’ve created, enabling you to get your specific message heard? This makes you look knowledgeable and makes for a great interview!
Yet again, you will need to tie in current events and any controversy that will stir interest. Generally, it is good to give no more than 7 or 10 of these conversation shapers. For instance, here are a few questions that were used in a release for a radio show on “How to Find the Perfect Pet for Your Lifestyle”:
What are the primary reasons people decide to get a pet?
What criteria should people follow when choosing a pet to make sure it fits into their lifestyle?
What can families do ahead of time to determine what type of pet is best for them?
How can families prepare children for the responsibility of caring for a pet?
What are some of the things people need to consider before adopting a puppy or other young animal?
If you do get invited as a guest, your interviews will generally last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, so concise is a word you should keep in the forefront of your mind.
Remember: The more you focus your questions on the topic of your book, the more interested listeners will be in it.
Once you have gained attention with your eye-catching headline, topic summary, and talking points, it is time to present your full show idea. This is when to position yourself as an expert on the topic.
Do not write a sales piece here. Write the show. Work the author’s name, personal quotes, and book title into the overview. Use the following liberally to build your topic and profile: statistics, testimonials, current facts, specifics from relevant news stories, and professional credentials. Use anything that will interest the producer, the host, and their audience. Try to limit this section to no more than a page; the ideal range is four to six paragraphs with no more than four sentences in each one.
A Topic Overview for the show on pets discussed earlier read:
For some people, “cute” is the only criterion they follow when choosing a new pet. But deciding which pet to adopt based solely on the animal’s appearance can set new “pet parents” up for disaster. After all, puppies don’t look quite so cute when they’re chewing your furniture! Lack of foresight is one of the top reasons an estimated 6 to 8 million unwanted pets end up at local animal shelters each year.
Enter pet expert Dr. Diane Pomerance, author of the new book Pet Parenthood: Adopting the Right Animal Companion for You. As a bonafide animal lover, she wants to help prospective pet owners understand how to make the best decision when choosing a new pet— and to recognize that adopting a pet is a lifetime commitment and responsibility that requires much thought and planning.
“There’s no denying the attraction to a cute puppy or kitten,” says Dr. Pomerance. “But people need to be fully prepared for what’s truly involved in caring for that animal. Realistically speaking, they are bringing a child into their home. If you don’t have the temperament, the schedule, or the space requirements to meet those needs, you should consider a pet that does fit your lifestyle.”
Another important factor that often goes overlooked is how children in a family will interact with the new pet. Pets make wonderful companions for children and can help teach them compassion, responsibility, and respect for all living creatures, as well as boost their self-esteem. But it’s important to determine ahead of time what type of animal best suits the household and what role each family member will take in caring for it.
Money also comes into play when adopting a new pet. Vet bills can be expensive, and upkeep for some animals can be costly if they develop health problems.
“The reality is, pets can be expensive and time intensive. When you love your pet, obviously you want to provide the best care possible. So it is important to understand the costs and responsibilities ahead of time when choosing your pet.”
Oddly, this is the element people tend to forget, underplay, or overplay. It is important to position the author as an expert. You can cite a variety of qualifications—education, career, relationships, memberships, travel history, odd pets, and more. If the book is about religion, for example, anything the author does that pertains to religion is applicable.
Two warnings: Sensationalizing an author’s credentials will immediately turn producers and hosts off; and simply rehashing a resume with bullet points is an absolute no-no.
If you take your time developing exactly what a book-related interview segment will be about, and then put lots of thought into developing a press release that clearly reflects your planning, you will command more media attention.
Marsha Friedman runs Event Management Services, Inc., a full-service publicity firm representing authors and experts in a wide variety of fields, including lifestyle, health, politics, entertainment, finance, sports, and food. The company arranges interviews on talk-radio shows around the country, appearances on local and national TV, and coverage in newspapers and magazines. For more information, call Marsha Friedman at 727/443-7115, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.