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Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series on press releases. The first article ran in the January issue of the “PMA Newsletter.” It concentrated on writing the headline.

The headline of a press release must get the attention of the readers. But once you hook them with your headline, you must deliver on their expectations or they will stop reading immediately. Use the body of your press release to continue the momentum started with the headline and to get the readers to take the action you recommend.Body copy falls into a few well-defined categories, each used in accordance with the general format and theme of your headline. The style of copy you use in the body of your release must follow the pattern and pace established by your attention-getter. If you use a direct , factual headline, your body text will usually be most effective if it, too, is factual. Likewise, if you employ a gimmick headline, your body copy should explain the connection to your book.1. Straight-line copy. Here, the text begins immediately to develop the headline. This is the most frequently used type. It is like a white shirt, red tie and blue blazer-correct for almost any affair. It directly follows the headline and proceeds in a straight and orderly manner from beginning to end. It does not waste words, but starts to sell the benefits of your book immediately.2. Narrative copy follows the headline with a story that logically leads into a discussion of your book. Your text sets up a situation prior to getting into your selling copy. This can be a dangerous style to use because you must construct an interesting story that will keep the readers involved long enough to make your point.3. Institutional copy sells an idea, organization or service. In many cases, this is narrative in style because you are not trying to sell the value of a specific book. You may be announcing your 10th year in business or a new service for your customers. Your copy must create confidence in the company that sells the books, not your books themselves. The difficulty is not to get so wrapped up in the traditions of your publishing firm that the copy becomes boastful and the “you approach” is entirely replaced by the “we.” This will quickly turn a reader off, especially if you use this style following a hornblowing headline.4. Dialogue and monologue copy permits the person giving the endorsement in your headline to do the selling in his or her own words. The trick is to retain the attention-getting power of the testimonial and at the same time sound natural and convincing. One way to do this is to let your endorser do the complete selling job throughout, or by including a few additional supporting remarks in your own or others’ words.5. Gimmick copy uses humor, poetry, foreign words, great exaggeration, gags and other devices to create selling power. This is rarely used because in most cases you are writing a press release to tell a straight, informative story.Use these techniques as guidelines, not as rules. Write for the audience of the recipient, not about your book. Practice writing headlines in several different styles and then write supportive body copy for each.If you are the copywriter, become the copy-reader. Read what you write with a red pencil in your hand. Be brutal. Cut out meaningless words and useless phrases. Combine some sentences and eliminate others. Give your readers a long flowing sentence that combines several thoughts and presents important facts. Then use a shorter sentence to quicken the pace for the reader. Mix and match your text with different headlines until you spark an idea that is truly creative, powerful and designed to accomplish the objective of your press release.
Brian Jud is a book-marketing consultant and President of Publishing Directions, LLC. He is also the author and producer of the video program, “You’re On The Air” and its two companion books, “Perpetual Promotion” and “It’s Show Time.” He can be reached at 800/562-4357 or via e-mail at bjauthor@tiac.net
This article is from thePMA Newsletterfor March, 2000, and is reprinted with permission of Publishers Marketing Association.

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