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I read a lot of press releases. I also write a fair number of them. Most of the ones I read – the ones I didn’t write, at least – lead me to wonder what the purpose of the exercise was.

Dateline: Anywhere, USA, Today
XYZ, Inc. is pleased to announce the appointment of Fred Smith as (insert C or VP level title here). Mr. Smith joins the XYZ team after (insert career track here), and is looking forward to…blah, blah, blah.

This is, of course, great news for Fred, and for XYZ, Inc. If it isn’t, XYZ, Inc. is in deep kimchee. But why would anyone outside of XYZ, Inc. care, based on the information in the press release?

Journalism 101 centers around the “Five Ws” – Who, What, When, Where, Why. Answer all those questions, and you’re a news item, right?

Wrong.

You do need to cover the five Ws. You also need to answer the question, “Who cares?” That will answer another important question, “What’s my lead?” You want to get the reader’s attention with your first sentence, to spark interest in the story you have to tell.  That’s your lead, your hook. Just trumpeting the fact that Fred Smith has joined the team isn’t a hook. But if Fred just joined XYZ after driving revenues up 150% in two years at ABC, Ltd., that’s a hook – and should be the lead on the press release.

Another important thing about press releases is: don’t just send them to the press. Post them online at PR.com, PRWeb.com, DBusinessNews.com, Yahoo and Google News, industry association websites, and any other web portal that your customers visit.

When you write a press release, write it as if you’re telling the story to that big customer you want to attract. If you do, you’ll get press coverage and market impact. When you distribute it, send it to the marketplace – the web – as well as your media list. This approach will get you press coverage, and it will also make your company’s news visible to search engines – and your customers.

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