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When I won the public relations industry’s equivalent of an Academy Award for a publicity campaign built entirely around press releases in the ’90s (!), I sent press releases via postal mail.
Those days are gone.
And yet, authors and others regularly ask me if they should mail a printed press release when they have newsworthy information to share.
In today’s digital society, the only time you should send a printed press release is when you’re tucking it inside a review copy. You need to email a press release to a journalist.
There’s a right way … and there’s a wrong way
There are several reasons why we send press releases with email:
- It’s the 21st century.
- Email lets journalists copy and paste from a press release. Otherwise, they have to retype what’s in the printed document.
- It’s fast.
- It’s so much more cost effective. You’re not paying for paper and postage; nobody is spending time labeling and stuffing envelopes.
- It’s eco-friendly.
Seems obvious, right?
What’s less obvious is that there’s a right way to do it, and there’s a wrong way to do it.
And many, many people who send press releases for a living – publicists – do it the wrong way. I know because I receive their press releases daily.
Their mistake makes sure their message hits the recipient’s trash bin quicker than I close Facebook when I see a snake photo.
You don’t want to make their mistake.
Video tutorial: How to email a press release
I created a step-by-step video to show you how to email a press release to journalists the right way. You can also read the loose transcript of my video instructions under the video. (To see the video steps better, use the “full screen” icon in the lower right of the video box.)
Today I’m going to answer a question I get asked all of the time: What’s the best way to e-mail a press release about your book to a journalist or a reporter?
I can tell you now what the worst way is: Sending it as an attachment.
I know authors do it that way because I receive them in my e-mail.
Journalists – and others — usually won’t open attachments from people they don’t know. That means the press release doesn’t get read, and it could explain some of the disappointing results.
I’ll walk you through the process on my computer screen. It will only take a few minutes.
What you do want to do is copy and paste. You don’t want to attach anything – whether it’s a press release or photos.
- Start with a catchy subject line. Don’t use “press release from author” or “News release.” You can copy and paste the headline of your press release – that can work. I write something catchy and have it prepared in my Word file with the press release. I’ve used “New book shares pro’s press release secrets” because the press release we’re working with announces my book, which teaches authors how to write a book announcement press release.
- Then add a short introduction that personalizes the message and says something like, “I hope you can use this; let me know if you have questions.”
- Copy and paste your press release into the e-mail message form.
- Add your signature.
- Check everything over.
- Fill in the “To” line. If it’s just one person, just type in the e-mail address. If you’re sending it to several at once, you want to protect their privacy and e-mail addresses by not using the “To” space. When sending to more than one person, put all addresses in the BCC line (blind carbon copy) and send it to yourself.
- Hit the send button.
That’s it. In summary, you need:
- A great subject line
- Quick cover note
- The press release copied and pasted
- E-mail signature
- The “To” line and “BCC” line completed (when appropriate)
- Review before sending
Use a press release distribution service for mass distribution
When you want to send your press release to a large media list, you’re better off using a press release distribution service.
When you use a service, all you need to do is write a newsworthy press release and select the media outlets you’d like to receive it. My favorite is eReleases for a number of reasons that include customer service and your ability to be more selective with the media outlets you’ll want on your distribution list.
Because these services continually update their media contacts, they save you a great deal of time. Some even help improve your press release — never a bad thing.
If your list is smaller or more targeted — local media only or specific trade journals, for example — consider creating your own media list. I’ve got instructions for that in “How to build a killer book publicity media list.”
Write a press release the media will use
You now understand how to email a press release to journalists. Do you know how to write one?
The most important thing to remember when writing a press release is that it must mimic a newspaper article. A press release is news content, not an advertisement. Focus on the facts; omit hyperbole.The most important thing to remember when writing a press release is that it must mimic a newspaper article. A press release is news content, not an advertisement.Click to tweet
I’ve got two resources that will help with that (and be sure to read “Author press releases: 10 situations that deserve one and 4 that don’t“).
- Get Your Book in the News: How to Write a Book Announcement Press Release
- Build Book Buzz Publicity Forms & Templates
Get Your Book in the News: How to Write a Book Announcement Press Release walks you through the process, answering your questions before you think to ask them. It includes lots of examples, a template, and other press release resources that will help you succeed.
Build Book Buzz Publicity Forms & Templates is a collection of fill-in-the-blanks forms for two types of press releases, tip sheets, and 12 other commonly used author press kit and media relations documents. Instructions for each tool and actual samples are included so you have a complete blueprint, whether you’re creating a press release or a Q&A for your site.
Now you’re ready to start sending!
Do you have a question about sending press releases? Please ask it in comment.
(Editor’s note: This article was first published in July 2012. It has been updated and expanded.)
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