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How to Write and Format a Press Release for E-mail Distribution.

The definitive style guide to the correct format for Press Releases based on feedback from journalists and reporters. For software news release formats click here

A conventional 'hard copy' press release is a brief document generally one to three double-spaced type written pages announcing news about your company, product or service to media professionals.

E-mail press releases are usually shorter in length than their print counterparts. The majority of electronic press releases sent are 400 words of text organized into five, short two to three sentence paragraphs.

E-mail software allows the user to set limits on the size of messages it will download. Since many individuals do not change the default limit on their e-mail software, long messages can be truncated. For this reason we discourage clients from sending extremely lengthy electronic news releases.

Information such as photographs, bios of company executives, white papers and other supporting documents usually included in a printed media kit may be published online where reporters may access them easily at their convenience.

If your company, for example, has completed an online survey of Internet shoppers, include a brief overview of the results in the electronic press release then follow that paragraph with the URL or home page address where complete survey results are published. The URLs for screen shots of your Web site and products may also be included in the news release.

Some reporters have limited online access. As a courtesy, always include a contact method for reporters who prefer to have materials mailed to them by conventional means.

Sending photographs and supplemental information files through e-mail attachments is not acceptable when contacting a reporter.

Information to Include in a Press Release

  • A compelling e-mail subject header and headline.
  • A first paragraph that covers the five W's: who, what, where, when and why.
  • Electronic contact information including an e-mail address for the press contact and Web site address of the company. Reporters working on deadline will often choose to call a company representative rather than wait for a reply by e-mail. Be sure that in addition to e-mail contact information a phone number for the press contact is listed.
  • The mention of key clients or endorsement from a 'non-biased' source like university professor or software reviewer. You should have permission from those sources to use their remarks in your press release.
  • A short paragraph at the end of the release containing background information about the company. This might include a synopsis of the activities of the company, how long they have been in business, and any area of expertise. If the press release is about a book or entertainer then cover career high-points.

Story Tips

Electronic PR does not differ from conventional PR in that one's ability to write and organize information well is rewarded with press coverage. However, the one-two punch of a creative subject header for your message and a clever "spin" to your news rings extra loud in a crowded inbox.

Many journalists respond to clever writing and news releases that describe how a new product or service is a solution to a business or consumer problem.

Pointing to a new business, consumer or health trend is another way to position a story.

Another popular method for obtaining press coverage is to ride piggy-back on a breaking news story by alerting the media to your client's expertise on that particular subject.

Like the Rolling Stones say, "Time is on your side." Be prepared to act fast if you sense a PR opportunity. Time the sending of your news release right and you can receive a windfall of publicity. That's where a service like ours can help.

In 1998, one of our software clients had the good fortune to be the only company delivering the Starr Report by e-mail using a proprietary technology for which the recipient paid to read the document. Many may remember the Starr Report was first published online. While individuals jammed Web sites attempting to read the document, our client offered the only alternative to the congestion. Following the distribution of a press release the company received thousands of requests for delivery and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to showcase their product. Electronic press release delivery is an excellent tool when a story has a limited shelf-life and or when a news window will be open only for a limited time.





How to Format a Release

1) The first line of the e-mail message should read: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE in all caps. This lets the reporter know the news is authorized for publication on the date they receive it.

2) Allow one spacer line then write a headline using a combination of lower case and capital letters. Keep your headline to ten words or less. Do not write the headline in all capital letters because it is harder to read using e-mail software.

3) Allow another empty line for spacing, then begin the text of the release as we show with the city and state followed by a dash. All releases must include a date since reporters do not always use releases immediately.

4) There are a number of conventions for line length of electronic press releases. Xpress Press formats press release to the style most universal among e-mail readers.

5) Include press contact information below the text of the news release. A reporter reading your release should be able to make a decision about your story in the first screen of the e-mail message. Don't waste that space with contact information. They will scroll down to find out who to contact if they want to follow-up with you.

6) Finally, close the document with the characters -30- or ### which are style conventions that let the report know they have reached the end of the story.

REMINDERS

Don't trust your word processing program to catch errors in grammar and spelling. Have a few individuals read the release before sending it to a reporter or news agency. Although an Xpress Press staffer reads through each release, we are reading a number of stories each day looking for obvious errors like the omission of an e-mail address for the press contact.

Additionally, remember that press releases are sent by e-mail and not everyone uses the same software. For that reason we do not use HTML tags, bold type or color text which may not transmit consistently across all computer platforms.



Sample Press Releases

Below is a sample press release that generated quite a buzz for its company several years ago. Notice that the release does not follow the usual rules of including the five W's up front. However, the headline is a unique twist on words and grabs the reader's interest quickly.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Noodle Bytes Man

DUXBURY, Mass. - April 28 (Xpress Press)- Two years ago, Raymond Lemire was at one of those proverbial crossroads in life. Having been the victim of downsizing after a corporate merger, he faced the decision of whether to continue working for someone else or to start his own business.

Armed with statistics on growing pasta consumption, articles on the explosive growth of the internet and a second mortgage on his house, Lemire started the Flying Noodle and its Pasta of The Month Club.

His goal was to build a semi-virtual company. He would handle all the marketing, accounting and order taking from his home- based office, while the order fulfillment and warehousing would be outsourced. This would allow him to maximize time with customers and minimize his up front capital risk and ongoing overhead expenses.

His internet site is fast loading with whimsical noodle characters, a section on the history and lore of pasta and pasta sauces, recipes, a contest for newsletter subscribers and over 60 different pastas and 35 different pasta sauces. Customers can order via a state-of-the-art secure shopping basket system.

The internet site opened in December 1995 to the thunderous sound of emptiness. In the world of the internet, if you build it they will only come if you tell them you exist. Fortunately he also produced a direct mail brochure as insurance against his "sure bet" on the internet. This bought him the necessary time to really promote the site.

Now, a year and a half later, the Flying Noodle's internet site brings in 30% of the company's revenues. Lemire has added a Japanese language section to his web-site and has a growing base of customers. Over 40% of the company's revenues come from repeat business and customer referrals. About 10% of his business comes from overseas customers.

His advice to anyone who is thinking of starting an online business? Don't get carried away with the hype and forget about the basics of selling. Study the direct marketing field in terms of catalog structure, language, delivery systems, guarantees and style. Make your site as interactive as possible without ignoring the most important aspect of your site - it needs to be profitable in order to survive.

And the Flying Noodle? Is it surviving? "Business is five times ahead of 1996", says Lemire. "If we continue at this pace, 1997 will be a very good year for pasta."

You can check them out at http://www.flyingnoodle.com or call for their free brochure 1-800-566-0599.

Interview Contact: Raymond K Lemire, The Big Parmesan
Telephone: 800-566-0599
bigparmesan@flyingnoodle.com
http://www.flyingnoodle.com

Flying Noodle
1 Arrowhead Road, Duxbury, Massachusetts, USA 02332
Voice 800-566-0599 (USA 011) or 781-934-1519. Fax 781-934-1527

# # #



When to Send Your News


Daily Newspapers
Business and general assignment reporters working for newspapers and online dailies turn around stories within 24 and 48 hours. However, feature writers are working on stories weeks in advance of publication date. Press Releases about special events or with holiday tie-ins should be sent a minimum of three weeks in advance so the reporter has ample time to research and write the story. The same is true for promoting online webcasts and events. Three weeks is often needed to obtain coverage in Internet newsletters and online calendars.

Monthly Magazines
Monthly publications close editorial content two months in advance of the issue date. It is not unusual for writers to be deciding on story content for a December issue in September. Stories with a holiday theme should be sent to allow the reporter ample time for research and coverage.

Radio and Television
Radio or television stations may plug your Web site or product and perhaps be interested in having a representative from your company appear on one of their programs. Because interviews can be held over the telephone you might receive a call in the afternoon for a show airing that evening. Be prepared. Designate someone from your company as the spokesperson and have them prep for the show. In some cases you can ask the show's producer for a list of questions you will be asked. Plan how you will reply to the questions. Also plan how you will respond to the interviewer if they ask questions you do not wish to answer.


For prompt reply to your questions via e-mail write to news(at)xpresspress.com or phone. Business hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. US EST. Call 800-713-7701 within the US or 954-989-3338.


Xpress Press News Service
Telephone: +1 954-989-3338 or 800-713-7701 in the U.S.
editorial@xpresspress.com


Copyright 2004 Xpress Press. All rights reserved.
No duplication or redistribution.


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