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TRIPE Report Reveals That News Releases Are
A recent study by the powerful Testing and Research for IP Educators (TRIPE) consortium has determined that news releases can be a cheap, effective means of getting the media to pay attention to you -- and spreading the word about your IP business.
"I sent out a release to local media announcing the translation of one of my books into Korean and Chinese," says Shel Horowitz, author of such books as Marketing Without Megabucks and Penny-Pinching Hedonist, who bravely underwent painful electric shock treatment for the TRIPE study. "I intended this to be background, so they'd call me when they needed a marketing expert. Lo and behold, the largest regional paper in my territory did a Full Story with picture!"
A well-written news release can generate news coverage for months to come, say the study results. And it doesn't matter if you're Bill Gates or Joe IP. The study's author, eminent TRIPE researcher Linda Formichelli, conducted intensive research on thousands of IPs and members of the media to come up with a winning formula for creating a successful news release.
Get in Shape
A standard format is key to news release success, reports the TRIPE study. Print the release on company letterhead to clearly identify your business. In the upper left-hand corner, write "For Immediate Release," or, if the release has time value, "Hold Until XX/XX/XX" or "For Release During Lent."
Flush right on the same line, tell the editors who they can contact for further information: "Contact: M. Bulgakov, 800-123-4567." (The TRIPE study suggests that pretentious American IPs announce their pretentiousness by separating their numbers with periods instead of hyphens: 800.123.4567.)
TRIPE suggests that your press release should...
Reel Them In
Editors and producers face looming stacks of news releases every day. How can you make yours stand out? Don't resort to using colored paper or folding your release into an origami duck, warns the TRIPE report. Such attention-getting gimmicks are the mark of an amateur.
The headline is your first and sometimes only chance to hook the editor or producer and keep him or her reading. Make it newsy, clear, and interesting. For example, Formichelli shamelessly brags that "a headline on a news release I recently wrote generated a 15% response rate for the client -- which is really good. It was -- are you ready for this? -- 'Already a Bouquet of Light in the Homes of Hollywood Luminaries, the Candle Box Debuts at the California Gift Show.'"
Turn It Upside-Down
The body of the press release should take the format of an inverted pyramid: critical information goes in the first paragraph, information of next highest importance in the second paragraph, and so on. "Sometimes an editor will print a news release as is, and the inverted pyramid format allows him or her to slice off the last paragraphs if necessary without sacrificing important information," says Formichelli.
Do Target Practice
It takes some effort, but slanting your release for each market you target can pay off in more coverage, the TRIPE study reveals. "The releases that seem to get the most attention are the ones that I write as if they are news articles specifically written with the targeted publication in mind," says "freelance voice guy" Mike Weiner, who submitted to humiliating psychological testing for the purposes of the study. "I research the publication, make sure the readership is appropriate, and then tailor the release to that publication."
Cut the Hype
You can't fool members of the media, says TRIPE -- so don't try to pass off a self-serving ad as news. When an editor or producer reads such a release, he or she sees that you're just trying to get a free ad and tosses it. Examples of real news items are:
"You don't need to spend a fortune to have someone distribute your release," says Formichelli. "You can compile your own list for nothing -- just be sure to make it targeted. If you want to get coverage for your Web design business, don't send a release to Country Clutter Fortnightly."
Don't have the faintest idea what media target your audience? The TRIPE report suggests browsing through Bacon's Magazine & Newspaper Directory or Bacon's Publicity Checker at your local library. Or pick up a copy of a magazine directory such as Writer's Market 2000, which is available at most bookstores for under $30.
According to TRIPE, the thrifty IP can also take advantage of such online magazine directories as ThatsNewsToMe and TradeWriter. For other news media, check out the list of media directories at Search Engine Guide.
Just be sure to confirm the editor's or producer's name, warns TRIPE second banana Kathie Stamps of Stamps Communications. "It's important to call and get the name -- proper spelling, please -- of the appropriate party," she says. "Sure, you can always send a release to a title, but isn't it better PR to send it to a person? A personal note sure wouldn't hurt, either."
TRIPE is a world-renowned association dedicated to improving the lot of IPs through education, research, and government grant money. For more information on TRIPE or the report on news releases, contact Linda Formichelli at 555.531.8008 or www.tripe.org.
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