Writing Press Releases: 7 DOs and DON’Ts

Ah! Writing press releases… They are foundational marketing communications documents that lay out the core elements of your story: your accomplishments, your discoveries, your new products, your news. When handled correctly, writing press releases can save you a lot of time and energy when relating with various audiences.

I write a press release when I’m ready to get serious about implementing my communications strategy. I usually begin drafting a press release right after I’ve established my marketing strategy, because with it, I can expand or support all my other communications messages.

Some people will adamantly tell you the press release is dead. I would politely disagree. It’s not, its purpose has just evolved. I write press releases mainly because they save me time when I’m asked to provide a summary of my news, company or update, etc. More importantly, a press release contains your “official” language–the wording that you want media (journalists, producers, podcasters or bloggers) to copy-and-paste into their text, so they don’t miscommunicate your main messages.

Let me be clear. I don’t think press releases will improve my ROI. It won’t–not directly, anyway. I don’t think journalists are hanging around just waiting to hear my news. They aren’t–no delusions of grandeur here!

Rachel Sprung wrote a lovely roundup for Hubspot of “When Press Releases Do (and Don’t) Help Your Marketing” in case you’re still not sure whether it’s worth your time to write a press release.

If you know you are ready  to write a press release, but still need some pointers on what to do and what not to do, you’re at the right place. So, without further ado…

Do consider your audience when writing press releases.

a press release contains your official language. Cynthia T. Luna Let’s consider first that a press release is a news release for the press. When I say “press” here, I am referring to those who consider themselves part of the fourth estate, such as reporters, journalists and freelancers for print media, producers for broadcast media, show hosts for podcasts and also bloggers. (Pretty long list!)

Knowing that, make sure you communicate the “news” in your press release clearly and prominently. Segment your long list of media so that you can target your press release with the hooks and angles that will grab their attention.

Also, news media (should you be so lucky to get their attention) are strapped for time, so keep your press release succinct. Try to stay between 200 and 500 words. If your press release is longer than this, you’re probably juggling two or more news messages worthy of their own releases. Or you’re trying to communicate to too many audiences with one missive.

Don’t write your press release in the first person.

In my many years freelancing, I have proofed and edited too many client press releases written entirely in the first person. This is a no-no for your press release. Blog posts? No problem. Formal letter or a personal email? Have at it. But for a press release: do not pass go in the first person.

If there is only one lesson you take away from this blog post, please let it be this: Do not ever write a press release entirely in the first person singular (“I”) or plural (“we”). Write your press release as if you’re on the outside, looking in. Write it as if you were a reporter for your favorite national newspaper and your editor gave you the assignment of writing the news article (between 200-500 words) about your latest book.

Think locally when writing press releases. Cynthia T. LunaRemember how time-strapped I said journalists are? Say you just sent out a press release that included some interesting data supporting Joe Journalist’s upcoming story. He tried to phone you, but you were on a flight to a seminar. He might just swipe a couple lines from your press release and cite that it was your official perspective. After all that’s what a press release is: an official announcement of your news to the press.

Do tailor your press release for your audience and front-load your news angle.

Even when you intend to release your updates to “the press”, you will still need to cherry pick your reporters, producers and bloggers by beat. Then tailor your news release to their focus. If you wrote and published a book about beauty tips while traveling, for instance, members of the media that focus on travel and/or beauty might be interested.

Don’t forget local media, associations, alma maters, and niche bloggers.

Don't play hard to get.While we’re on the subject of your audience and the media… Don’t forget to add audiences that are more interested in what’s happening in their backyards than in world news. So, think locally. Is there a used bookstore that hosts local writers? Have you shared your news with your schools? What about your local church? Or your neighborhood newspaper? Your university’s alumni association often manages some form of newsletter or means of informing your former classmates. Your “Libatiously Looping Ladies” get-together might surprise you! If any of them ever say, “How interesting! I’d love to share your news with my network,” give them your official press release. They will pass it on.

When writing press releases, do keep the inverted pyramid in mind.

Make sure the first two sentences of your press release are crystal clear. This means, come out with your news first and don’t keep your time-strapped news-hungry readers guessing. I use the Who-What-Where-When-How-Why model. Usually, it boils down to:

  • “Who is doing what” in the first sentence.
  • “When, where and how” can the release’s readers (or the media’s readers) benefit from the news in the second sentence.
  • And the third sentence (if you haven’t suavely integrated this in the first two sentences) handles why is this news relevant to the recipients and their readers. This is usually a reference to the newsworthiness of your release. For instance, you might write, “This is the first book to combine travel and beauty tips for black women traveling south of the equator”.

Here’s the idea behind writing a release with the inverted pyramid in mind: If a publication wanted to swipe your copy and publish it in their paper, they could simply hack off paragraphs from the bottom up without losing the meaning or context of your news. Technically, the first paragraph (the lead paragraph) should be sufficient information for the essence of the release’s news. Following paragraphs elaborate on key components, or provide color to your release.

Do include a quote or two.

Here is where you can use the first person. Include a quote by you, and make it count! Let’s say a blogger decided to write a post on beauty tips while traveling and stumbled on your recent press release through the internet. All she was looking for was a good quote from an expert on the subject matter. And she found your press release! Aren’t you glad you didn’t write, “We think make-up that travels well is great!” Instead you said something informed and knowledgeable. You might have said something like, “Our studies showed nine out of 10 women freshen up their make-up before landing. We were surprised to learn that mascara was the number one beauty product in women’s travel bags.” This is your chance to show your expertise. The blogger might swipe the quote, or might want to find out more about your studies and interview you.

Don’t play hard to get.

Assume your press release will be distributed and published far and wide. So, even if you don’t want to be stalked, do provide some means of contact for people who are interested in your news. Include your publishable and public business details, such as an email and web address.

Back in the day when press releases were submitted by telex, fax and mail, PR people used to include their contact information at the top of the page–after “For Immediate Release” and the date. Today, most media want their press releases by email. Don’t lose precious “preview language” (your awesome lead paragraph) with that language. Make sure you keep your contact information at the end.

That’s it — my top seven Dos and Don’ts for writing press releases.

Writing Press Releases: 7 DOs & DON'Ts / Cynthia T. Luna / LivinginCyn.comNo blog post would be complete without me sharing an example of one of my own press releases. Here is one I wrote for my alma maters, regarding the publication of The Aspiring Author’s Guide: Write Your Marketing Strategy. I tailored this press release for each school I graduated from–so it included the name of the school, the college I graduated from, and my year of graduation. For my blog, I decided to leave this information a bit more general. Last, but not least, as a rule, I never email a press release without a pitch. So, usually, my customized release is copied and pasted at the bottom of my email and accompanies a pitch. This “alum release” was reposted (with a quick comment) in LinkedIn.

5 Ways to Boost Your Twitter Follower Goals (in just 30 Minutes per day)

You’re busy. I get that. But growing your Twitter follower numbers doesn’t have to be an exercise in time drain. Here are 5 ways to boost your twitter follower goals, using just 30 minutes each day. (I’ll also confess that even though I visited my Twitter feed daily, I sometimes spent less than 30 minutes–rarely ever more.)

Before I give up my secrets, I’ll start you off with a little back story. In October, I started to draw up a marketing strategy by taking inventory of the ways I can reach out to an audience who might be interested in my yet to be published novel. In doing so, I realized that I had a dormant Twitter account with some 400-plus followers and not much else. So, I set up a marketing objective to increase my Twitter followership from 400 to 2,000 by the end of December 2016. (I thought 14 months would be a fair amount of time to try out my process.) Well, I was thrilled to announce that I had cracked the 1,000 mark expending no more than 30 minutes a day just two months later. Today, I’m ecstatic to report that I have surpassed my 2,000-follower benchmark for December 2016!

5 ways to boost your twitter follower count and blow your goals out of the water | LivinginCyn.com | Cynthia T. Luna

Given that I have blown my objective out of the water, I’ll definitely remain loyal to Twitter (which accounts for around 50% of my blog visitorship) and kick up my follower goal to 5,000 by December 2016. I’ll do so by continuing to stay true to the five things I have done consistently thus far, and that also fit comfortably into my 30-minute/day rhythm. Of course, these are by no means the only tried and true ways, they’re just the ones that quintupled my Twitter follower base over the last five months. If you have some good tips, useful anecdotes, awesome hashtags–let me know! 

Now, without further ado…

Here are 5 ways to boost your Twitter follower numbers

5 ways to boost your twitter follower count and get Twitty with it | LivinginCyn.com | Cynthia T. Luna

1) Find a few #Hashtags that your followers seem to enjoy using.

  • #FollowFriday: Back when I first signed up for Twitter (maybe that was in 2008?) there was this hashtag that is still in use today: #FollowFriday or #FF. I use #FF as a way to acknowledge everyone who has followed me in the last week. On Friday mornings, I literally will open up two windows on my laptop–one with my email box and the other in my Twitter account. In my email account, I’ll conduct a search of all the Twitter notifications that says, “is now following you on Twitter” and go through the list of new followers. Friday mornings are the only day where I consistently spend my full 30 minutes of Twitter time.
  • #ArchiveDay: I have learned that this day (Saturday) is for rummaging through your old blog posts and re-Tweeting them. I will do this and retweet other people’s #ArchiveDay posts that I remember reading or that I found interesting. I confess (again!) that some Saturdays I’m more active than others.
  • #SundayBlogShare: On Sundays I’m more of a consumer of media. This is when I will revisit some blogs I already follow whose earlier posts I missed, or I will find new bloggers and Tweeps I hadn’t known about. The hashtag is also managed by the handle, @SundayBlogShare, who will only retweet blog posts — no Etsy, Amazon or YouTube. She also reserves the right not to retweet to her 2,000+ followers.
  • #MondayBlogs: There is also a Twitter handle by the same name (@MondayBlogs). They scour the Twitterverse for recent tweets with the #MondayBlogs hashtag, and if you’re lucky (and your content isn’t pornographic or offensive) they’ll retweet your tweet to their 14,000+ followers. 🙂

There are others. I use #TacticalTues on Tuesdays, and it’s the day that I share quick marketing tips, like today’s–or some of the other marketing information I share on this blog. It’s also the day that I tend to get marketing, PR and social media tweeps. So, certain hashtags are used/searched more prolifically in some Twitter circles than others.

#TacticalTues: 5 ways to boost your twitter follower count | LivinginCyn.com | Cynthia T. Luna

2) Visit the profiles of Tweeps whose tweets you enjoyed.

I am writing this blog post on a Sunday, and I just happened to poke #SundayBlogShare into my Twitter search. I happened to discover a fascinating post by @AprilMunday (a writer) about sleeping arrangements in the 14th Century. Though I don’t write historical fiction, I love to read the genre, and little facts like these are just interesting. I just followed her and I look forward to more of her tidbits in my Twitter feed.

3) Retweet (or RT), and Hootsuite

As you might have noted above, there are specific days when retweeting your own posts or earlier tweets is expected and socially acceptable. Hootsuite is an excellent program where you can schedule future tweets. A lot of people use Hootsuite to retweet their #ArchiveDay posts several Saturdays out at different hours of the day or night–so Twitterers of all time zones might have had the chance to see it.

One of the #ArchiveDay posts I love to RT is Living in Cyn’s e-interview with Sacha Black, mainly because Sacha Black likes to retweet it for herself as well. Every time I learn she has RT the interview to her readers, I will pop over to her Twitter feed and RT a couple of her own blog posts. What goes around, comes around. But I’ll also repost to Twitter my other interviews with aspiring authors and new authors–they are definitely worth the read, and I always get positive feedback from those pieces.

More importantly, I RT other people’s blog posts and tweets. I go by a loose 3:1 ratio. For every one of the posts that I tweet for myself, I’ll retweet three other people’s tweets or blog posts. And if someone RTed one of my pinned posts, I’ll return the favor. I am of the opinion that if you RT someone else’s tweet or blog post you benefit from loads more social karma that eventually leads to more followers–which is the goal, right?

4) Get Visual, Use Images

Twitter has definitely upped its visual game, which I think is an improvement on the old, 140-character text-only Twitter of bygone days. Images open the window of communication possibilities. You can take photos yourself, have them designed, or find some CC0 images online to download and use. Some people will upload an image that’s chock-full-of-text, as in the link below:

But I think the point and pleasure of Twitter is its textual brevity. A great image or GIF only adds to enhance the wonder that Twitter is. A big message in few words. Here’s an example…

It’s also possible to post more than one image in a tweet…

5) Relate, or Engage

Twitter Followers Thank You Card, Follow @cynthiatluna
Funny to think how impossible I thought gathering 1,000 Twitter followers would be…

Well, it’s hard to write a blog post about social media without using the word “engage”, but “engagement” lies at the heart of the social ethos. This means that my time spent in Twitter reading tweets is just as well spent as my time there posting tweets.

Today, only five months in, there are several Twitter handles I recognize and keep turning back to for interesting content. When your Twitter feed starts to include these names and their tweets, you don’t abhor checking into your feed on a daily basis, because it steers you back to the content you enjoy.

How about you? Is there something you do in Twitter that grows your followers? Any #hashtags that work for you?Bloggers Commenting Back

Let me know and share your tips in the comments below. I’m all for switching things up in my arsenal of Twitter activities.

Tactical Tuesday Tip: Follow an Author’s WordPress blog!

Not too long ago, a blogger (and also aspiring author) whose work I admire told me that she was having difficulty figuring out how to follow my self-hosted WordPress.org blog from her WordPress.com blog. My feeling is that she wanted to receive my blog posts directly in her email box — just as she can from any other WordPress.com site — or maybe she even wanted to follow my site on her WordPress Reader.

cropped-KNOW.YOUR_.MESSAGE..jpg

I just employed these steps to see if I could help my fellow WordPress.com blogger follow LivinginCyn.com more conveniently. I’m not a techie person, so I can tell you that this is EASY.

Never Fear, An Easy to Use Link is Here! And the process is as easy as 1-2-3!

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 08.28.28
Click on the link, and it will take you to a page similar to this one.
  1. Visit this link (which will take you to the WordPress.com Reader manager), and enter the URL (www.livingincyn.com) of the website you wish to follow.
  2. Click on the little follow cross on the right, so that it can turn into a green checkmark and appear with the word “following”. At this point, if the website has a site icon (or gravatar) associated with it, that image will appear.
  3. Click on the little arrow immediately to the left of the site icon, so that it points downward. A mini-menu will appear with options to toggle On or Off, the ability to have new posts/ comments emailed to you. You will even be able to decide whether you want new posts delivered to you Daily, Weekly or Monthly.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 08.54.30

Why does this matter to you as an author?

Whether you’re an author with books under her belt, or an aspiring author, still working on your first novel or non-fiction work, it’s never too early to build an author platform. One of many ways to do that is by engaging with other authors, as well as with other bloggers, in general. This includes writing blog posts, looking out for other authors and readers on social media, following them and engaging in conversation.

Marketing Tips #TacticalTues Living in CynMy Tactical Tuesday column is designed for authors and writers to implement easy, strategic marketing tactics to help them grow their author platform. If you’re an author and you have a question, a thought, or a suggestion, leave your comment below, or follow me on Twitter @cynthiatluna with the hashtag #TacticalTues! See you soon!

3 Ways to grow (double!) your Twitter followers in less than 90 days, spending 30 minutes per day

You’ve heard of Twitter. The micro-blogging social media platform where you can accrue followers with a few taps or mouse clicks per day. It’s an incredible way to get your 140-character message out to hundreds of people at any given time — if only it weren’t so overwhelming! It doesn’t have to be.

In this blog post, I wish to tell you how I managed to grow my Twitter followers from a measly 430 followers, to 1,000-plus in less than 90 days, and spending less than 30 minutes per day in the application.

But, first, a little back story! 🙂

Just as I completed the first draft of my novel in October, I started designing my marketing strategy. After a quick assessment of my contacts, I realized I had no author platform — no audience, beyond my friends and family — to whom I could market my work!

Having developed a rough outline of my marketing strategy (stay tuned and sign up for emails from me, because I am working on creating a free ebook on my design process to share with you!), one thing became really clear to me: I needed a system whereby I can grow my Twitter followers, quickly, using little effort and even less time! (I’m busy; what can I say?)

Twitter Followers from October - December 2015
Follow me on Twitter! @cynthiatluna.

So, somewhere around the beginning of October, when I had about 430 Twitter followers, I set the conservative goal of hitting 1,000 Twitter followers by December 31, 2015. On December 13, 2015, I hit that goal with 18 days to spare! (Thank you, Twitter Followers!)

Here are the 3 Things I did to grow my Twitter followers numbers.

1. Set a goal

Access Your Twitter AnalyticsMake sure your goal is SMART, too. In case you don’t know what SMART stands for: it’s Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timebound. As far as specific, attainable and realistic were concerned, I just took the number of followers I had on that day, 436; doubled it, rounded it off to a nice clean number (1,000), and set a time-limit (end of this year) on the goal. Voilà, goal set!

I also want to take this opportunity to share with you that you can easily measure a bunch of Twitter activities through Twitter Analytics — this is a free service (for now, anyway) offered by Twitter, so you can see how you’re engaging socially online. You can access Twitter analytics, by selecting the drop-down menu in the top-right corner of your desktop Twitter screen–or you can tap the URL in your smartphone.

2. Commit to two or three times in the day during which to visit your Twitter account.

Now that you’ve set a goal, you need to attain it, right? When I set this goal for myself, I thought it would be impossible to reach by the end of the year, but I also reasoned, I wouldn’t know unless I tried. The first couple days I visited my Twitter account, I read through tweet after tweet, and was overwhelmed with the sheer load of information. Much of it was pretty repetitive, dull or downright self-promotional. I decided to keep my visits short and frequent — two or three each day… and timed!

Here’s what I did daily, 5 – 6 days per week:

  • Visit 1: Conduct a few searches, based on hashtags: #amwriting, #amediting and #amreading (find the hashtags that work for you) to find Twitter accounts whose bios align with my interests. Read their top couple tweets, and if I enjoyed them, I would retweet them with a quote, a mention, a positive comment. Once 10 or 15 minutes were done, I’d sign out.
  • Visit 2: During the day, a tweet might come to mind. I would pop into my Twitter — not check any of the tweets there — make a comment and pop out.
  • Visit 3: At the end of the day, I would engage once again for a maximum of 10 to 15 minutes. This visit tends to be more engaging, but I also will repeat a hashtag search to find others to follow.

I strongly believe the staggered approach to engaging in Twitter is the difference between efficient growth (doubling your followers) and slow growth. I also think it’s a great way to find new/interesting people during their time zones. Maybe you have a different theory on this… feel free to comment!

3. Reply, Retweet, and Follow (#FollowFriday or #FF)!

On some level, I mentioned following other Twitter accounts above, but the acts of engagement in Twitter are critical!

Gaining Twitter Followers means Replies, Retweets and Likes, not just post, post, post
Gaining Twitter Followers means Replies, Retweets and Likes, not just post, post, post

Yes, it’s one thing to post, post, post on Twitter, but Replying, Retweeting and Following (generally acknowledging other Twitter accounts) shows that you are on Twitter to engage in two-way conversation. You’re giving props, encouragement, and sharing the wisdom that someone else took the time to compose and share.

Because I don’t spend my daily Twitter time acknowledging every follow I do get, I make sure to issue a range of #FF or #FollowFriday tweets weekly on Fridays. I go back one week and make sure to give mention to everyone who followed me.

What tricks have you employed that changed your Twitter experience?

Twitter Followers Thank You Card, Follow @cynthiatlunaThanks to these few tweaks, I now look forward to engaging with my Twitter followers, because the folks I follow are interesting to me. They offer comments that share value, and are valuable for sharing. I can also fit engaging on Twitter it into my busy schedule! My next Twitter goal was to hit 2,000 Twitter followers by the end of December 2016. (Maybe this was a bit too conservative…)

Follow me @cynthiatluna. Or if you get jiggy on any other social media app, go ahead and share this blog post there.