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News hook is key element in garnering publicity

Publicity is the fundamental instrument for shaping public opinion.
Its primary purpose is to get out to the public a positive message about your company or organization.
The same thing, of course, could be said about advertising. However, there are major differences between publicity and advertising. One of them is that publicity does not cost you anything. Advertising does.
Publicity is news. It may be the news of a company or a non-profit organization, and it may be the same news you plan to use in advertising to sell something or announce an event. But if a publicity release is used by the media, it will be because it contains news of interest to readers, listeners or viewers not because it was designed to persuade them to buy something. Used effectively, publicity can make potential customers or prospects aware of your organization or your events. However, publicity is not free advertising, and it is important to know the difference.
Jeanette Smith in her book, “The Advertising Kit,” has some good advice for obtaining effective publicity and for writing a publicity release. Smith urges making news releases immediate, not just current; otherwise, they are history, and print and broadcast media are not in the business of reporting history. She recommends releasing information before events happen, or, if that is not possible, immediately after they happen.
Mailing releases too early, however, is almost as bad as mailing too late. If it arrives too early, it may get lost in the newsroom. Good timing calls for the information to arrive three to five days before an event, which gives editors time to assign a reporter if the story warrants it.
Releases that might lead to good news stories include information about:
–new products;
–new services;
–product or service improvements;
–new organization executives or board members;
–results of research;
–organization relocations and expansions;
–major organization events; or
–awards given or received by organizations or their employees.
There are three basic parts to news releases: a headline, a lead and the body of the text.
The headline should include the most significant point in the release. The headline for your organization’s release is really only for the editor’s benefit. It summarizes the information that follows and is designed to catch the editor’s attention; the editor more than likely will rewrite the headline. (Do not feel bad if this happens. Rochester Business Journal editors always rewrite the headlines for my columns, and they always are better than what I have written.) Some of the most effective words used in headlines to attract editors’ eyes are: new, innovative, breakthrough, announces, better, more, revolutionary, changes and improved.
The lead is a roundup of facts in the story: a one- or two-paragraph summary of the who, what, where, when, why and how of the information that follows in the body of the release. The lead should be short.
The body of the release fleshes out the story, with the most important information presented immediately following the lead. Information should decrease in importance in each subsequent paragraph. Should editors decide to run the release on its own, this allows them to cut it off at any point to fit space or time without cutting the most important information.
Smith gives the following fictional example of a headline, lead and body of a good news release:
Annual casino night fund-raiser set Nov. 21 by Wylie Chamber
Wylie–An annual casino night fund-raiser will be from 6:30 p.m. to midnight next Saturday at the National Guard Armory at 700 N. Spring Creek Parkway in Wylie.
Casino night is sponsored by the Wylie Chamber of Commerce and features Las Vegas games, including blackjack, roulette and craps. Dealers for the games are provided by Vegas Touch of Dallas.
Proceeds go to the Wylie Chamber of Commerce for community programs and services.
Tickets can be purchased for $30 per person in advance or $35 per person at the door.
Admission includes a buffet catered by Maria’s Restaurant of Wylie and $5,000 in playing chips. Entertainment and a cash bar are available.
At the end of the evening, players will cash in their chips for prizes, including two airline tickets for a trip anywhere in the United States and tickets for a trip to Las Vegas. A silent auction also will be held.
Tickets can be purchased in advance at American National Bank, Wylie; Provident Bank, Wylie; First National Bank, Sachse; Maria’s Restaurant in Wylie; and the Chamber of Commerce office at 108 W. Marble St.
For more information, call the Chamber at 555-5555.
Here are some tips for producing effective publicity releases:
Do
–Use either “For immediate release” or “Release at your convenience.” Stay away from using definite release dates.
–Submit only clear, clean, double-spaced, typed copy. Do not submit releases in longhand, italics or script- style type.
–Notify the editor immediately, by telephone if time is a factor, in case of a change of date or cancellation of an event.
Don’t
–Never call in releases. Chances for error are too great with verbal communication.
–Do not send the same release to two different people at the same newspaper or broadcast station.
–Do not call to ask when your release was used or when it will be used.
Publicity should be a continuing effort. Look for ways to keep your company or organization’s name regularly in front of your public with useful information that is of interest and benefit to them. Do not be disappointed if a release is not picked up. Keep trying. Remember, Mickey Mantle only got a hit about one out of every three times he came to bat in his career–and he is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
(Jack Kraushaar was a BBDO senior vice president in New York City and from 1983 to 1991 was chairman of Blair/ BBDO in Rochester. He now is president of the consulting firm JFK Communications in East Rochester.)

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