By: Laura J. Niznik
A press release is one of the simplest and least expensive ways to help generate exposure for your practice. Press (or news) releases are a direct way to communicate a message to a media outlet, such as a newspaper.
The main focus of a release is to announce “news” that will be of interest to the reader. Used to convey routine news, provide potential feature, background material, or follow-up information, a release can help generate new interest in your practice. This may potentially get new patients to walk through your door. A release can cover such topics as the opening of your new practice, an upcoming open house or other event, hiring an associate doctor or publicizing your redesigned practice website.
Choosing the Media Outlet
Most cities have local newspapers that accept press releases. These newspapers range from the neighborhood community paper on up to a regional paper. Realize that you will have a much better chance of having your press release run in a smaller paper versus a large one like the Los Angeles Times. However, don’t discount these larger papers. Most have a local section that runs once or twice a week, and your release might be most appropriate for that section.
Another media source to look to are local newsletters, such as ones put out by your city or chamber of commerce. While having a smaller circulation than the newspaper, it may offer a more intimate setting that is perfect for your release.
Writing the Release
While every media outlet differs somewhat in their press release requirements, there are general rules to follow when it comes to writing:
- Use the “Inverted Pyramid” format. Put the most important information first and subsequently add less important aspects below. If editors must cut copy, they’ll start from the bottom first.
- Always include the 5 W’s. In the first paragraphs of the release, tell Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Keep it simple and to the point. State clearly what the release is about in an attention-grabbing manner.
- Be direct, factual, and appropriate. It’s important that you write the release in a concise manner. Make sure the information you present is appropriate for a particular media outlet. For example, you wouldn’t want to send information about a new associate if the newspaper only covers financial matters.
- Use the standard format. Be sure the release is typed/computer generated on 8 ½” x 11” white paper, single-sided, and double-spaced. Use a standard font that is easy to read. The press release should be one or two pages maximum.
- Add identifying information. It’s important to have the date, contact name, and phone number at the top of the first page. This will give the editor information at a quick glance in case he or she has any questions.
- Include photographs. Make sure the photo is of professional quality and appropriate. Contact the media outlet to find out what kind of photos they accept (i.e., color vs. black and white, glossy or not, etc.). Also, label the photo with the name, address, and phone number of the contact person, along with a caption.
- Deliver it to the right person. Call the media outlet to find out the name and title of the person who handles press releases. Be sure to get the correct spelling of his or her name, along with the mailing address. Ask about deadlines and mail the release in plenty of time.
After sending the release, wait a few days and follow up with a quick phone call to the editor. Ask if they’ve received the release and whether they are planning to use it. Due to the volume of releases, the editor may not remember your particular press release. Politely offer to fax or e-mail the release to the editor. Remember though, just because you sent the press release and spoke with the editor, there is no guarantee it will be printed. In fact, don’t be surprised if your release isn’t run the first time you send it. Space limitations may cause your story to be “bumped” to make room for other news.
Press releases can help communicate your practice’s message if they are written in the proper format and style, and are truthful, accurate, and contain newsworthy information. Developing a good press release takes practice, but the results are well worth the efforts.
Press Release Checklist
___ Is the lead paragraph direct and to the point?
___ Have the 5 Ws been answered in the first paragraph?
___ Are paragraphs and sentences short, concise?
___ Is spelling and punctuation correct?
___ Has the release been reviewed for accuracy?
___ Has it been properly prepared, typed, and double-spaced?
___ Is the release dated?
___ Is the name and phone number of the contact person included?