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How to Write Better Press Releases and Pitch Letters - Drew Kerr of Four Corners

How to Write Better Press Releases and Pitch Letters - Drew Kerr of Four Corners

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Published by Drew Kerr
A sharp guide to writing more effective press releases and pitch letters, with emphasis on better lead paragraphs.
A sharp guide to writing more effective press releases and pitch letters, with emphasis on better lead paragraphs.

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Published by: Drew Kerr on Jan 08, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/03/2010

 
HOW TO WRITE BETTER PITCH LETTERSAND PRESS RELEASES
Reporters, bloggers and broadcast producers are bombarded by thousands of pitchesevery day. What is going to make
 your 
pitches or press releases beat the odds and standout?We expect all our employees to follow these guidelines – it is
very
important to us.Yes, there’s nothing wrong with putting aside a pitch letter or press release, going out tolunch or sleeping on it, and then going back and make it even better.There are two parts to writing:
the technical part
(spelling, punctuation, accuracy,choice of words, editing) and
the strategic part
(what you say in what order, how yougrab your reader, making “the sell” convincing). You have to do
both of them
well tosucceed as a publicist.
TECHNICAL PART
What you write is a reflection of you and this company – to the media and to our clients.Every little thing you write does count.1.Every word and name is spelled correctly.2.You use commas and apostrophes correctly.3.Are your words accurate?4.You are careful about hyphens, dashes and capitalization (upper and lower caseletters).5.The writing is lively and compelling – you mix up your words, as opposed tousing the same ones over and over.6.Say what you want to say in
the shortest amount of words
. Edit, edit, edit.7.Use the
active
form of phrases (GOOD: Dennis Publishing president and CEOStephen ColvinBAD: Stephen Colvin, the president and CEO of DennisPublishing…).
 
Drew Kerr 212-849-8250www.four-corners.com 
 
EXERCISE: Look at each sentence. For each one, write two different ways of sayingthe same thing.
Verizon paid a
very
large sum of $1 billion to carry NBC Universal programming on their fiber optic cable network.
There will be 12 photographers walking around the Radar launch party, taking pictures of celebrities going into the party and the people at the party as well.
The new Xbox will allow users to connect to the Internet, play other peoplearound the world, play MP3’s, and record TV programs digitally.
THE STRATEGIC PART
Get to the point in the
very first sentence
. As a matter of fact,
 get to the point in the very first words.
o
The reader should get the complete idea in the first two sentences.
o
Grab them
by the collar from the very first word and never let them go.
o
Great tools to grab a reader: surprise, irony, drama, extreme situations, puns and word play, big revelation.
In a press release, the headline should be the news peg, the main point. Itshould be as compelling as the first sentence.
o
The headline should
be specific
(BAD: "
Good Housekeeping 
Looks atCrib Sheets" GOOD: "Crib Sheets May Be Dangerous To Children:Special Investigation in
Good Housekeeping 
's December Issue")
o
Your headline can be clever, if the material dictates it. (i.e. "HillaryGets No Respect -- Mrs. Clinton Off Good Housekeeping's MostAdmired List").
E-MAIL PITCHES
o
Journalist’s first name is ALWAYS in the subject line followed by acolon. (i.e. “Joanne:”)
o
The subject line must be so compelling and grabbing AND specific thatthe person you’re sending it to wants to open it up. A subject line like“George: Exclusive Story from Blender” is
not 
a grabber. “George: TheJLo Hissy Fit That Nobody Knows About” works. Make believe youare writing a magazine headline that will make somebody open theissue to read the story.TIP: Sometimes it’s a good idea to say sentences out loud. If it does not sound right toyou or something sounds off, there’s probably an excellent chance something
is
wrongand can be improved.
 
 YOUR WRITING CHECK LISTS
IF IT’S A PRESS RELEASE…
Does it grab you from the
very first words
?
Is there a news peg you can ride the coattails?
Is all the spelling, punctuation and grammar correct?
Are the subject line and headline highly persuasive and specific?
Are you getting the essential points in, and cutting the lesser ones out?
Can you use more lively words than the ones you have now?
Can you say what you want in fewer words? Are you using activephrasing?
Does it need a boilerplate?
When you are finished, can you actually say to yourself, “
This is killer 
?”Are you really happy with what you wrote? If something is still botheringyou, what is it and how can we address it?IF IT’S A PITCH LETTER…
Does it grab you from the
very first words
?
Are you asking the reader what you’d like to do with them? (TV segment,exclusive story, etc.)
Are you describing what the segment will look like and what your guestcan do?
Is there a news peg you can tie it in with?
Are there any human interest anecdotes you need to make this pitchletter
Is all the spelling, punctuation and grammar correct?
Is the subject line highly persuasive and specific?
Are you getting the essential points in, and cutting the lesser ones out?
Can you use more lively words than the ones you have now?
Can you say what you want in fewer words? Are you using activephrasing?
When you are finished, can you actually say to yourself, “
This is killer 
?”Are you really happy with what you wrote? If something is still botheringyou, what is it and how can we address it?

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