Drew Kerr 212-849-8250 www.four-corners.

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HOW TO WRITE BETTER PITCH LETTERS AND PRESS RELEASES
Reporters, bloggers and broadcast producers are bombarded by thousands of pitches every day. What is going to make your pitches or press releases beat the odds and stand out? 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 to lunch 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 you grab your reader, making “the sell” convincing). You have to do both of them well to succeed 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. 2. 3. 4. Every word and name is spelled correctly. You use commas and apostrophes correctly. Are your words accurate? You are careful about hyphens, dashes and capitalization (upper and lower case letters). 5. The writing is lively and compelling – you mix up your words, as opposed to using 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 CEO Stephen Colvin… BAD: Stephen Colvin, the president and CEO of Dennis Publishing…).

EXERCISE: Look at each sentence. For each one, write two different ways of saying the 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 people around 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. It should be as compelling as the first sentence. o The headline should be specific (BAD: "Good Housekeeping Looks at Crib 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. "Hillary Gets No Respect -- Mrs. Clinton Off Good Housekeeping's Most Admired List"). • E-MAIL PITCHES o Journalist’s first name is ALWAYS in the subject line followed by a colon. (i.e. “Joanne:”) o The subject line must be so compelling and grabbing AND specific that the 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: The JLo Hissy Fit That Nobody Knows About” works. Make believe you are writing a magazine headline that will make somebody open the issue to read the story.

TIP: Sometimes it’s a good idea to say sentences out loud. If it does not sound right to you or something sounds off, there’s probably an excellent chance something is wrong and 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 active phrasing?  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 bothering you, 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 guest can do?  Is there a news peg you can tie it in with?  Are there any human interest anecdotes you need to make this pitch letter  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 active phrasing?  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 bothering you, what is it and how can we address it?

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