10 Tips on Press Releases

This is a presentation I gave to the Caribbean Tourism Organization's PR Alliance May 20th. In theory, it was about press releases for the travel trade, but it applies to releases for consumers, too.

If you're a media professional, you're probably doing all the right things already. Or are you? Here goes: 

9008947290?profile=original1. Subject Line

Hard to believe, but some people still put the words "Press Release" or "News from So-and-so Public Relations" in the subject line. Now, the recipients are going through scores of emails, just deleting things wholesale. They won't open that one.

You have to make them open it, so use a more informative line, such as New Sports Packages at the So-and-so Resort."

For example, one of Johnson Johnrose's recent releases for CTO has this subject line: You've Got To Love This! Romance, Weddings, Honeymoons, and You're in.

That sure got my attention. How could anyone NOT open it?

2. Press Release Titles

Same as what I just said about subject lines. In addition....

...the press release title combined with the first paragraph must include the what/when/where and why. If the release is about a person (e.g. a new star chef at a resort) it also must specify say "who." All of this upfront -- details can come later. Remember, too, that you can...

Never assume that the travel writers who get your releases can fill in the blanks.

Here's an example: Not too long ago I was on a press trip with a travel blogger -- a successful and popular one -- who was surprised when I told her that the Caribbean islands have different governments, that they're not all part of one country.

I could tell you other stories, too, but let's go straight to the moral of this and many other stories: Most travel writers are well-informed, but some aren't. For example, they may be new to the destination/subject you're promoting. So again, make sure your releases clearly state where things are, what they are, etc.

3. Post every press release online

And do that before -- not after -- you send it out. Include the link to the online release to it your eblast.

That way, social media activitists like me might tweet the news and supply a link to it.

4. More on links

Avoid having to field every request for photos individually. Include links to images in the press release.

5. Here's third thought about links (well, sort of a third thought)

Those links to images should not expire in 12 days.. I always end up having to bother media reps and ask them to resend images whose links on Dropbox, etc., have expired. That uses up my time and it uses up your time. Lose-lose.

Even worse, If I'm writing a roundup on three destinations, and two have sent links that don't expire, I may not even have time to ask you to resurrect the expired link; with deadlines looming, it's easier for us to just use your competitors' photos.

6. Whenever possible, include rates in the backgrounder at the end of the release.

All of us -- public relations people, writers, bloggers -- tend to avoid talking about money, but face it: We really know that prices help determine how people react to a product. Besides, some of us will still do our duty: We'll click around the website, fill in some dates as if we were booking trips, and get some prices. Please, save us the trouble.

7. Rates, Part II

Telling us that room rates start at, say, $250 is good, but telling us that room rates start at $250 in low season, and $450 in high season (say, late January) is even better.

8. Press Releases and the Trade

Most media reps send the same press release to both the consumer and the trade press, and I don't blame them, but you just know that trade writers are going to ask for details about agent commissions, fams, etc., so please have that information ready. Anticipate the follow-up questions.

9. Backgrounders at the end of Press Releases

In tip #6 I mentioned these backgrounders. I see them in most releases, and they really are helpful, especially to writers who don't specialize in the Caribbean (e.g. a Europe specialist covering for someone else in the Caribbean).

10. Contact information

Most press releases include this, but surprisingly, some don't -- especially many of the press releases posted on destinations' (and hotels') websites. These same sites often don't have the media contact on the website's contact page, either. Why? Beats me.

Now, those of us who specialize in the Caribbean or any other destination or special interest travel have files that match destinations, hotels, and attractions with their media reps, but even our files are never completely up to date. Get that contact info onto those online press releases. That's a smart move that costs you nothing. 

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