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Paul Hartunian is one of the world’s top experts in writing star-powered press releases.
Paul’s strategies for writing a killer press release:
“I’ve seen so much bad advice on the Internet about how to write a press release. Not only can this waste a ton of time and money, it can also affect your standing with reporters. If you keep sending out lousy press releases, if you don’t play the game according to the media’s rules, you’ll get a reputation as someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Reporters will avoid you in droves.
There are rules you should NEVER violate. I don’t care what the other so-called publicity experts–or those $20 books on publicity you see in the bookstores and libraries–say.
Press releases should be one page and one page only. If you can’t tell your story in one page, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Your release should be on 8-1/2 x 11” paper only. No odd sizes. No special shapes. No “original designs.” Outside the U.S., use the standard paper size for your country.
You must use plain white paper. No letterhead, printed borders, or photographs. No other color, tint, or shade. Absolute nothing but plain, white paper. Your press release must be double spaced. Never single-space the entire body copy. This is probably the #1 reason press releases are tossed out by reporters. It also screams to the media that you don’t know how to play the game.
Now, let me give you some tips on what should go on this one-page press release:
In the upper left corner, you only have two options. Choose the one that’s more appropriate for your purpose. The first option is to put the words, “For Immediate Release” in that corner. You’ve probably seen these words before, but you may not know their purpose. These two words do two things for you and the reporter. First, they tell the reporter that he can use your information whenever he or she wishes. Today, tomorrow, next month, next year, whenever.
“For Immediate Release” does something even more important, however. When you put these three words in the upper-left corner of your press release, you’re letting the reporter know that you know how to play the publicity game. The more clues like this you include in your press release, the more confidence the reporter will have in you.
The only other option you have for the upper-left corner is what I’ve termed a “time qualifier.” A time qualifier tells the reporter exactly when–and when not–to use your release. Let’s say you’re putting together a release about Father’s Day. In the upper-left corner, you would put “For Release On Or Before Father’s Day.” Not only are you telling the reporter exactly when to use your release, but you’re also again giving him a signal that you know how to play the game. Not many press releases have time qualifiers. So if you use one the right way, you just scored big points with the reporter.
Now let’s look at the upper-right corner of your press release. Here you only have one option. You’re going to put these exact words in the upper right corner of every release you ever write: “For Further Information Contact:”. On the second line in the upper-right corner, you’re going to put the name and direct phone number of a real, live human being. You’re not going to just put the name of a company, organization, etc. (If you do that, you’ll scream to the reporter that you probably don’t know how to play the publicity game.) So, on that second line, I’d put “Paul Hartunian – (973-857-4142).
Now let’s look at the headline. The headline of a press release has one job and one job only. The only job of a press release headline is to force the reporter to keep reading. Don’t force your press release headline to do anything more than that. You don’t need any special skills to write a great headline. You should use a formula headline for your release. There are hundreds of tried, tested formula headlines. One example is “New Product Offers Benefit.”
Let’s move onto the body copy of your release. The body copy has three parts. In Part One, you tell your whole story in just two or three sentences–and I mean that literally. If you can’t tell your entire story in two or three sentences, you don’t know what you’re talking about, and you’ll tell reporters that you can’t get to the point.
For example, I can tell you the entire history of the Revolutionary Wary in two sentences:
1. We fought the British. 2. They lost.
If I can tell you the entire history of the Revolutionary War that quickly, you can tell me your story in two sentences.
Part Two of your press release should contain quotes from you along with your credentials. Always quote yourself. Never quote anyone else. Why give someone else any attention in your press release? It’s your release. If someone else wants attention, let them write their own release!
Part Three of your press release should contain your call to action. What do you want to happen as a result of your press release? That’s what should go in section three.
The entire time you’re writing your press release, you must write in what I call the “Who Cares Styles of Writing.” This means that after every sentence you write, stop and read the sentence out loud and ask, “Who cares.” If you can’t answer that question, it’s a lousy sentence.
Let me give you a couple of examples of lousy headlines that don’t pass the “Who cares?” test:
“Janice Jones Promoted to Vice-President of Sales”
Who cares that Janice Jones was promoted to Vice-President of sales? No one cares. Not even Janice Jones. She didn’t get a raise–she just got more work! “Allied Manufacturing Announces 35% Increase In Sales”
Do you care that Allied Manufacturing had a 35% increase in sales? I doubt it. Who cares?
Get the idea?
Be sure every sentence you write in your press release passes the “Who cares?” test.
There are two more pieces of paper that are part of any successful publicity campaign. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people who are trying to get publicity either don’t know what they are or they don’t know how to write them. These are the bio and the Q&A.
Never sent out a press release without also having a bio and Q&A ready to go. Without them, you’ll almost certainly waste your time trying to get publicity or turning that publicity into dollars in your bank account. After all, isn’t that the ultimate reason you want publicity?
If you’d like to learn how to run your own publicity campaigns locally or nationwide for less than $10, go to MillionDollarPublicity.com.
Want a whole slew of ready-to-go press releases, headlines, opening paragraphs and story ideas specifically written for your business, profession, or industry? Go to NichePublicityManuals.com.
Publicity has given me–and many other people–everything I’ve wanted in life. It’s also given me one of the things I value most–my freedom. I want you to have the same opportunity.
“Celebrity-izing” Your Press Releases
There are many ways you can use celebrities in your press releases (or at least link to them). Here are my favorites:
Link your press release to celebrity news.
“Hypnotic marketing” expert Joe Vitale, the author of The Attractor Factorand contributor to The Secret, often uses celebrities in his press releases. This is one of the reasons he’s been so successful. Here, Joe shares advice about how to do it:
“When I was promoting my course, Hypnotic Marketing Secrets, I was trying to think of different ways to drive traffic to it. One night I was watching television, and I saw a commercial with Britney Spears promoting a new perfume she was endorsing. It was fairly mesmerizing, and as I was watching it, a light bulb went off in my head.
I started writing a press release that said: ‘Britney Spears Accused of Using Hypnotic Marketing Secrets in Her New TV Ad.’ This was very legitimate because I–as a hypnotic marketer, hypnotic writer, hypnotic salesperson–had a whole package of hypnotic selling secrets. So I commented on her marketing efforts. I also associated myself with a celebrity.
This was all truthful–I just tied it into something that was going on. Now, of course, I was piggybacking off of a HUGE name. When I sent out that press release, a whole lot of people who were Googling ‘Britney Spears’ saw it. And when they read it, they learned about me.
Suddenly, tens of thousands of new people–not just on the Internet, but offline as well–were aware of me, my product, my service, and everything I was doing. When I did my next teleseminar about a week or two after that news release went out about Hypnotic Marketing Secrets, we had record-breaking numbers of people come on who heard me speak about how Britney Spears was using and misusing them.
This was publicity; this was thinking in a bigger way; and in this case, I was taking a ride off the fame of Britney Spears. People searching for her name suddenly saw my name associated with hers, and a whole new audience became aware of me.”
“For years, Debra Holtzman kept wishing and hoping that she’d generate publicity in top-tier newspapers and magazines and on the big morning TV shows like Good Morning America. A mother of two who’s also an attorney, Debra is one of the foremost experts on child safety. But the wishing and hoping didn’t do much good. Then Debra found the key that not only unlocked the door to publicity but had the media practically tripping over themselves to interview her. She ties her expertise to celebrities–sometimes several times a month. It all depends on how much material the stars feed her. And feed her they do!
“On May 17, 2006, when celebrity magazines printed a photograph showing Britney Spears driving in her convertible, with 8-month-old son Sean Preston in the back, sitting in a car seat facing forward, slumped over to one side, Debra wrote a press release titled ‘Britney Spears Needs Baby Safety Training!’ She posted it at ExpertClick.com, the subscription-based Web site that serves as a database of experts for the media and lets subscribers post up to 52 press releases a year. The story was picked up by celebrity gossip bloggers and top-tier media outlets.
“That same month, when Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt welcomed their baby girl, Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, Debra swung into action and issued a press release with the headline, ‘Angelina and Brad’s Perfect Baby Room for Shiloh.’ It described some of the dangers of a baby’s nursery and included a checklist of 11 tips on how the couple could keep the baby safe.
“Also that month, with the paparazzi on his trail, Pitt went out for a bicycle ride in Langstrand, Namibia, with son Maddox Jolie-Pitt, 4, and daughter Zahara Jolie-Pitt, 16 months. Maddox, who wore a helmet, peddled a tricycle. Zahara rode in a blue papoose strapped to Brad’s back. As soon as the photos hit the newsstands, Debra swung into action. She wrote another press release about the dangers of riding with babies on a bike ‘(Zahara) needs a helmet and closed-toe shoes,’ she told Us Weekly. ‘I highly recommend toddlers ride in a child trailer pulled by a bike. It’s more stable and secure.’
“On August 1, 2006, just after Mel Gibson’s drunk driving arrest, Debra issued another release titled ‘Top 10 Tips to Drive Like a Star, But Not Mel Gibson.’ On September 4, 2006, just after Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin was killed by a stingray while snorkeling, Debra posted another press release on ExpertClick.com, this one titled ‘Teach Children How to Be Safe Around Pets and Wild Animals.’ She didn’t name Irwin or the incident in the release. However, journalists and anyone else who was searching online for information on that news story probably would have found her press release in the list of organic search results.
“All those releases mean more sales of Debra’s books, The Panic-Proof Parent and The Safe Baby, which she mentions in the releases. Her expertise as a child safety expert and all those press releases that tie into celebrities are responsible for Debra being quoted in newspapers like USA Today and The New York Times and booking guest appearances on shows like The Today Show. She has a list of media hits a mile long on her Web site, The SafetyExpert.com.”
Joan Stewart says that others can use this same piggybacking approach in their own press releases. She notes that “half the work is just keeping your ears open for opportunities.”
Tie your press release to a popular movie or TV show.
This is one of my favorite strategies, and it can work equally well whether you’re based in Boise or the Big Apple. One of the most-watched TV programs, especially among women, is The Real Housewives because so many viewers identify with the housewives and their problems. So if your target market is women, why not stage a Real Housewives (or similar show) event?
Think about what other TV shows people talk about at the water cooler. As the famous copywriter Robert Collier once said, you want to “enter the conversation already in their minds.” Any number of businesses from dentists to hairdressers could offer Ugly Betty promotions, Next Top Model makeovers, Project Runway wardrobe consultations, etc. Travel agencies could create a Survivor adventure vacation to an exotic island, a The Hills getaway to Los Angeles, a Nip/Tuck vacation to Miami, or a Sex and The City trip to New York City.
Here’s an example of a successful tie-in to the TV show Survivor. In 2001, Cold Stone Creamery ice cream decided to hold a limited-time Survivor promotion in 2001. Because contestants on the show are often forced to eat bugs in order to “survive,” Cold Stone’s customers were offered chocolate-covered crickets as a mix-in at 142 of the company’s locations. Doug Ducey, Cold Stone’s CEO, said that every location sold out of the crickets the first week, even though they expected the supply to last a month. Cold Stone’s sales rose 8% that summer, and after the promotion, they received publicity on CBS’ The Early Show where the hosts even tasted the crickets!
Name something after a star.
Restaurants and diners often name sandwiches after stars. L.A.’s famous Pink’s Hotdogs names its hot dogs after famous stars. Sometimes they even ask the stars to create signature hotdogs, then name it after the celebrity. Some of the items on Pink’s hotdog menu are a “Martha Stewart Dog” (with relish, onions, bacon, chopped tomatoes, sauerkraut, and sour cream), a “Rosie O’Donnell Long Island Dog (with mustard, onions, chili, and sauerkraut), and an “Ozzy Spice Dog” (with nacho cheese, grilled onions, guacamole, and chopped tomatoes). You can name items after popular movies as well. Starfish Sushi in Atlanta offers a Gone with the Wind roll, a Memoirs of a Geisha roll, an Oceans Eleven roll, an X-Men roll, and more.
To get publicity, hold a contest where you ask diners to create an item after a star, then ask patrons to vote and choose the winner. Or host an “all-you-can-eat” contest with selected items named after stars or movies from your menu. Of course, be sure you let the media know about these events with a star-powered press release!
Give a celebrity an award.
Choose an award based on your business, and then choose a celebrity to be the “Best” or “Worst.” Best teeth, best hair, best body, etc. always works. Be sure to choose a celebrity that’s constantly in the news or tabloids. Dermatologist Dr. Vail Reese chooses a list of celebrities each year with the worst skin and the best skin. When Britney Spears was publicly rushed to the hospital in an ambulance following her alleged breakdown, Dr. Reese sent out a press release naming Spears as having the “worst skin in Hollywood.” Because of the intense Britney coverage at this time, this “award” made national news!
Create a “Top 10” list.
The late Mr. Blackwell created the well-known “Worst Dressed” list of Hollywood stars. Autograph magazine creates a “Top 10 Best & Worst Signers” list each year that always gets a lot of attention, often nationally covered by the Associated Press. Contact Any Celebrity creates a “Most Wanted Celebrities” list each year naming celebrities who are most sought out by fans, businesses, nonprofits, and the media.
CNN: So, who is your favorite celebrity? Is it Britney Spears? Maybe it’s Oprah. Well have you ever thought about contacting them? Every weekend here on Pipeline we like to bring you something different and interesting from the world of entertainment. So today, we have with us an entrepreneur, whose passion for collecting autographs of the rich and famous led him to create a database of celebrity contacts.
Now Jordan McAuley has a book titled the Celebrity Black Book and a Web site with 55,000 of who’s who in entertainment. So if you’re like me, you’re curious about his little black book.
Jordan is here with us now to tell us more. Jordan, thank you so much for joining us today on CNN Pipeline.
Jordan: Thank you for having me.
CNN: Jordan I want to say not only a little black book because I have it right here and it’s more like a really really big black book! It’s gigantic. How many names do you have in this thing?
Jordan: There are over 55,000 names in the book, everybody from actors to athletes, musicians, politicians, even reality TV stars. We have pretty much everybody in the book.
CNN: I know, I’ve been thumbing through it and it’s amazing, I mean just the range. You know, I’m curious about your background. How did this all get started. I know that you said that you like to collect autographs.
Jordan: Right. Well I used to collect autographs when I was about 13 just as a hobby, something to do. I’ve always loved celebrities and loved the movies. When I was in high school I started compiling the addresses that were working into what I called a celebrity address list, and I started selling that by mail order just to make some extra money. And by the time I got to college around 1996 — I went to film school — I started creating my Web site Contact Any Celebrity which now is the online database where 55,000 celebrities are inside with their agents and managers and publicists. Any way you’d want to contact a celebrity is in that database.
CNN: And you were saying that you started this as a way to make money. Did it make you rich? Were you making a lot of money?
Jordan: Not in the beginning. In the beginning like any entrepreneur, I think I had $15 and I bought a Web site creation package and I sort of just learned along the way. And now it does make a lot of money.
CNN: Excellent. Well lets talk about the book now. Was it difficult for you to compile all of these contacts, and who was difficult to get?
Jordan: Well I’ve learned through trial and error over the years. Like I said I went to film school so that helped a little bit with learning how to deal with agents and managers. We get their client lists every week. One of the hardest people to find — although we have pretty much everyone in the book and in the database — for some reason Yoko Ono has been really difficult to find. She’s really mysterious, we don’t know where she is.
CNN: I think I know that she lives across the street from Central Park. I didn’t say that.
Jordan: Right. We try not to provide home addresses, that’s one thing I want to be really clear about. Everything is an agent, a manager, a publicists, like I said a production company, maybe a personal assistant, sometimes the celebrity’s personal PO box where they would rather get their fan mail, but we don’t provide any kind of personal home addresses.
CNN: Well that’s really interesting. Have you ever had a celebrity come after you and say hey, you need to remove me from your book I’m not happy about this.
Jordan: I’ve actually never had anybody in the ten years I’ve been doing this want to be removed. We have a lot of celebrities will contact us and say you know maybe change my information I’m with a new management company. Like I said we have a lot of managers and agents that send us their client lists every week. So we find that people really do want to be included.
CNN: They do. OK. I wanted to ask you this because people become really celebrity obsessed. Do people ever in turn begin stalking you about their celebrity?
Jordan: I don’t get stalked about the celebrity. We do get some crazy fan mail. People sometimes think that our address is the address they should be sending their mail to instead of finding out the celebrity’s correct address. So we do sometimes read some crazy letters.
CNN: Like what? You have to tell us. You gotta fill us in here.
Jordan: There was one man that wanted to have the bottom of his pool tiled to look like Angelina Jolie so he could I guess float on top of it and look down on her.
CNN: Oh, you’re kidding me!
Jordan: No. There was another man who wanted to contact Daryl Hannah from Splash because he wanted to have a mermaid’s tail surgically implanted on his legs so he could be a mermaid.
CNN: Wait! What did you just say? He wanted Daryl Hannah’s mermaid tail surgically implanted on his legs?
Jordan: Right. He wanted to contact Daryl Hannah to get her mermaid tail. I guess he thinks she owns it from Splash and wanted to have it surgically implanted on his feet. At least that’s what he told us, I’m not sure.
CNN: Now what do you do in a situation like that? What did you say to him?
Jordan: We usually just refer him back to our Web site and say you know you can find her contact information there. But is is fun to read the letters, like I said there are a lot of crazy requests that we get.
CNN: And I understand as well that a lot of celebrities have taken part in charity. Is that thanks to you?
Jordan: It’s thanks to the information in our database. We list the charitable causes that all of the celebrities contribute to whether it be cancer or AIDS. That’s something that I like doing the most. We have a lot of nonprofits and a lot of charities that use our service. What they’ll do is send off letters requesting autographed and celebrity memorabilia, and then they’ll hold a celebrity autograph auction whether it’s live or silent or sometimes on online services like eBay. And what they’ll do is they’ll raise thousands of dollars for their organization and it cost them nothing more than some postage and some volunteers to send the letters out.
CNN: Jordan I understand that you’ve also been contacted by news organizations, maybe even CNN in order to get in contact with somebody else.
Jordan: Right. Larry King Live contacted us right after the tsunami to contact Petra Nemcova, the supermodel that was injured in the tsunami. They said that they couldn’t find her information anywhere. We were able to get her agent and a few days later, actually I think it was only two days later, she was on Larry King Live. So I like to think we had something to do with that.
CNN: Jordan on a more personal note, how many autographs do you think you have?
Jordan: Well I kind of stopped collecting autographs when I was younger. At the time I had several hundred. Now I prefer working with like I said nonprofits, small businesses, fans, authors and writers and helping them contact celebrities whether just to send a fan letter or to get a speaker at an agent, to raise money for their charity, to get a testimonial to put on the cover of their book. Those are the things I focus on now.
CNN: If you would like to find out how you or your organization can contact a celebrity, you can always log on to Jordan’s Web site. That’s www.ContactAnyCelebrity.com or you can always go the hard copy route and buy the Celebrity Black Book.
“Arguably, this shouldn’t be nearly as influential as it is, but people mostly get to ‘trust’ for wrong-headed reasons.
Being known, familiar, understood as celebrated, understood as a Very Important Person (V.I.P.), being watched and listened to and talked about drives much of the marketplace.
Patients badger their doctors for some test or cure they heard Dr. Oz talk about on TV.
Donald Trump had an enormous head start in the race to the White House by being one of the best-known TV personalities of the time, cast, positioned and known by that to the public as a brilliant businessman and deal-maker, and someone likely capable of blowing up the constipated if not corrupt political establishment few felt benefited them.
His head start this way was so great, no one could catch up – despite being more credentialed, more experienced (at politics), better funded, supported by powerful organizations. His celebrity was elected.”
"This thing is huge - the range is amazing!" - CNN
"Many small businesses, marketers and publicists want to get their products in celebrities' hands. This is the solution." - Entrepreneur Magazine
"This online directory and its helpful staff will help you find any celebrity in the world." - Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek
"If you opt to pursue a celebrity or celebrities on your own, to use in your advertising, or get a "blurb" from for your book, etc. this is THE place to get contact information." - Dan Kennedy, No B.S. Marketing to the Affluent
"The best resource and a GREAT deal. They have everyone." - Peter Shankman, Help A Reporter Out (HARO)
"Contact Any Celebrity is a great resource and very easy to use." - Sandra Sims, Step by Step Fundraising
"Contact Any Celebrity is a rich source of contacts for testimonials and other relationships." - John Kremer, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books
"We get much better results contacting celebrities now that we use Contact Any Celebrity. We get a high response rate, the owner is very helpful, and we feel we can recommend them." - Steve Purcell, LookToTheStars.org
"Some of the best money you'll probably ever spend. Can you think of ways to use the information in this site to leverage your publicity opportunities? How about a hundred ways? I don't get a dime for promoting this. I just think it's an excellent value and provides you (and me) with great opportunities)." - Paul Hartunian, Free Publicity Information Center
"I strongly suggest you try this service out when you need to get endorsements for your books or products. In case you are running a charity auction, you can even use this service to get autographed items for your fundraisers. Lots more uses too." - Dan Janal, PR LEADS
"Of all the resources for celebrity addresses, this is far and away the most comprehensive and useful tool." - Anthony Record, Autograph Magazine
"Useful for authors who want positive quotes from celebrities to put on their book covers, fans seeking autographs, and charities looking for celebrity endorsements." - Robert Skrob, Information Marketing Association
"The best service for contacting a celebrity's agent, manager, publicist, or production company." - Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound
American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI)
AMEX Open Forum
Atlanta Journal Constitution
Author Advantage Magazine
1001 Ways to Market Your Books
Bill Glazer's Celebrity Swipe File
Bill Stoller's Publicity Insider
Build Book Buzz
Daily Record UK
Dan Schawbel's Personal Branding
Donna Cutting's Celebrity Experience
GKIC Small Business Hour
HARO (Help A Reporter Out)
Indie by Nature
Inside Direct Mail
Investor's Business Daily
Joan Stewart's Publicity Hound
John Kremer's Book Marketing
Launch Grow Joy
Look to the Stars
Marketing to the Affluent
New York Daily News
No B.S. Marketing Letter
Pam Perry's PR Coach
Post and Courier
Rich Mom Business
RTIR (Radio-TV Interview Report)
Scott Fox's Click Millionaires
Small Business Branding
Small Business Rainmaker
Step Into the Spotlight!
Steve Harrison's Book Marketing Update
Stu Heinecke's Contact Marketing
Susan Harrow's PR Secrets
Target Marketing Magazine
Tim Ferriss/The 4-Hour Workweek
Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law