Tips for Technical Press Releases
An editor receives hundreds to thousands of press releases per month—some so poorly written they’re not usable, and some excellently written but so completely off the subject they get tossed into the circular file—only because the writer didn’t take the time to check whether the magazine covers the product.
How can you ensure that your release makes it into print?
Format is important! Be sure your essential information is right up front. Don’t force editors to search for the manufacturer’s name, mailing address, phone number, fax number, Web site, and email address. And remember—Web site addresses and email addresses alone are not enough information for magazine reader-service departments! In addition, provide names, phone numbers, email addresses of product managers and engineering contacts. Always include a dateline and city and state where the release originates. Put this information at the top of the release so editors don’t have to wade through pages of text to locate these basic facts.
Provide a quick, but informative, title that catches an editor’s eye—“New 2.0 inch flowmeter achieves 0.005% accuracy—double that of prior models” is better than, “New flowmeter has improved accuracy,” or “New flowmeter beats all others on accuracy.” The first is vague, and the second will need a lot of proof if it can truly make that claim.
The lead paragraph should always name the product (include model number) and should state whether the product is new or has enhancements to a prior version. If it’s part of a product family, include that information as well. Don’t say, “The flowmeter is now available in a two-inch size.” Instead say, “The Model 351 flowmeter, part of the 350 family, extends the family’s offering to a two-inch diameter size.” If you don’t have a name or model number for the product go back to marketing and product planning to get this vital information.
Provide a clear description of a new product or improvements made to an existing product. List the salient specifications using proper engineering units and terms. Answer the whats, hows, and whys of the product. What is the product? What is new? How does it work? Why does the user need it?
Avoid marketing claims with no specifications or proof. Editors don’t have time to make phone calls and send emails asking for important details or for verification of advertising claims. Many editors will drop the release rather than spend time researching details that should have been included. An easy way to avoid this problem is to attach a product specification sheet to the press release. It can save everybody’s time in a big way!
Keep your press release brief and factual. Do whatever you can to shorten the time involved in reading your release. As said, many editors receive reams of press releases per month. You can make their jobs easier, and increase the likelihood of your release getting picked up, if you keep your release under 500 words.
Use strong verbs!!! Use action verbs—and avoid the passive voice. Rather than say, “The sensor’s signal is conditioned and linearized by built-in electronics,” write, “Built-in electronics conditions and linearizes the sensor’s signal.”
Adverbs (-ly words, such as virtually, quickly, easily, simply, seamlessly) slow down your text. Find stronger verbs that clinch your meaning. For example, “The new software driver cuts the configuration steps in half, saving users one-third the set-up time.” “The embedded OS achieves 0.01 microsecond task switching time with the 500 MHz Model XX microprocessor.” “The thermal mass flow sensor provides an updated, 0.01% accurate reading every 0.1 second.”
Don’t “reannounce” the same products over and over. No editor wants to spend time researching whether a product is really new only to find out it was already announced a year ago. This is a sure way not to get picked up ever again. Don’t send a release unless the product is new and available to customers at the time of the release. If the product is not available at the time of the release, state when it will be available.
Make access to art easy. If you send a “hard-copy” press release, don’t forget to include a color photograph or slide, or a PC-compatible floppy or CD-ROM. (Yes Macs and UNIX computers can read PC disks.) Don’t expect an editor to take time out to make phone calls or track down Web sites for art that’s not included. If you’re sending an email press release, include easy access to art (see below), but don’t stuff an editor’s inbox with 2 Mbyte-plus attached files.
When listing prices, don’t just list a quantity price such as, “Price starts at $1.29 in 10,000 piece quantities.” List prices for several quantities, including the price of one piece and of sample kits if you have them. Sample kits may include, for example, a microcontroller, software, and additional components and cable. With software licenses, list prices for developer’s kits per seat, run-time licenses, and application packages.
Mailed press releases. Many editors still like to receive releases in the mail. Keep the paper release to no more than two sheets. Don’t use double-sided printing. It’s too easy to miss material.
Disk— Use floppy disks or CD-ROMS. As noted above, disks are an alternative method to sending prints or slides. CD-ROMS seem to survive better than floppies, and allow you to send high-resolution picture files; you might also want to include low-res pictures for Web placement. You can include electronic versions of the release itself and spec sheets. Use file names that make sense and include the file name within the written release, especially if you’re sending more than one release on disc. Why not keep related files within one folder? Thus, if you have three concurrent releases, keep the documents and pictures together in three separate folders.
Spec sheet—A very valuable tool, a properly done product specification (spec) sheet will save an editor time, and probably save you a lot more time answering phone calls and emails. Spec sheets should:
Theory of operation is nice but not mandatory. A product picture on the spec sheet can be helpful because it can help an editor to be sure that he/she has the right photograph to use.
Emailed press releases. Keep email releases simple, and include a return address that comes back to you—just in case an editor needs to ask you a question.
Don’t make the mistake of including an attachment with no subject or body description in the email header. Most editors will can them immediately because they can appear too much like a virus.
Don’t expect an editor automatically to visit vendor Web sites looking for new product releases. It simply takes too much time.
As noted above, if you can include a spec sheet in Word format or in PDF, it’s easy for an editor to get all the pertinent information into print. Be mindful of file size. If the spec sheet file size is too large, provide an easy-to-use link in your email to the appropriate location to download the spec sheet.
There are several ways to handle pictures via email press releases. Many editors do not like to receive large attachments. Therefore, assuming the editor only wants small attachments (under 50 Kbytes), you’ll want to have high-quality pictures that can either be downloaded from a Web or FTP site. Use the small attached picture so the editor can see what the product is, but then provide a link to Web (HTTP) or FTP for the high-resolution picture (300 pixels per inch). A digital camera can take a quality photo capable of printing to 8x10 inches and save the picture as a high quality jpg that will usually come in under 1.5 Mbytes. So, rather than ask an editor or an artist to download a 9 to 15 Mbyte TIF picture, give him or her a jpg file (about 500K to 1.5 Mbytes) to download instead. And please, make the picture available without having to use logins and passwords that take time. For more on preparing pictures check out “Preparing art for press releases.”
And by the way, don’t send black-and-white photographs!
There it is. What do you need to remember? Keep it short and sweet, but factual. Provide all the specifics about the product without hype and fluff, and make it easy for editors to contact you or a product manager, if necessary. And, don’t forget complete addresses and phone numbers, in addition to Web site and email addresses.
And if you need help, be sure to me!