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The 'Ins & Outs' of E-Mail Press Releases

The increasing use and acceptance of e-mail provides library communicators with a fast and cost effective vehicle for transmitting notices and press releases. In general, anything you could say with snail mail or fax you can say with e-mail. There are specific rules to follow in the preparation of any press release and these apply to e-mail releases as well. But there are also some special considerations concerning e-mail PR.

Get Them To Read It

Sometimes it seems that it is far too easy for someone to throw a paper press release in the trash. It is even easier to hit the delete key on an e-mail release. If your release hits the trash (real or virtual) before being read, you have wasted the time spent in preparing and distributing that release. Here are a few rules to keep your news out of the trash.

Never Spam!

Never send untargeted e-mail. The first job of a communicator is to speak the same language as the listener. Before you even consider drafting a press release, consider to whom it will be sent. Know what kind of news every potential recipient is inclined to deal with and target only those who are likely to be interested in the information you want to transmit. There are no prizes going to the person who sends out greatest number of releases, and there is no point is sending a release to someone who has no interest in the subject.

Make It Friendly

The first thing that an e-mail recipient sees is the subject line. So make the subject something that will make the reader want to see what is in the message. A subject line saying "Press Release" is a sure fire way to activate that delete key. Try something like "Wellville Public Library Is Now Online!" or "Wellville Is Connected To The World Wide Web" on the subject line.

Make It Complete

Include all of the pertinent information. It is obvious that an e-mail release should contain the e-mail address of the sender and any appropriate URLs. But a press release taken from print and copied into e-mail verbatim may not. And don't forget all the usual stuff (contact information, headline, who, what, when, where, why). E-mail addresses and URLs should go on a separate line — isolated from other text. This will prevent confusion with punctuation marks and will make addresses and URLs stand out and allow for easy copying and pasting.

KISS

Don't get fancy. Increasingly, mail client software allows font, type size and color changes. But not all. What may be beautiful on your mail software may be completely unreadable on someone else's. Stay with plain text. Also, some mail client software (especially that of the UNIX flavor) does not automatically wrap lines — so it's a good idea to insert line breaks by hitting the return key at the end of each line. A line length of 65 characters is about right for mail reading.
  • Tip 1: When laying out the copy, type "1234567890" repeated seven times across the top of your sheet. This will give you a gauge of how long your lines are.
  • Tip 2: In Microsoft Word use 10pt. courier type and a line width of 5.45 inches to get 65 characters on each line. Then save the file as "text with line breaks" and copy to your mail software.
Keep the release copy a short as possible without skimping on the message.

It's Not For Everyone

Even though e-mail is becoming more viable as a press release vehicle, there are still people who don't have it, don't like it and won't use it. A balanced public relations program will use e-mail as one component of a coordinated communications effort. Most situations will also demand conventional printed releases sent via snail mail, fax releases, and phone calls. Web pages, Acrobat files, and notes on paper napkins may work too.
The key is not how you send the information but to whom and how well it is communicated. — RN

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