THE SPIN DOCTOR IS IN By Susan Erling Martinez

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Since the early eighties, I have been a fairly successful freelance public relations writer. My career began because my daughter, Amber, needed toe shoes. No kidding. It was 1984. At that time I was working as the director of a non-profit agency, writing a bit on the side, and trying to raise five children mainly on my first husband’s meager teacher’s salary. Money was always tight.

But Amber was born to dance. She danced before she walked. So when she was three years old, we enrolled her in dance classes, even though we couldn’t really afford it. We sacrificed and scrimped and tried to make her dream of becoming a ballerina come true. By the time she was ten-years-old, her ballet teacher announced that she was ready to start dancing on pointe (toe). Amber was ecstatic. So were we until we found out that toe shoes costs about sixty dollars a pair, and that they only last for about a month or so before they needed to be replaced! With that added expense, we knew we could no longer afford to continue training our tiny dancer. But the thought of telling her the bad news made me physically ill.

Then I got a very crazy idea. I decided to offer the owner of the dance school my public relations services, even though I had never even written a press release before. Maybe it was just desperation, but somehow I just knew I could write a decent press release if I tried. I also knew that the dance school needed more students, and getting some good local publicity would naturally bring in new dancers. So I offered to barter my PR services in exchange for tuition and discounts on dance paraphernalia and they accepted. Much to my surprise, the barter was mutually profitable. The dance school got oodles of free press, which doubled their enrollment numbers, and I was able to afford to keep Amber in training, tutus, and toe shoes.

Inspired by my own brilliance or dumb luck, I started charging for my public relations writing. By word of mouth alone, my PR business flourished. I took great pride in writing really noticeable press releases that usually generated a lot of media attention.

And even though I’ve written four books and many articles since then, I still supplement my income with PR writing.

I charge by the hour or by the project. (2002 Writer’s Market suggests charging $25-$60+ per hour to write a press release). Sometimes I donate my services to charities, and occasionally I barter my services. In 1988, I bartered my PR services for karate lessons for my son, daughter, and myself. Today, all three of us are black belts.

My clients have included authors, inventors, non-profit agencies, manufacturers, schools, athletes, and a software company, to name a few. I have placed personalities and products on nearly every major local and national medium, including Oprah, The Today Show, Good Morning America, and This Morning. One product I was promoting even ended up in the hands of Jay Leno and Regis Philben. And I did it all without the Internet, which wasn’t in full swing in the early days of my spinning career.

So how do you get started writing press releases for money? Here’s a few tips.

WRITE A FABULOUS PRESS RELEASE

I learned how to write a press release from reading how-to books. So can you. Write for effect. Spin it just the way you want it. Your goal should be to make the client more successful than before you came along. Write to entice. Your release must be at least as good as one of your best queries. Write to inform. You must present the “who”, “what”, “where”, “why”, and “when” in a unique and persuasive way. Try to make your releases fun, fresh, and lively, and always toss in memorable sound bites.

A GOOD PICTURE IS WORTH A MILLION WORDS

Once the release was written, I always provide a great picture to partner with the great release. Remember your spin. Decide how you want the world to see your client