This article was originally published in 2015 and has been completely updated in 2020.
If you are seeking to create publicity for a product or service, try writing a tip sheet. A tip sheet or advice sheet can be remarkably versatile, being valuable for use in a large or small business, government department and even an NGO.
Media tip sheets are typically lists of tips on how to do something, or solve a particular problem, that are printed in newspapers and magazines and appear on television. An example tip sheet might be titled “8 Tax Tips the IRS Wishes You Didn’t Know”. They offer their creators free publicity and provide media outlets with free ready-made content, which they can reprint verbatim. You can pitch a tip sheet to any sort of media for hard or soft news coverage. Industry and consumer publications in particular love this sort of ‘listicle.’ You can introduce a tip sheet in a pitch email or phone call; it can be used to accompany a media release or can be used alone if the content is strong.
Above: Tip sheet from the Harvard School of Public Health Prevention Research Center.
In its basic form, a tip sheet comprises one page of around 5-12 tips on a particular topic. The format should incorporate a short introduction followed by a series of numbered tips. Ideally the tip sheet is one page in length written concisely and with your contact details at the end.
Like the heading on a media release, the heading on a tip sheet should attract the interest of the reader, and therefore you should write it carefully. Draft several alternative headings after you have written the tips in the body of the page. Leave them for a while, preferably overnight, so that you can return with a fresh mind to review your creative craftings. Then you can edit and re-edit the options for the heading until you are satisfied that it capably conveys your key message.
You should refer to the number of tips in the heading. This helps to create precision and implies you are an expert on the topic:
“12 expert tips to help you accomplish …”
“5 reasons why you should…”
“You can improve your … in 4 easy steps.”
“Learn how to increase your… in 7 simple ways.”
These concise ‘listicles’ are very popular in all types of media because they are so effective in drawing the attention of readers.
Put the number in figures, even if it is the first word in the heading. With the development of the internet, usability gurus like Jakob Nielsen recommend forgetting about the old journalists’ rule of writing any number smaller than ten as a word, especially to start a sentence or heading. The eye of the reader picks up the number online much quicker when it is written as a figure than as a word. So jump in and always do this yourself from here on, whether online or offline!
Make sure the tips are genuine, and don’t include self-promotional wording in the text. Readers can spot a promo very quickly and will quickly discard your material if they think you are just using tips as a vehicle to plug for your product, service or organization instead of offering genuinely helpful information.
In addition as a tool for generating publicity, the content of a tip sheet is useful as a handout at conferences and seminars, adding to your credibility as an industry thought leader.
If you post it on your website for reference over an extended period of time, the tip sheet can directly interest your customers or clients in your offerings.
Another use for a tip sheet is to incorporate the points directly into a promotional brochure as handy advice to readers. You can also send out a tip sheet in direct mail campaigns or even get people to contact you in order to obtain one.
Top of page: Extract from page of sample tip sheets for university students.
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