If you are new to owning your own business, you may not have discovered the magic of press releases yet.
Every single day, media outlets around the globe are in search of news. And because news shows seem to be increasing at a significant rate, they need that much more content to fill in the time slots.
While you probably won’t get top billing on a top broadcast, there are still many other ways to gain a little exposure for your business. A 30 second mention on a morning show, or a quarter page article in the living section of your local paper can bring in a ton of business.
But before you get excited about possibilities, you have to master the creation of the perfect press release first.
How To Write Your Press Release
In general, your press release (media release) should include:
- Your business name
- Your contact information
- The date
- An attention grabbing headline
- Your news story outlined in short paragraphs, with the most interesting up front
- Background information about you and your company
Your press release should be about one page in length, and should summarize the overall story you are pitching to media sources. Why should the media care about what you do? You can’t go with the simple or the boring here; journalists are looking for exciting, human interest stories that will be of interest to their readers or viewers.
Journalists receive dozens of press releases a day, and as you might guess, most of them end up in the trash. Their time is short, and they are looking for something to stand out above the rest, and motivate them to take the next step. So with that in mind, frame your story around something that you would find interesting.
A new photography business starting up isn’t interesting. But a new photography business who’s main client is a local rising rock band, and the photographer has followed them to several concerts creating the perfect look for their promotional pieces may be a great human interest story.
You have to put a twist on things, and get the journalist to care about what you do, and to get them to think their readers/viewers will care about it too.
As you are writing the release, write in simple language. Read the paper, magazine, or watch the show you are pitching to. Match your release to the language they use. For instance, a business journal is going to use different language than a local, hometown paper. Give them what they use. To help you write, remember to include:
Who – who is the story about, who are the key participants?
What – what is your release about, what is happening, what are the details?
When – when is the event taking place, when did it happen?
Where – where is this taking place, locally, nationally?
Why – why is this important, why should the journalist and their audience care?
Contacting The Media
As I mentioned above, media outlets get dozens of press releases every day. In addition to receiving press releases directly, they also scour the online world looking for newsworthy pieces that apply to their audience as well. They do this for a living; they know what to look for and where to get it. You have to conform to their likings, not the other way around. They simply have too many sources and not enough time to focus on any one piece. It either grabs attention, or it doesn’t.
The first rule of thumb if you are trying to gain publicity is not to worry about one story making it or not. You have to build it into your marketing plans, and keep doing it. If you want publicity, then shoot out press releases every month. Some will stick and receive exposure, some won’t. If you focus too much on why something didn’t take, you’ll drive yourself crazy. Instead, make it a part of your plans, and just do it.
Identify your key target markets, then focus on media within that target market. I’ll use my hometown of Denver as an example. There are a ton of media outlets with a wide variety of interests.
- Denver Business Journal
- The Denver Post
- City newspapers, like The Villager
- Local broadcasting news shows
- Cable television shows
- Local radio shows
- Online radio shows
- City magazines, like 5280
Not only can I stay with media outlets here in Denver, but I can also move into other areas. For instance, we spent most of our time in the mountain areas as well, so focusing on newspapers and media outlets in the ski towns is another big possibility.
Once you have a media outlet in mind, head over to their website and look at who is reporting the news. Try and read or listen first to find out what journalist is the best fit for you. Try not to send a generic email or press release to a general source; focus in on one reporter and send it directly to him or her. In many cases a website will tell you exactly how they prefer to receive releases, and may even give you their preferred outline.
Abide by their wishes, and don’t try to buck the system. Journalists receive a huge amount of information every day. Your job is to make it easier, not make them angry. They aren’t there to promote what you do; they are there to make their audience happy.
A Few Tips
While there is an art to writing a press release, the more you do it, the better you will become. If you read a story in a newspaper or magazine, or hear a story on the news, you are much more likely to trust the source and listen to it than you would by looking at an ad or a commercial. We trust what’s on the news; and we know advertising is just advertising. Here are a few more tips to help you get started writing the perfect press release.
Put your title into the subject line of your email. The goal is to get a journalist to open up the email, and be enticed by what you have to say.
Don’t add attachments, if possible. With spam and viruses, opening up attachments rarely happens. Put the complete release in the email. If you have photos or additional files, be sure to explain that you have them available, on request.
Send small files. Because journalists receive huge amounts of email, they cap off their acceptance size. Only send small files upon request. If a journalist needs something bigger for print, you can work out the details later.
Give them contact information that is reachable. Journalists work under strict deadlines, and if they can’t reach you, they’ll pass for another story. Give your email address, mobile number, and any additional information that makes it easy to find you at any time.
Give them all of the information. Don’t leave a journalist guessing, or wondering what the rest of the story is. They should be able to write an article or tell a story based on the information in your release.
Don’t mention your marketing, advertising, or business model. Unless you are pitching a story for a business magazine or newspaper, most journalists don’t care how this impacts you. They want to gleam in their audience’s eye.
Don’t send things just to send things. Remember, the key to a great press release is excitement. You want them to look forward to receiving your releases, not instantly hit the delete button.
[Having trouble writing a press release? I've written dozens of press releases for clients over the years, and have had huge successes with getting clients into the media. One client recently had his artwork included in a holiday catalog that is delivered around the world. It can happen. If you need help, let me know.]