Journalists churn through many press releases every day, looking for one or two potential stories. But can small businesses without a PR budget write their own release that will stand out from the pack? Absolutely.
In fact, your press release could actually resonate more deeply. Journalists – dare I say it – can be sceptical of PR companies!
If you can grasp the art of writing a press release – and it’s not rocket science – you may well get yourself covered in the papers, podcasts, blogs or news sites.
Here are some tips…
1. Offer an exclusive
Unless you think your story has potential for widespread coverage, target one journalist/media organisation at a time and offer them an exclusive. This makes your story much more attractive because only they will have it. Type “Exclusive” on the top left corner of your release in a large font.
Find the best medium and journalist. Consider which type of media organisation will be interested in your story and whether your potential market will be looking there.
Find out which journalist covers your type of business/story. Is your story related to small business, or would it be more relevant to education, retail or social affairs reporters?
3. Choose a topic
What kinds of stories are covered in your chosen medium/publication? Often articles have a human-interest angle, or offer useful tips, or relate to the latest news.
Here are some suggestions for topics your press release could focus on:
- Tell your story: This is a fantastic way for your audience to get to know you and your personality.
- Follow topical news stories or seasonal events and see if you can tap in to issues that already have a high profile.
- Position yourself as an expert. Can you provide useful tips on a topic related to your business? What do YOU think is particularly important in your field at the moment?
4. Don’t offer blatant advertising
A press release is not an advertisement. Promotion of your business will come if your story is taken up. This is a fundamental difference between advertising and PR – and the reason why editorial is so much more valuable than advertising.
Be authentic and only tell the truth. You have a reputation to establish!
Want more articles like this? Check out the Public relations, PR section.
5. Keep it simple
The journalist will probably decide in about three seconds whether to read the release you have sent them. Keep it to one page, and no more than five or six paragraphs. Stick to the key points, using a variety of short and medium-length sentences and everyday vocabulary. Make sure the release is typed and get someone to double check grammar and spelling for you.
6. Use direct quotes
Including a few direct quotes from yourself or clients provides variety and an opportunity to use conversational speech. This is more interesting to read and helps to establish your personality.
7. Create an eye-catching heading
A short, catchy headline that captures the essence of the story and highlights its newsworthiness is the goal.
8. Include a photo opportunity
The public – and hence the media – love photos. Suggest a photo opportunity in your media release. Be creative. Think “props” and think “community”. You will be more likeable if you are seen, somehow, to be giving back to your community. If other people are to be involved in the photo, make sure you have everyone’s permission beforehand.
9. Overview and contact details
Don’t forget to include your business address, phone and online contact details for publishing within the article. You will also need to provide numbers for the journalist to contact you. Make sure you are available!
10. Follow up
Call the journalist a day or two after you have emailed the press release to them, to see if you have captured their interest. Try to get a straight answer, so you can plot your next move. If you’re not successful at first, it’s worth trying other relevant outlets. If this first one doesn’t get a run, don’t give up. You can always try another angle in a month or two.
If you persist, you may be surprised to find that you actually become a “contact” for the journalist. Maybe one day they might even ring you!
What are your tips for writing a successful press release?