Press releases – specifically articles prepared for the media (print or online) to announce noteworthy news – represent a great opportunity to promote your brand . . . FREE OF CHARGE. However, creating legitimate, credible press releases is more difficult than the average businessowner thinks. For a submission to succeed, you need:
- A topic of general interest to your audience (and not just yourself).
- A writer who understands that most adjectives and adverbs have no place in a press release (and who can pretend to maintain the objectivity of a journalist).
- An understanding of the ultimate audience being targeted and the media outlets best suited to reach them.
- An appreciation for proper press release formatting (so you don’t automatically send a signal of amateurism and get rejected unread).
- The ability to generate quotes and photos to make the piece more sales worthy.
- A commitment to perform various post-submission steps that can be taken to get the best possible impact.
- Proper integration of standard “boilerplate” language repeated in each and every release.
While our ultimate plan is to develop separate blog articles for each of these bullet points, I will provide a brief commentary about each for this overview.
Your press release stands the best chance of getting picked up when the editor believes your piece will be of interest to the largest possible number of people. If you are a company like Apple, almost any subject will get and sustain the attention of editors and readers. When you are ABC Hauling, you need to work harder. Employee promotions and hiring can be newsworthy as well as accomplishments. Awards or recognition by the company or individual staff are good subjects, too. If your industry has a national day or week-long celebration, find a way to tie into that recognition. Conversely, don’t assume that some small change to your product or facility has a wide enough appeal to be publicized.
When you write a press release, you want to pretend to be a reporter writing a news story, including the way in which third-person pronouns are utilized. Drop all adjectives and adverbs like excellent product, great staff, wonderful service, etc. unless such words have been embedded in quoted material attributable to a specific speaker. A newspaper will not print such language, which marks you as an amateur. Remember, the media must serve your competition just as well as yourself.
For your story to have the best possible branding impact, pick topics and articles suitable to your demographics. If you serve an older crowd, don’t tie your piece to topics aimed at teenagers and pick the places for your submission with an eye to audience. (You want information more likely to be picked up by AARP than Seventeen.)
As suggested above, demographics are one consideration. However, a number of others come into play. For example, does the topic warrant national or regional reach . . . or is strictly local more appropriate? Are you trying to connect with other businesses or the retail marketplace? If the former, trade magazines might be your target. Do you have personal contacts that could be useful in making sure your submission gets proper attention? If so, reach out to them.
As a small business owner, you might not believe you have options other than your local newspaper or your most familiar trade magazine, but other alternatives for extending your reach exist. Services like PRNewswire or BestWire can be used to get your message placed in many online outlets and get your story into the hands of a wide range of print contracts, too.
I remember many, many, many years ago when I was still at my greenest, our company achieved a special rating that was worthy of being publicized to our targeted audience. I wrote a press release that got placed locally . . . but my boss received a message from a friend in another state who passed along the rating agency’s version of the press release that had been distributed nationally. My boss asked me why her friend got the one from the rater but not ours delivered to her desk.
At that point, I had just learned about national distribution services that release information in a very broad manner for a price . . . but had not yet experimented with the process. Still, I was able to tell my boss that – if she was willing to spend several hundred dollars – I thought I could deliver similar results, too.
Fortunately, the experiment was a success. Her contact got our story delivered to her desk via the same “google Alert” criteria she already had in place that picked up the Internet placements that had been made. She passed our version along to my boss, who was pleased. (We’ll also eventually do a piece on the use of “Alerts” as electronic clipping services.)
While PR distribution specialists such as these can provide some very gratifying immediate results . . . and get your name and story to appear in Internet search results, the impact tends to be transitory. Don’t expect more than one or two of those search “hits” to still turn up even a few weeks later. For sales purposes, that may sometimes be enough. For branding, a bit more “stickiness” would be desirable. (In deciding whether the benefit is worth the expense, best to be aware of both the strengths and weaknesses of the process.)
To maximize your chances of success, observe a few very basic formatting requirements to make sure your story does not get flagged unread as being prepared by an amateur. These conventions evolved to help busy editors who get inundated with requests.
QUOTES AND PHOTOS
A press release should always include some quoted material to make the story more immediate and give you an opportunity to include some of the more subjective material not permissible in the body of the article. For instance, you can quote your CEO making a statement about superior service due to the excellence of the staff . . . while such a statement would otherwise be inappropriate. That said, show restraint; you’ll stand a better chance of success. (Future plans are also another good opportunity to introduce quotes.)
If photos of products, places, or quoted parties are available, include them or at least reference their availability.
While this subhead could certainly refer to checking back with an editor when a submission has not appeared after a suitably long period of time, our intention was to further discuss the branding potential of press releases due to conscientious follow-up activities.
Five Ways to Get the Most Mileage from PR Activities
- Post copies of press release on your web site. (People will check them out.)
- Mail or e-mail copies to your customers and business partners. (Keeps your name in front of their faces in a desirable way and often includes content that serves the same purpose as a testimonial.)
- Prepare reprints for use in sales presentations with prospects.
- Prepare social media postings that link to published copies of the story (or at least to your own online repository).
- Share your published release with your staff to reinforce your brand with them.
The branding that has been incorporated into your well-crafted press release can have much greater and longer impact by taking these few easy and inexpensive steps.
As discussed in our Style Guide, “Boilerplate” language is a short paragraph included in press releases, sales literature, marketing ads, etc. to ensure a consistent, properly branded message gets incorporated whenever possible. The language should always be included and in the exact same way, knowing repetition is one of the most basic keys to a well-branded product. (That said, expect editors to frequently cut your “boilerplate,” though you want to keep including the passage both for those occasions when the message is not cut AND to continually help brand yourself in the eyes of the publication.)
More to Come . . .
In the upcoming weeks, we will be doing dedicated articles to each on these aspects of creating press releases and (as is our custom) we will be preparing a press release about our blog that we will submit to several media outlets in conjunction with National Small Business Week in May. Since we are well aware of the long lead time involved in getting press releases read and published, we are targeting a draft in January for February submission with the hope of some placements for May. (Publication’s schedule vary from weekly to quarterly and several increments in between, so be sure to know the frequency of the ones you are targeting.)
FYI — More information is available about preparing press release from a variety of sources (just do an Internet search on the proper preparation/formatting) . . . so you might want to check out the thoughts of organizations like CBS: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-to-write-a-press-release-with-examples/.