In today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, small business owners should actively pursue every possible opportunity available to receive positive public exposure. While not every press release will give your business a banner headline on page one or the lead story in the late-news feature, a news release is free and an effective way of getting exposure.
Step One: Find a News Angle for Your Headline
There are a number of very good reasons for sending out a news release and generating as much favorable publicity for your business.
Anyone of these ideas could be used as your media hooks.
- Something new about your business or organization. You start-up a new business or establish a new division or group (the more unusual, the better).
- What’s distinctive about you or your business. These are backgrounders, which are press releases that generally provides detailed or in-depth background information on your product, business or organization.
- An upcoming event. This could be an upcoming anniversary of your business, the length of your CEO’s tenure, opening of a new store locally or manufacturing facility in another area.
- Connection between what you offer and current news. An example is when you issue a position statement regarding some social, community, national, legislative or industry issue.
- Survey or poll research
- A contest or award. Your business, or an individual in your organization has received an award, recognition, commendation from a professional or trade organization, the government or the community. You can also issue press releases when your business presents an award or other recognition to an employee or client. You can also issue press releases when your business sponsors a significant community festival, awards, or event open to the public.
- Tie-in with a holiday or anniversary
- Connection between what you offer and a current trend
- Controversial or surprising claim
- Humorous announcement
Compose an eye-catching, informative headline using that hook. Remember, you have no more than 10 seconds to interest a reader. Your headline should be a brief statement of the most important or vital fact of your story. Just as in newspaper headlines, you can use a compressed, telegraphic style.
Here are some examples of titles of some press releases:
- Microsoft Announces Surface: New Family of PCs for Windows
- Mountain Lion Available Today From the Mac App Store
- NEW National Mortgage Standards gives Servicers $5 mil reasons for Notary Compliance Services
- New facebook app to support the Olympians
Step Two: Basic Facts of your News Angle
Always present the Five Ws of journalism in your news release:
- Why (or how)?
Incomplete or inaccurate information is a sure-fire way to get your news release crumpled and thrown to the trash can. Check and double-check your news releases to make sure all information is complete and clear. Always follow the rule: never leave unanswered questions in the reader’s mind.
If you are inviting the public to a charity event sponsored by your organization, for example, be sure to include the date, time, location or venue, the reason for the event, who can attend, RSVP details, attire to be worn and other pertinent information. Give out the complete address; never assume the people will immediately know where the “Civic Center” is.
If you are trying to tell the public of a great new product your company is launching, then make sure that you explain what the product is, why is it different from other existing products in the market, how can it benefit the consumers, among others.
Weave your who, what, when, where, and why together in an opening paragraph for your release, taking no more than one or two sentences to make your main point. Always make your lead (or first) paragraph the most important item in the article. Your opening sentence should be able to convince media that this is a noteworthy piece of news that they should use. Be able to tell the readers that they should care – because if media thinks that their readers or viewers will want your story, then the higher is the likelihood that the media will use it! (This is the whole point for making press releases). Make your pitch catchy, although a straightforward, factual style does the job, too. Be succinct, but thorough!
Step Three: Gather or Create a Lively Quote That Elaborates on the Basic Facts
Direct quotations from someone who can back up the basic claim of the release — you; the company president; the originator of the event, product, or service; a satisfied customer; or someone who carries special weight with your target audience – lends greater credence to the news release. Dynamic blurbs injects strength in any press kit or press releases. Quotes enable you to bring the story to life, provide perspective, or add star appeal. For example, in the PowerHomeBiz.com release, I used comments from publisher Nach Maravilla on the significance of the partnership agreement with Inc.com.
Step Four: Elaborate Further the Basic Facts
What else do you want to communicate to editors and producers? Follow-up the facts of your story in descending order of importance. You can include additional quotes, or report additional facts that support your claims in straight prose. You might want to place a brief description of your company, or historical data about your subject here. Don’t distract; support your story!
One seemingly minor but very important point: if the main text does go to another page, write MORE or CONTINUED at the bottom of the page to indicate that this is not the end. On your second page, make sure to include a header with the title of your release and the page (or what they call “slugline”). Putting your headline at the top of page will make it easier to reassemble the pages in proper order should the pages get separated.
Step Five: End with the Nitty-Gritty Details
Include additional information supporting your news release – such as prices, addresses, dates, phone numbers, how to register, etc. — that any media notice about your subject should include. You can include the date, time and place of a news conference or site visitation; information on how to get media credentials; schedule for photo opportunity and/or interview availability, and other details.
Also, make sure that you put either three pound signs, “# # #”, or the word “END” to signal the end of the main text of your news release.
Step Six: Send It Out
Consider sending your release to the local newspapers, magazines that focus on your industry, specialized business newspapers (most major metropolitan areas have them), local radio stations that cover business news, newsletters that cover your industry and local television shows that cover business topics. It may be a long shot, but it is also worth trying sending your releases to the major dailies and business newspapers. Who knows, they might like your story hook enough to run the piece (even a teeny-weeny mention in a major newspaper won’t hurt!)
To increase the chances of media picking up your story, make every effort to address releases to a specific editor or producer by name (if you are positive that the specific person handles your area and is in fact still on the staff). In most cases, though, it is best to simply address your news release to a job title – Managing Editor for the print media, News Director for electronic media. Also, make sure that the media person/outfit that really runs stories similar to your release. Don’t expect a high-tech publication to cover your press release on your new line of dolls that is not even available online!
You can send your press releases through three ways: the traditional snail-mail, by email, or by fax. Sending releases through mail is still the most widely used form of distribution; but it is not advisable if you are sending an extremely time sensitive information. Fax distribution has become a quick way to send out releases; however, there is no assurance that your press release arrived in one piece to the intended recipients. Lastly, sending news releases through email has become the common practice, but make sure that email is not considered spam. Combine these three approaches for maximum effectivity.
Read our other articles on how to use press releases:
- PR 101: The Home Business Guide to Media Relations
- Pitching the Media Correctly to Market Your Home Business
- The Secret of Sending Press Releases
- Branding and PR: Raise your Visibility in a Cluttered Marketplace
Recommended Books on how to use press releases to get publicity:
- How to Write a Press Release, Second Edition: A Beginner’s Guide For Anyone Interested In Writing And Submitting Dynamite Press Releases, Including … Of Free Press Release Distribution Services
- The Ultimate Press Release Swipe File: 50 Templates That You Can Use to Get Your Business Media Exposure Today
- How to Write Perfect Press Releases
- I Need a Killer Press Release–Now What???: A Guide to Online PR
- How To Write A Press Release: 84 Easy Tips To Get Free Publicity For Your Business Or Website: A Beginner’s Guide For Anyone Interested In Writing And … Of Free Press Release Distribution Services