Getting the media’s attention for even a second in a digital world is a tough proposition. Unless you’re at the center of a scandal, news about your business can be bumped by anything from a storm, a crime or a celebrity putting their foot in their mouth.
With a lightning-fast 24-hour news cycle, an old-fashioned press release might seem like a giant typewriter in a room full of smartphones. But this long-held media tradition is still considered a respected medium through which editors and reporters can get valuable information and story ideas—and you can get just the right kind of media exposure to help boost your small business.
The definition of a press release is an announcement that a business or organization releases to the media to be disseminated to readers/consumers of their content.
Good reasons for issuing a press release:
Not-so-good reasons to send out a press release:
To be effective, your press release must be considered newsworthy by someone other than you and your colleagues. When it comes to communication of any kind, the number one consideration should be your audience. Every time you write “I want to tell you…” or “We’re excited to announce…” stop. “I” and “we” have little to no place in your press release. Your press release should be all about the reader.
Put yourself in the shoes of the editor or reporter to whom you’re sending the press. Ask yourself:
The last one may seem out of place, but it’s one of the most important factors. A great press release helps an editor or reporter do their job. It provides them with a great story idea and an eager and available interview source. That’s half the battle!
When it comes to PR, details matter. Firing off a press release to firstname.lastname@example.org won’t cut it. If you want coverage, do your homework and send it to the right publication and the right person who works there.
Many editors and reporters receive hundreds of press releases a day; make your email count by targeting exactly the right people. When narrowing it down, ask:
Many large publications have several editors devoted to specific topics, e.g. news, lifestyle, travel, sports, etc. Go to their website and check out the masthead (list of editors and reporters for each section) to deliver your press release to precisely the right person. Then write a personal email (not a copy and paste) starting with why it would be of interest to their publication/readers specifically.
The press release is a basic formula that includes a:
For tips on properly formatting each of these elements, check out:
Your press release is competing with dozens of others in the inbox of your chosen editor. It has to stand out and feel legitimate to get noticed. Be specific. Try to entertain. And write from the perspective of your audience—and theirs. What matters to them (not you)?
Examples of Great Headlines:
Note: When emailing your press release, do not write “press release” or “breaking news” in the subject line. If your headline is short, use it. If not, write something specifically to that reporter or editor, i.e. “Intriguing story idea for your travel section”.
This is the meaty section that will include the 5Ws: Who, what, why, where, when—and how. Most newspaper writers use the inverted pyramid to write their stories. This is also effective for press releases.
The most important information comes in the first paragraph and details are filled in as the story progresses. Typically, the first paragraph will contain everything you really want to know. Often, a quote from a spokesperson to complement the first paragraph will follow.
Body Copy Example:
For the month of May, ABC Cleaning Company is holding a contest at their Florida St. headquarters to see who can get the most water out of a mop. The public is invited to their office during business hours to take a stab at the squeeze. At the end of the month, a winner will be named and awarded a check for $5,000.
“Inspired by the top-notch professionalism and mad skillz of our staff, we want to challenge our community to bring their best mop-squeezing techniques,” said Molly Sharnquist, President of ABC Cleaning Company. “Our cleaners won’t be part of the competition, but a video of their work will be available for viewing. If a layperson can beat them, they’ll win an additional $500.”
The contest is open May 1st through 31st at the ABC Cleaning Company offices on 7 Florida St. Business hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
You’ll score major bonus points if you also include a shareable visual like a well-designed infographic, high-resolution photograph or even a video. Readers are increasingly captivated by visuals and when a press release comes with its own art, it has a much wider appeal for editors.
Every press release comes with a boilerplate at the bottom providing background on your business. It comes directly following the body of the press release.
ABC Cleaning Company is a cleaning service based in Campland, Tenn. President Molly Sharnquist founded the company after returning home from a business trip to a breathtaking mess orchestrated by her three teenagers. Sharnquist won Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013 for her first business, an intense learn-to-clean boot camp. Her teenagers were the first participants and were ABC Cleaning Company’s first employees.
At the very bottom of your press release, include a name and contact information for the reporter to reach out to for more details and to schedule an interview.
While there is no hard and fast rule for the length of a press release, shorter is better. Most press releases are limited to one to three pages, depending on the complexity of the information.
A well-crafted press release is often the first step to building a long-lasting relationship with reporters and editors. When they can count on your business to provide newsworthy information, they’ll be more likely to review your press releases closely and consider you as a source for related stories.
Great exposure for your business is often only a few great releases away.