Small Business Press Release Guide
Great press releases do more than keep the media and the industry-at-large informed of your company’s recent developments. They are meant to pique the interest of journalists, who may seek to cover the topic further. Crafting a great press release is often the first step in securing a magazine feature, newspaper article, feature, blog article or television/radio interview – thus, more visibility and greater brand awareness.
Before you even attempt to write a press release, think about the things you like to read, watch and listen to in the media. Most of us are generally interested in things we haven’t heard before, find surprising or help solve our problems. So before drafting your press release, it’s worth asking yourself these questions:
- Is there anything “new” in my story?
- Is there anything unusual or unexpected about it?
- Would this be of interest to anyone outside my business?
- Will anyone actually care?
The last one sounds harsh, but is probably the most important: you/your client might be excited about your new appointment or the launch of your new product, but will anyone else be interested? If the answer is “no”, hold off on that press release until you’ve got a better story. here is what we are going to cover:
If you’re not sure whether your story is newsworthy, read, watch or listen to the publications or programmes you’d like coverage in to get a feel for the kind of stories they typically cover.
Be concise and target the right people
1. Grab attention with a strong headline
The beginning of a press release, just as with a magazine article, book or promotional flyer – is the most important. A strong headline (and, for that matter, email subject line when you send out the pitch) will pull in journalists seeking good stories. Your headline should be as engaging as it is accurate.
2. Get right to the point in the first paragraph
Journalists are busy people, you must assume that they will only read the first sentence and then scan the rest – and even that is a generous assumption. Get the message of your press release out quickly. Every important point should be addressed in the first few sentences to include ‘who, what, where, when, why.’ The subsequent paragraphs should be for supporting information.
3. Target your information
Know what your media audience are looking for, then tailor and target your information to suit their requirements. E.g. the local media will always look for the local angle so it’s best to use this as your opener; and trade media will look for the most relevant ‘hook’ for their audience. This may mean you have three different versions of the same press release, but it will help you to secure a wider range of coverage.
Watch out for grammar and spelling
4. Write a short outline
When you send a press release to the media, it’s a good idea to include a short outline of your idea (no more than a paragraph) and where you think it might fit in the publication you’re pitching to. Paste your press release underneath, as a busy journalist may not bother to an open an attachment. Photos can be helpful if they add something to the story, but avoid sending big files that will clog up peoples’ inboxes.
5. Include hard numbers
It’s easy to fill up a page with a creative, colourful narrative. Leave the artistry to the writers – pack your press release with hard numbers that support the significance of your product or announcement. If you’re claiming a trend, you need proof to back it up. Quantify your argument and it will become much more compelling.
6. Make it grammatically flawless
Proofread your press release – and ensure two other people proofread it as well – before sending it out. Even a single mistake can dissuade a reporter from taking you seriously. Maybe ask someone else to read through it and check it one last time.
Use quotes and stick to one page
7. Include quotes whenever possible
Including a good quote from someone in the company or close to the product/event can give a human element to the press release, as well as being a source of information in its own right. Inclusion of a third party quote of endorsement can also help add a layer of credibility to the information you prepare e.g. a customer, an MSP, or an industry body.
8. Include your contact information
A common oversight that can render a press release ineffectual is a lack of contact information for reporters to follow up with. Whether you or someone else at the company is the point of contact, do not forget to include an email address and phone number on the release.
9. One page is best and two is the maximum
As with most good writing, shorter is usually better. Limit yourself to one page (usually 300-400 words), though two pages is acceptable. If yours is longer than that, you’ve probably got unnecessary waffle that doesn’t add anything to your story. This will also force you to condense your most salient information into a more readable document – something journalists are always looking for.
Don’t make writers search for information
10. Make the information easy to digest
Don’t be tempted to include background information about your company in the opening paragraph. This – along with any other additional information – can always be included in a “notes to editors” section at the end (It’s fine to run over to a second page for this).
Sub-headings and bullet points can be useful to make information easy to digest, particularly if you’re including figures or statistics.
11. Provide access to more information
You should limit your press release to one page (or two, if you must), but that doesn’t mean you can’t show people how to learn more. Providing relevant links to your company’s/clients’ website, where prospective writers can learn more about your mission and what you’ve already accomplished, is a crucial element to the release. Don’t make writers search on their own for more information – guide them as quickly as possible to your website, or the best place to find out more.
12. SEO and social
Always include your company/client website URL to help direct traffic through to the website. You may find that the URL isn’t necessarily published in printed publications, but more often than not it will be published in online content such as web news and blogs. This is great for helping your site rank in google and can support your SEO efforts
Don’t give up
And finally … aim high, but be realistic in your expectations. Most journalists are swamped with press releases, so it may take you a few attempts and a bit of chasing to land press coverage for your business or client. Don’t give up though; determination and a willingness to learn can take you a very long way!
Considering journalists are flooded with potential stories and pitches on a daily basis, making yours stand out from the pack is crucial. While the format for a press release is basic, the content of the release should be anything but. Follow these ten tips to write a great press release that will make your company/client look professional, accessible and attractive to writers looking for stories.
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