There’s an art to writing a press release, but you don’t have to be a veteran journalist to pull it off. The key is understanding who your audience is and crafting a document that’s compelling, informative and easily understood. When it’s done right, there’s no better resource for promoting your business—and for the most part, it’s free.
Here are tips for getting your press release noticed and distributed:
Content comes first. It’s understood that your press release will in some way promote your small business. But if that appears to be your sole purpose, or the content reads more like advertising, your press release is dead in the water. The first person you have to sway is a business reporter and that person’s first and foremost responsibility is producing news. So you have to offer content that is newsworthy in some way.
You should already be keeping a close eye on new trends or developments in your market. One way to catch a journalist’s eye is by tying your press release to relevant current events. When news breaks in your industry (a major research study, for example, or a new product launch), there’s a built-in hook for your press release. Offer your take on the news story, along with any helpful tips or advice. The goal is positioning yourself as an expert whom reporters can call on for additional information.
Brevity is a key element in a well-crafted press release. Start by answering the 5 W’s (Who? What? When? Where? Why?). By the time you’re done with this part, your press release should be pretty much complete. Be clear and concise. Make your key points right away. And do it all in no more than 500 words.
Make the headline/subject line work for you. Press releases are distributed via email. This means your subject line has to do some heavy lifting. Ideally, the headline for your press release can also serve as the email subject line—provided it’s eye-catching enough for journalists to single out from the dozens, or hundreds, of other emails they receive every day.
Essentially, you have 8-10 words with which to grab a reader’s attention. On the plus side, thinking about your headline first can help you focus on the core message of the press release, saving time and eliminating irrelevant clutter.
Follow the format. The standard format for a press release is as follows:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (today’s date)
Headline (don’t use all caps)
Text – Start with the most urgent information. Avoid promotional fluff. Say what you need to say in 500 words or less and get out.
Insert # # # centered at the end of the release.
Contact information – Include a short paragraph about your business at the end, with appropriate contact information (name, email address, telephone number).
Note: Avoid formatting with HTML tags or the use of colors or boldface (they don’t work consistently across different email programs.) And don’t include attachments. If you have a compelling photograph, post it on your website and refer reporters there.
Cultivate relationships with reporters. As noted, journalists and business reporters are only looking for items of interest to their readers. If you flood them with press releases that don’t meet this top priority, they’ll quickly learn to dismiss anything you send them. On the other hand, when you make their job easier (writing a press release that’s so compelling and informative they don’t have to do much editing), reporters will look to you as a valued resource.
Do some research about the local business press. Find out what they’re looking for and tailor your next press release to meet their needs. With some luck and perseverance, you may end up being that reporter’s “go-to” person for future news stories. There’s no better promotion than that for your small business.