Give it to the press
Opening shop or building a website will not guarantee success. No matter who you are, whether a business, non-profit, author or candlestick maker, if you desire attention and exposure, you need to get the word out to your market. One traditional yet still effective way is the Press Release.
Why Use A Press Release?
The press release is one way to tap media on the shoulder and say, “Hey! Check this out,” without chasing down all of the different news outlets. Many think press releases to be an archaic form of marketing and therefore useless. I disagree. If approached strategically, they can generate great results.
Generally speaking, you send your press release to one or two agencies who disseminate them to various media, who in turn browse through the various headlines, looking for a newsworthy scoop.
With luck and a good angle, your press release is plucked from the fray and published either as is or as an article, and you get exposure and attention. When this happens, celebrate. Because you have just experienced some free advertising.
When To Use The Press Release
Before reaching for paper and pencil, make sure your topic is newsworthy. Remember, journalists sift through piles of press releases and additional content every day. Your goal is to choose a topic and especially a headline that will catch their eye and stir their imagination.
Don’t worry. You won’t have to wait for a visit from royalty or a celebrity to contact the press (although any of those would certainly work). But you do need to get creative. In truth, almost any event that is news for you or your company, could be news for the public, as long as you give it an interesting twist.
To start, list what’s happening in your business that you can use as points of attraction. Are you opening a bakery? Exhibiting your paintings? Running a contest? Launching a new website? Organizing a food drive? These are all reasons to write a press release and let the public know.
Now look at your list and get creative. How can you turn each one into news?
I’ve brainstormed and researched on different reasons and instances for press releases. I listed them below. Read them over and let them help you generate your own ideas:
- New product, service or opening. OK, no brainer. Just make sure to focus on your Unique Selling Proposition.
- A planned event. Great opportunity to spin this topic into a fun piece.
- A charity donation. Giving back to the community not only feels nice, but also creates awareness for the cause that matters to you.
- Receiving an award. There can only be one…winner. So this can fit into the unique news category.
- Damage control. Don’t ignore the bad stuff. Often the best medicine for bad press is to be responsible or make amends in public.
- Running a contest. Focus on fun!
- Updating and improving your website. You’ve likely been online for a while. This works well with your client base.
- A free service (example: free shipping). Another great communication to your client base that can stir some traffic. Also effective for locally based businesses and services.
- Unique customer/user experiences. Click on the Swapsity press release link below, for a perfect example.
- Taking eco steps. Green is the new black. It’s a trend that’s staying.
- Expert outlook. As an expert in your industry, point out some trends or impart some helpful tips.
- Receiving a patent. New and novel idea? That’s definitely newsworthy!
- Opening another branch. In this current economy, signs of growth can promote a hopeful outlook.
- Going into partnership. This works well when the players are known to the readers.
- News on your industry. Are you seeing trends in the industry?
- Any accomplishments. This can be based on the organization as a whole or on individuals within it. A storytelling technique could work well with long-standing companies.
- Hardships in the industry. Great for already hot or groundbreaking topics.
- Success stories. Big and unusual success stories work really well. Don’t forget your clients who may have success stories of their own.
- A launch. How does your launched product or service benefit your market? How is it unique?
- Community projects. Community pieces are great for local newspapers.
- Changing ownership. This works for a large or well-known organization.
The bones of press releases
Did the above list inspire a few ideas? I hope so. But before you start writing, take note of how we shape press releases. For the most part, they stick to a particular format of five paragraphs or less, ranging from 400 to 500 words.
You start with a headline and a release date, followed by a couple of paragraphs with the pertinent information of what you want to communicate, closing with information about the issuer (you) and contact information. I’ll discuss more on writing press releases in a separate post. In the meantime, you can find many examples on the Internet.
This Swapsity press release not only exemplifies the different parts of a press release, but also the unique user experience angle.
Where to send it
Once completed, your press release can be distributed in various ways. The method you choose largely depends on who you are targeting as your readers. You can email, mail or fax your press release to paper media like newspapers and magazines, to radio media, online media and television media. You can do it yourself or use newswires (news agencies), who in turn distribute to subscribed news media.
Press releases can be a great and cheap way to garner attention. It’s not guaranteed marketing, but with proper techniques and a bit of luck, it can bring you some positive exposure with beneficial outcomes.