Welcome to lesson #7! Today we’re going to discuss a rather well-known, but under-used form of marketing: Press Releases! A press release is typically a written document that is sent to editors or other related media staff members, to let them know about a newsworthy topic. The idea, of course, is to provide these people in the media with stories that they’ll report on. Ideally, this creates a win-win for your business and the media company: The media company gets content for a news story, while your business reaps the financial rewards of the free publicity.
When used in the offline business world, press releases can garner free publicity for your company in newspapers, magazines, and on television and radio stations. Advertising in a newspaper, magazine, on TV, or radio could easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars. With this in mind, it quickly becomes apparent why this free form of promotion can be highly beneficial and profitable to the company or companies featured in the news story.
It should also be noted that prospective customers and clients of your business regard news stories as being far more credible than traditional advertisements, which are notorious for making over-hyped claims. Additionally, people have a subconscious tendency to mentally block out advertisements, due to being bombarded with so many advertisements on a daily basis. On the other hand, people actively seek out news events and recent headlines. In general, news stories simply have a far more credible feel to them and they are much more likely to get the attention of viewers and readers. It’s no wonder why so many companies are willing to pay PR firms large sums of money, simply for the possibility of getting major news coverage.
The internet has greatly leveled the “press release playing field”, allowing small businesses to get noticed far more easily, through press releases. Additionally, with many do-it-yourself tools, businesses can now submit many press releases, to multiple news sources at once. Things have certainly come a long way since the days when businesses would have to hire an expensive PR firm, who would then fax out a press release to one news organization at a time.
Prior to sending out a press release, though, it’s important to understand that press releases need to be written in a specific format. In order to have the greatest likelihood of having your press release “picked up” by a media outlet, it’s critical to follow the proper formatting, when preparing your press release. Press releases that are not written in the proper format will not even be read, let alone considered for publication. It’s vital to understand that media companies receive large volumes of press releases each day. In turn, they only choose from the best press releases that they receive.
Below, we’ve included a sample press release, to show you the proper formatting, followed by important notes that detail the important elements that we’ve included in this sample:
YOUR COMPANY LOGO HERE WITH YOUR COMPANY ADDRESS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Firstname Lastname, Job Title of this contact person here
Email address and/or phone number of the contact person listed above
TITLE OF YOUR PRESS RELEASE HERE
City, Two-Letter State Abbreviation – In this first paragraph of your press release, you should provide the introduction. This introduction should consist of a general overview of what your press release is about. Do not, under any circumstances use salesy wording or plugs for your company in the body of your press release. Your company will not get the publicity you’re aiming for, if you attempt to promote yourself here.
This is a good place to go over the general “when” and “what” of your press release. In this paragraph, stick to the facts. State the dates that pertain to the newsworthy event in your press release. For example, if your restaurant will be hosting an event for small businesses, on specific dates, list those dates here. You can also state the general purpose and objective of the event here.
In this paragraph, you want to start to get into the more specific details of your newsworthy event. If your business is hosting a special event, you want to get into the more granular specifics of what the event will be about here. If food will be served, you can mention that here. If there will be specific industry experts at your event, you can mention that here too, along with the specific dates when those people will be at your event, if your event takes place over more than one day. This paragraph should include the primary features of your newsworthy topic.
In this paragraph, it’s best to discuss some of the secondary aspects of your newsworthy topic. For example, will your event’s attendees receive special “door prizes” or other complimentary items as part of this event? Will other “side events’ also be taking place during breaks or in other areas, in conjunction with the main event? In general, this paragraph should just provide supporting details of your newsworthy topic.
This paragraph should include factual information about your company. Specifically, how long has your company been in business, what are the primary functions of your company, and what products and services do you provide to your customers or clients? Again, avoid selling yourself. Stick to the facts about your company. The promotion will come when and if you get featured in the media.
This final line should just include where people can go to learn more about the topic discussed in this press release, such as a web page or Facebook page you’ve set up, related to the topic.
The above example includes all of the important elements of a properly formatted press release. Let’s discuss each of these elements in more detail, so that you’ll better understand how to use this formatting for your specific purposes.
First, your company logo with your company address should appear at the top of the page. Ideally, if you have company letterhead with your logo and contact information already on your letterhead, that’s the best type of paper to type your press release on. Your official logo and letterhead, at the top of the page, allows the media company to see that this is a press release that came directly from your company.
The first line, directly under your company logo, should be the date that you are submitting the press release to the media company. This way, when your press release gets into the hands of the right person, they will be able to see when the press release was submitted, to determine if the content and topic is fairly recent.
Underneath the date of your press release should be the words “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” in all capital letters. This lets the media company know that they can publish the story immediately. Ideally, you want to provide media companies with this ability to publish your story as soon as possible. Otherwise, if you place restrictions on when your story can be published, you’ll greatly reduce your chances of having your story used. Keep in mind that media companies have many things on their publishing and broadcast schedule. As such, you’ll greatly diminish your chances of being worked into their schedule if you can only have your story published or broadcast on certain dates. Nevertheless, if it is completely unavoidable to include the “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” permission, this line should instead say, “HOLD FOR RELEASE UNTIL [DATE]”. If you have no other choice but to include this “HOLD FOR RELEASE UNTIL [DATE]” instruction, just be sure to submit your press release well in advance of the date you specify for release. The more notice that you can give a media company, the better chance they’ll be able to fit your news story into their schedule.
Underneath your release instructions, you should include the contact information of the person at your company, who can be reached about this particular story. It should be formatted exactly as shown in the example above, with the word “CONTACT:”, followed by your contact person’s first and last name, a comma, and their job title at your company. This section should also include the phone number and email address of your contact person. If the media company likes your story, they’re going to want to speak with someone at your company, so this information is absolutely essential.
The next item to include in your press release is your headline. This headline should be in all capital letters. Unlike headlines in advertisements and marketing materials, this headline should not be salesy or hypey in any way whatsoever. The headline should simply sum up exactly what the press release is about. This headline should read more like the headline of an article that you would see in a newspaper. In keeping with the press release example above, let’s assume that your business will be hosting an event for other small businesses in the area. The following are examples of bad headlines and good headlines that you could use for your event:
Bad Press Release Headline Examples
10% SAVINGS ON ALL MEALS TO BE SERVED AT ABC RESTAURANT’S BUSINESS NETWORKING EVENT
ATTRACT TONS OF NEW CUSTOMERS AND CLIENTS WITHIN TWO HOURS, BY ATTENDING ABC RESTAURANT’S BUSINESS NETWORKING EVENT
LEAVE YOUR COMPETITION IN THE DUST BY ATTENDING ABC RESTAURANT’S BUSINESS NETWORKING EVENT
Good Press Release Headline Examples
BUSINESS NETWORKING EVENT TO BE HELD AT ABC RESTAURANT
TWO-DAY BUSINESS NETWORKING TO TAKE PLACE AT ABC RESTAURANT
ABC RESTAURANT TO HOST BUSINESS NETWORKING EVENT
As you can see, the “good” press release headlines are much more matter of fact than the hyped-up “bad” examples. Of course, this is exactly the opposite of what you attempt to do in advertisements and marketing pieces, where the focus needs to be on emphasizing the benefits to the customer. Keep in mind that these press releases are not being sent to your customers, but rather to members of the media, who are simply trying to determine if your press release will be newsworthy. Hyped up headlines will be thrown in the trash, while factual, interesting headlines stand a far better chance of being published.
After your headline, your first paragraph, otherwise known as the “lead” paragraph, is the next element to include in your press release. As shown in the example above, you’ll start the first paragraph with the city and state abbreviation of your company’s location. This city and state abbreviation should be italicized, as shown, followed by a dash, and then the first sentence of your paragraph. This introductory/lead paragraph should be a general overview of your topic. Specifically, this is the paragraph where you should include the “who”, “what”, “where”, “when”, and “how”.
When writing your press release, it’s very important to write it in the 3rd person. In other words, the press release should not include words like, “we”, “I”, “we’ve”, “we’re”, “I’ve”, or “I’d”. The press release should be written as if a reporter has written the press release, not someone within your company. Here are some bad and good examples of how to word your press release. You’ll notice that the wording in the “bad” examples is written in the first person, whereas the wording in the “good” examples is written in the correct, third person format:
Bad Examples of How to Word a Press Release (What Not to Do):
We will be hosting a networking event at ABC Restaurant, for small businesses in our local community.
We will be serving complimentary coffee and dessert at our networking event.
We will be providing small businesses with an opportunity to get to know one another.
Good Examples of How to Word a Press Release (What to Do):
ABC Restaurant will be hosting a networking event, for small businesses in the local community.
Complimentary coffee and dessert will be served at the event.
The event will provide small businesses with an opportunity to get to know one another.
After your lead paragraph, the subsequent paragraphs should simply go into more detail about the “who”, “what”, “where”, “when”, and “how”. The second paragraph should talk about the main features of the story. The paragraphs that follow the second paragraph should discuss the secondary features of your story.
The last paragraph of your press release should be factual information about your company. Facts such as how long you’ve been in business, where you’re located, and the general products and services you provide to the community should be included in this paragraph. Again, this paragraph needs to be written in the third person, as if a reporter is describing your business in an article. This final paragraph is commonly referred to as the “boilerplate”, because it includes standard information about your company, which you should be able to include in any press release that you submit. In other words, this final paragraph should only include the basic facts about your company, without including any details about the specific press release itself.
Underneath the final paragraph, you can include one more line about how people can contact you or how they can get more information about the topic discussed in the press release. A simple line such as: “For more information, visit www.ABCRestaurantofHouston.com/BusinessNetworkingEvent or call (555) 555-5555.” is all you want to include in this final line.
Underneath the final line of your press release, you should include the three hash marks, as shown in the example above: ### These three hash marks show that there are no additional pages to the press release. If your press release was, for example, two pages, the bottom of the first page should have one of the following two notations at the bottom of the page:
Then, the bottom of your second and final page would have ###. Keep in mind, though, that your press release should generally be about one page. You want to keep things brief and to the point. Always keep in mind that you’re not trying to sell the reporter or media company on the actual benefits of your company’s products and services. The objective of your press release is simply to provide the reporter or media company with the facts that will allow them to determine if your topic will be a newsworthy subject for their audience.
Also, just keep in mind that your press release does not need to be the most earth-shattering news. Of course, the more interesting your story is the better. At the same time though, remember that media companies must constantly provide fresh content and new stories to their audience. If your business acquires a new piece of equipment that uses some interesting, new technology, if you’ve added some exciting new products and services to offer your customers, or if you opened a new location that will be more convenient to the general public, these are all things that a media company in your market might want to do a story on.
Another good tip to keep in mind is that you don’t want to constantly bombard your local community’s media companies with a barrage of press releases, which they’re not likely to be interested in. Otherwise, you could start to develop a reputation, with key media contacts in your local market, as someone who is constantly hounding them, just to get some free publicity for your company. On the other hand, when you submit high quality press releases, that members of the media are somewhat likely to have an interest in, you will be able to build good relationships with these important media contacts in your market.
If you regularly watch your local or regional news, you may notice that certain businesses are often featured on a repeat basis. You can be sure that the reason why the same companies are often featured is because they have properly cultivated relationships with their local media, by providing newsworthy topics of value. By providing value, to your market’s media contacts, you could end up getting ongoing, free publicity that is worth its weight in gold.
In addition to the enormous offline benefits that can be derived from submitting press releases, there are substantial advantages to submitting your press releases to online-based news and media groups. Inarguably, the internet is one of the primary ways that people get their information. Even if you’re a local, offline business, there are still people in your local market who use the internet. Making your press releases available to online media, therefore, is equally as important to offline businesses, as it is to businesses that are solely online-based.
Another, less understood benefit to submitting online press releases is the fact that the major search engines generally love press releases. Specifically, the search engines often give much greater weight to a news story, as opposed to a web page or website that is more promotional in nature. Search engines are rather similar to local newspapers and offline media companies in the sense that they are committed to providing a high quality user experience. In other words, the major search engines, just like any local town’s newspaper, want to provide their audience with high quality content. They both realize that if they only provide advertisements and promotional messages to their audience, they will eventually lose their entire audience. Providing quality content, therefore, is the primary goal of offline media companies, online media companies, and even the major search engines! Distributing your press releases online, therefore, is equally, if not more important, than distributing it through offline means, irrespective of whether you’re an online or an offline company.
It should also be noted that the process of submitting press releases online has been greatly simplified. As mentioned at the beginning of this lesson, there are some incredible, dirt-cheap tools that can greatly ease the process of submitting your company’s press releases. To learn more about these excellent tools, click the links below: