By Joe ‘Tesla’ Kennedy
In my last article Why You Should Be Using Press Releases for Your Business, I wrote about some of the reasons you need to be using press releases for your business. I went over some of the advantages that press releases have over other types of publicity – including advertising, person to person and even social media marketing. I told you that writing and distributing press releases is the most time and cost effective way to get word out about your business – and just how awesome it is.
Now that you are convinced that you need to be using press releases for your business, let’s go over how to write a press release that is going to catch the attention of editors in your field – and get your company some ink, posts, social shares and/or air time.
- Pick a Great Topic. The first step in writing a great press release is to pick a topic about your business that is going to be of interest to editors – and their audiences. Picking a subject for press releases is a subject in itself. As a writer myself, I very rarely have a difficult time deciding on subjects to write about, but I do realize that many people (my dear wife included) struggle with this. My advice is to look at your business through someone else’s eyes. Perhaps your business has a really cool and interesting story – it’s mission, how it got started, the key players, the people you help, etc. Maybe the company has reached a milestone, created a partnership, launched a new product, won an award etc. As long as you are in business and doing things, there should never be a shortage of topics for your press releases.
- Choose Your Audience. Once you decide on the topic of your press release, you will want to choose the audience you are wanting to reach – and craft your story especially for them. If you are trying to reach local diners for your restaurant, your story is definitely going to be much different than if you are trying to reach potential investors for your latest tech start-up.
- Craft Your Story. When creating your press release it is super important to remember the old adage: Facts Tell, Stories SELL. It’s extra important not to fall into the trap of simply listing facts or features about your business, product, service or offering. That’s just plain boring. Nobody wants to read that crap – and publishers will rarely use it. Editors and their readers, viewers, media consumers all want to be entertained while learning about what’s new with your business.
- Include Relevant Photos and Graphics. As a publisher, it always pisses me off when I receive a press release that states (usually at the very end) “Images Available Upon Request”. To me that just seems that the sender does not value my time and/or their own press release. If there is a reason you didn’t include any relevant pictures or graphics, it’s probably because your release is boring and not worth my time – or the time of any other editor or publisher.
- Know and Follow Submission Guidelines. When you writing a press release for a particular audience and media outlet, you should make yourself familiar with that media outlet’s submission guidelines. These guidelines are usually readily available on each outlet’s website – but it is YOUR responsibility to learn them and abide by them. You are working toward building a mutually beneficial working relationship with these media outlets. It is extremely important that you follow their guidelines and make their job as easy as possible while using your press release. You don’t want to spend your time and effort to send in a 2,000 word essay if the outlet you are sending to only wants stories that are 400-600 words. Another example: For all of my online publications, I refuse to work with any media releases sent in .pdf format. This information is readily available on a page called “Submit News” or similar. .pdf files simply cause us way to much pain with formatting issues, so we just don’t accept or use them. Still the same, month after month, we have the same companies, organizations and PR firms sending us press releases in .pdf format – and they’re probably wondering why they never get used.
- Write an Eye-Catching Headline. Many times editors will be constantly bombarded by many press releases and simply won’t have time to work with them all. Which releases do you think they will pick first? Do you think they will want to create a story based on a press release with a tired, boring headline? NO – they will 100% of the time first read and work with a press release with a brilliant, interesting and exciting headline. One thing to note: I did not include Write an Eye-Catching Headline as the first or second thing to do when writing a press release. Many times when I am writing a press release, I will start out with a preliminary headline – but will almost always change or enhance it after the body of the release is written.
- Use Proper Formatting. Now in the age of social media and blogging, press release format is not quite as important for many editors as it used to be – but getting it right is extremely simple and should be done the same way every time. It will help your credibility and chances of being published if you present your material this way.
Each press release should include the following:
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:||These words should appear at the top left or center of the page, in upper case. If you don’t want the story to be made public yet, write “EMBARGOED UNTIL ….” instead. (Although I personally HATE and do not abide by embargoed news.|
|Headline||Just like a headline in an newspaper. Make sure this describes the content of the story.|
|City, State/Country – Month Day, Year||These details precede the story and orient the reader to date and place that the story comes from.|
|Body||This is where the actual story goes. There should be more than one paragraph, each paragraph no more than a few sentences. If there is more than one page, write “-more-” at the bottom of the page.|
|Company/organization info||Include any background information about the company or organization featuring in this press release.|
|Contact Information||Include contact person, company name, phone/fax, email, physical/postal address. You will also want to include links to your various social media channels.|
|ENDS or ###||This indicates the end of the press release.|
|(xxx words)||If you like you could include the total number of words contained in the press release.|
Now that you know how to craft a press release that is going to get amazing results for your business, get busy writing your first press release. It may not be perfect, but do make sure to make it stands out and is super interesting – and not overly self-promotional (editors really don’t like that much).
Send it to your chosen media outlets and see if they publish the story. It doesn’t hurt to check in with them a few days later, but don’t continually hassle them – there is no better way to get blackballed from that outlet for life.
If you are having problems choosing topics, media outlets, catchy headlines or getting your stories published – do not worry, you are not alone. You will get better with practice.
If you end up deciding that writing and distributing press releases isn’t for you, you still really need press releases for your business. There are many different services that will do it for you for a fee. My company, Virtually Famous Marketing will write and distribute your press releases, with a personal touch, publication and social sharing guarantees – and a much lower price point than the competition can offer without any guarantees at all.
Joe ‘Tesla’ Kennedy is an online entrepreneur, web publisher and former (recovering) newspaper publisher. He was the world’s first 24 Hour Realtor, a Crab Fisherman in Alaska and co-owner of a business called Aerial Burial. He has seen thousands of press releases (both really good and extremely horrible) over many years.
Kennedy has published a good number of those press releases and used others to craft interesting stories. He has been known to write and distribute press releases for his own businesses and clients over the years, leading to stories via many media outlets including TV, radio, the LA Times, Seattle Times and Wall Street Journal. He can be reached at Joe@VirtuallyFamousMarketing.com, on Twitter @JoeTeslaKennedy and on YouTube as JoeConnector.