Press Release 101 – You Need News…
I believe that a large part of the problem that most people have with writing an effective Press Release is that they never actually get past (or even as far as) first base.
You see, a Press Release has to be written about something that is newsworthy, and many small business owners do not consider there is anything newsworthy about what they do. Hence, they genuinely believe that there is no point of considering a PressRelease because what can they write about?
This is a very common attitude in many of the businesses that I’ve worked with over the years, and perhaps you’ve found yourself susceptible to it too?
If so, here’s something to consider.
Reporting ‘news’ as most people understand it is all about relating information about global or at least prominent local events.
However, a press release for a smaller business or organization isn’t meant to focus on global events for one very sound, logical reason.
Doing so is the job of the international, national and local press, and they are going to give such a situation all the coverage it needs. There is no way you can compete with them, so don’t waste your time trying.
Instead, focus on what is news for your business because – perhaps surprisingly – there are people out there who would be interested in what you do if you told them about it.
Most crucially, almost anything you do can be ‘repurposed’ or ‘repackaged’ as a news story good enough to merit a press release with just a little imagination and a willingness to think outside the square.
For example, if your business releases a new product or updates an existing one, it is worthy of a press release.
If you launch a new site, take on a new director or a senior member of staff retires, you can easily create a press release based on any of these events with a bit of practice.
In no particular order, here are a few more ‘event’ ideas to get the creative juices flowing:
• Participation in a show, exhibition or product demonstration;
• A new contract that you’ve won or a new job that has been given to your business;
• Publishing the results of an online survey that you conducted (use the free services of Survey Monkey);
• Run a competition with fashionable prizes like iPads, iPhones etc;
• Issue a release about any public speaking event that you are part of;
• Interview a celebrity or industry expert;
• Highlight awards that your business or individual staff members have won;
• Customer success stories and/or customer testimonials;
• Issue a release about a big office move or expansion;
• Product price changes, special offers or discount campaigns;
• Any new community or charity related activities. For example, if you sponsor the fund raising efforts of a local school, it’s a story that merits telling to the world in general.
• Even if it is a group of staff supporting the community in their spare time, they are only together as a group because of your business. Once again therefore, you should issue a press release about it.
Please understand that this is not intended to be an exhaustive list but rather a way of making you view what you do every day in a different light. The bottom line is that almost anything that you, your staff or someone related to your business does that is in any way out of the ordinary can be ‘spun’ into news worthy of a press release.
So please don’t allow the idea that you haven’t got any news worth announcing prevent you from harnessing the power of online press releases. As I hope you can see, it’s simply not true.
Where’s your Press Release ‘hook’?
When creating a press release, you must focus on what the main ‘hook’ of your story is:
What is it about what you want to say that makes it newsworthy, or what makes it worthwhile for the reader to keep on reading?
What you must do here is identify the key benefit of whatever it is you are promoting in your press release, the one thing that makes your product or service a ‘must have’ offer for the reader.
In this respect, there are several alternative ways of identifying what the main appeal of whatever it is your release is about, is.
To begin with, think about timing. Is your offer one that perfectly matches the time of the year or the season?
If for example you were promoting chocolate Santas and it happens to be Christmas, then you have an offer that matches the season perfectly and your ‘hook’ is fairly obvious. If it’s topical, the chances of your release getting picked up are that much higher.
Next, look at what is happening in the news on TV or on the net because if your release happens to coincide with a hot topic, you could be very much in luck.
The earlier example of your new personal anti-radiation device being released on the day that a major nuclear power plant goes up in smoke is a very clear example of this.
Do you think that your device would sell well in these circumstances?
I imagine so…in fact, I imagine that you’d have a very serious run on your production capacity, simply because you happen to be in the right place at the right time.
In many cases, issuing a successful press release is about getting the timing right and this is just one of the more obvious ways in which this applies.
Next, can you produce evidence or factual information to back up what you intend to announce in your press release? Testimonials can be very powerful as can quotes from someone who is closely involved with the project.
The more evidence you have that the benefits that are promised in your press release are genuinely realistic, the more persuasive your release will be in the eyes of the reader (and incidentally, benefits are a subject that I will keep reverting to throughout this report).
Similarly with a case study if you have one. Again, such a report provides evidence that the benefits you claim for your product or service are realistically achievable, adding additional veracity to the main thrust of the information contained in your release.
Think about the geographical reach of your message as well.
On the one hand, the fact that you’ve sponsored the local school or the scouts is not national news by any means but in local terms, letting people know about it could be very influential.
Just as long as local influence is what you need or want, making a big impact in your own community should be more than good enough.
On the flip side of the coin, you may have something that genuinely has global appeal.
For instance, if you were to invent a revolutionary type of football boot (as this guy did a few years ago), a press release about your invention is targeting a global audience of followers of the most popular sport on the planet. The Titanic going down was a pretty newsworthy event too, apparently:
As a consequence, you would focus the content on the ‘extra’ benefits of the product for everyone, in comparison to the ‘standard’ product that most people would be used to at the moment.
Finally but crucially, never forget to include a clear, concise and very obvious call to action in your press release.
Do not make the mistake of assuming that the reader knows what to do because whilst what they are supposed to do next might be abundantly clear to you, it may be far less so to them.
I guess that it’s perhaps politically incorrect to suggest it, but you cannot assume that people are always intelligent. They are not, so you should never take it for granted that they know what to do after reading you release.
It is however true that most people need to be told what to do. Many of those that fall into this category will do whatever they are told to do. For all these reasons, it’s imperative that you include a strong call to action in every press release, a clear instruction about what you want the reader to do next.
And note that you should tell them, not ask. A powerful call to action is always an instruction and never a request!