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The Press Release ER

Do you have a new product or want to tell the media something?

Here are ten tips on what to consider:

1. What are you going to tell?

The basic rule is that you should talk about something that is interesting for the newspaper, radio program, website or TV-program viewers/readers/listeners.
Whatever you tell in a so-called press release should be “newsworthy”.

An interesting piece of news is something that makes a journalist go:”Is this really true?”Here's where you have to be a bit hard on yourself. The fact that you are opening a new store or launch a new product is obviously exciting for you, your family and a few others, but you have to ask yourself: “Why will this be exciting for a journalist and for the readers of a newspaper”? What is it that you have, or can create, that makes the eyebrows of a journalist raise a bit? What do you have that can tickle their curiosity?

Journalists and editors get lots of letters and phone calls every day. They are not looking for something to write about, they're rather looking for the most interesting to write about. If you have information that would suit someone right now, that is appropriate for whatever feature they are planning, or if they can come up with an exciting new angle on your product or service - then you have a good chance to attract their interest and it doesn't matter if your business is small. Sometimes it's actually an advantage, just as there is an advantage in the media context of being a female entrepreneur.

2. Getting perspective on your life
Take two steps back from what you want to tell. What problem does the thing you want to tell the world about actually solve?
Circle the problem that you solve and write your press release from that perspective.

3. How can you tell?
Keep your news short and to the point. An A4 is enough to cover what you want to say.
This means that you answer the questions - what, who, how, when, where and why.
Provide detailed, but brief information (journalists are pressed for time and want to have the dessert first). For any supplemental information you can refer to your website, offer to send more material or tell people over the phone or at a meeting.
Your press release should show what is important in what you have to say.
Background information, quotations, comparisons with other products or services is good to enclose. Describe your business with a couple of short lines containing how long you've been in business, where you are located, what products and services you have to offer.
Show that you have the authority to express yourself quite easily.

4. Don't sell
A press release is not a sales letter. Hmm ... yeah that's right, but not quite.

The difference between a sales letter and a really good press release is the tone.
If your sales letter talks about the amazing super tasty and in every way fantastic humidifier you are about to launch, then the press release informs people that 95 percent of all those who have dandruff live in a too dry environment. Do you see the difference?

The heading is important. Imagine you are a journalist and receive a lot of press releases every day. One headline after another is screaming superlatives about how amazing this particular news is.
Suddenly you see a headline that looks completely different. It's informative and engaged, rather than hyper energetic - how does that make you feel?
Quite liberated, I would think. A headline that focuses on the most important thing will immediately create an urge to read on.

Remember that newspapers want to be exclusive with your news.
The absolute best way to make friends with a newspaper is to tell people in your press release that the recipients of this particular information are the only ones who get your news. The next best way is to create a specific angle for each newspaper, so everyone has a chance to tell their own story.

5. What tone do you want?
I prefer a personal tone rather than an entrepreneurial one.
And personal still means the same as proper and responsible.
Anyone who reads your press release is a person, not a newspaper.
Personal is good.

A funny thing ...
Remember my tips on 10 ways to make your business sexier? Sex sells, we all know that, but I could never imagine that it would be selling. The same day that my newsletter was published, the major Swedish evening papers called me and wanted to talk to me about what jobs are sexy in an interview.
Then came the press cuttings, one after the other. Even a major family-oriented magazine called (admittedly, that was just because they thought that I had researched the subject).
There were also reports from Norway, Denmark and Finland about the Swede “who researched sexiness in business”.

6. Who should you send your press release to?
If you're aiming for a goal, it's better to take a swarm of rocks and throw them all at once instead of throwing just one rock. Right? Well, not really.
It sounds good to say that you have 2 000 names of journalists in your address book and to continuously send out press releases to each and everyone of them.
Do you like that? Then you have become an “address squirrel”. It's a fairly common species which is characterized by a great desire to be noticed. Unfortunately, the brain hasn't kept up with the development. The “address squirrel” believes that the trick is about tiring out a journalist, and that fatigue is what makes an article written. Hmm ...

If you were a journalist, what would you like the most about:
A smarmy letter that celebrates you, that tells the world that you are a genius or a dry press release without a story? Which would you choose? I wouldn't want any of them.
I would like to have a press release about the area I am watching and information that I knew I was alone, or relatively alone, in knowing about.

When I release a new book, I have three rules that determines which people I send a review copy to:
1. The book is sent to a person who reviews these kinds of books ...
2. ... working at a magazine/paper that focus on reporting on books of this particular kind.
3. It should be a magazine/paper that I have a relationship with, ie. I read the newspaper/magazine and know what they might be missing.

In short - the “address squirrel” that sends out press releases everywhere, to everyone's faxes, in everyone's e-mailboxes and mailboxes only gets a small ding instead of a big bang if you have aimed correctly and if you have inside knowledge about the newspaper you send the release to. If you know what they write, who writes about it and what they have written then you also know what they may like to write about in the future.

7. Practicalities
Think about the way journalists want the material to be delivered. The best way may not always be what is easiest for you. A lot of people use email because it's an easy and inexpensive way to send out press releases to a huge amount of people. That's why our mailboxes are flooded almost every other day.
There is an imminent danger of your message drowning here.
Contact people first and check with the recipient.

If you send information by mail, make sure that you don't send attachments that aren't visible, send everything visibly.

Find out about the newspaper's deadlines. Remember that monthly magazines have much longer deadlines. If you have something you want someone to write about in May, send your material at least a couple months in advance.

8. Contact
Ensure that it's possible to reach you in every way possible and at all possible times, including email address, mailing address, phone number, website address, etc. Make it easy for media representatives to do their jobs.

9. What to do if you can't find any news about your company?
Invent something that you can present as news:

* Challenge a record in the Guinness Book of Records with your product.

* Make it prohibited not to smoke in your store if you're a tobacconist.

* Arrange a spectacular competition with your product in focus;”Who can carry a boiler the longest,””Who makes the most delicious cake”, ”Who has the best web site”, ”Who shouts the loudest.”Anything goes as long as it can be linked to your business.

* Give away all the computers in your storage to six year olds in the area.

* Connect to any major event in the news that will have consequences for your business. Perhaps the Prime Minister has been talking about regulating the importation of food. Write to a newspaper and tell them that your imported Parma ham has ended up in a custom warehouse and has been destroyed because of the legal hassles.

* Connect to things you read about. Give your view of things.

* Write a letter and tell people about your business if you're irritated at a reporter because he/she just writes about your competition. Have you considered that they may not even know about your business?

* Contact journalists who you like and tell them that you appreciate their work, that their latest article has helped you with an important thing. Suggest new angles on the subject.

10. And then what?

Don't call and ask if they received your press release. Did you know that a spider named “The Black Widow” eats her husband after mating?
Treat the press as if you were the “Black Widow's” husband. Do what you must and then stay away. Never nag.
Get press coverage instead. There are a number of companies that read all the papers for you for a set fee. They charge you a few bucks per article that they find about your business and send the clippings to you.

About the author

Stefan Ekberg has worked in marketing for small business for 20 years and has written around 30 books on how small business owners can market themselves with limited resources. . In 2012 Stefan was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in Stockholm.

230 000 prescribes to his free newsletter "The 5 minute marketer"
Every week some 230,000 prescribers gets his free newsletter about 5 minute marketing.

"The 5 minute marketer" - the book
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