In the month of July, we offered up a series of HOW TO’s. How to Write a Mission Statement for Your Small Biz, How to Deliver a Winning Sales Pitch, and How to Collaborate: The Benefits of Sharing Resources. Today we’d like to talk about how to write a press release for your small business.
Small business owners don’t always have the budget to spend on marketing campaigns to generate buzz around their startups, new products or services. Writing a press release is a great way to draw media attention to your business and generate publicity for free. Journalists at all levels and across all platforms are always looking for stories. Issuing a release lets them know that you have a story to tell.
However, just because you have a press release doesn’t mean you’re going to get press. Here are some pointers to make your press release pop!
What’s your news?
Just like you want to grab journalists’ attention with your release, so too do journalists want to grab readers with their article. In order to do both of these things, your release has to be newsworthy. It’s not enough that you are starting up a business, or have created a new product. You need to explain, clearly and concisely, why it matters to your target audience, whether this is other businesses, government officials or consumers. What makes your business unique? What does your product bring to the marketplace that others don’t? Finding your news element will determine the subject matter of your release. Also, remember to keep in mind who your release is aimed at. Community media outlets are much more likely to cover a local story than the big national outlets.
Give it a hook
As part of our How To in July
As with many things in life, timing is everything for a media release. It’s important to not only convince journalists why they should write a story, but why now? Tying your release to a current event or time of year helps frame its relevance. For example: a formal-wear retailer might tie their release to the beginning of wedding or prom season; a barber might encourage customers to come in and shave their beards after the NHL playoffs end; and an accounting firm might remind customers that tax season is just around the corner before launching into their specific offering. Anchoring your release to something timely encourages journalists to write about it, and write about it now.
The trick is in the title
The headline is the most important part of your press release. It’s the first thing journalists see, and if it doesn’t grab them, it’ll probably be the only thing they see. Make sure your headline is clear and to the point. Avoid using industry jargon: remember, you’re writing for journalists. There is such a thing as being too clever, so try to avoid puns or winking at the reader. Always try to have a couple other people in your organization read it to make sure you didn’t use any unintended innuendo. It’s also a good idea to keep search engine optimization (SEO) practices in mind. You want to use keywords that are going to get picked up in searches.
Ledes (no, that’s not a typo)
The “lede” is the first sentence of your release. This is where you include the most important piece of information. Get straight to the point – include the who, what, where, why and when of the release. Moving downwards from the lede, the release should be shaped like an inverted pyramid, with the most newsworthy, broad information at the top, and the specific details at the bottom. This will help ensure that journalists will get the general idea quickly, rather than getting caught up in the small details before they understand what your release is about. The University of Waterloo has compiled several templates of press releases and media advisories that you may find helpful.
Once you have completed your release, be proactive about reaching out to media. Compile a list of local journalists who have written about small business, your industry and related topics and email them a copy along with a short pitch note that sums up why they should consider writing a story.
Like with any business interaction, relationship management is key. Developing good relationships with journalists will help to increase your coverage.