The New Rules of Press Releases

Your small business doesn’t have the marketing budget to hire a big PR company to handle your press releases, so often the task becomes one of those “wish-list” items you put on the back burner until you have more time. That’s a big mistake if you’re trying to grow your business.

Today, the sheer number of journalists and bloggers looking for interesting material to cover means there’s more opportunity than ever to put your business in the spotlight.

Step 1: Write It

  • Cover the basics. While a lot has changed about press releases in recent years, the basic information you need to include is still the same:
    • Contact information
    • The who
    • The what
    • The where
    • The when
    • The why
    • The how
  • Get help. Get free press release templates and tips from sources like HubSpot[1], PRNewswire[2],[3] or your Microsoft Word template library. The templates can guide you through the steps of writing your release so you don’t leave out any important information, and formatting it so journalists or bloggers can quickly extract the information they need. (If you make them hunt for your news, your press release won’t make it past the inbox.)
  • Optimize your press release for search. Get more attention for your press releases by optimizing them for search engines. Start by doing keyword research before you begin writing the release. Find out the exact terms your customers are using when searching for your products or services, and include them in the headline, subhead and early in the body copy of your press release. Also include links to your website within your press release. It’s an easy way to give the media more information about your story, and it also drives traffic to your website.
  • Say it with pictures. The visual aspect of the web has made images key to getting attention. If you don’t want to bog down your press release with embedded photos or videos, make sure you add links to photos and videos the media can download from your website or your social media channels.

Step 2: Pitch It

  • Know your media. Sending the press release to appropriate media outlets is key. Is your news of interest to local residents? Contact the local TV or radio station, community newspapers or local bloggers. Is it something other businesspeople in your industry care about (like a new hire, a new product launch, someone getting a promotion or your business getting an award)? Contact industry bloggers, publications and podcasts. National media outlets don’t care that you promoted Steve Wilson to Regional VP, but your local business journal or your industry publication might.
  • Know your contact. Along with knowing what the media outlet covers, it helps to have the right contact person and email. Try sending an introductory email asking if you have the right person and where future pitches should be directed.

Step 3: Follow Up

In today’s 24/7 news cycle, journalists and bloggers have to continually create new content, which means they have an overload of information to sort through. It’s common for individual media people to get thousands of press releases per week. The following tips can help you get through the noise:

  • Don’t call. Most journalists are working on tight deadlines and don’t have time to answer cold calls or calls to follow up on a press release.
  • Follow up, but don’t overdo it. Sometimes it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, but you have to be tactful about it. Don’t send a press release and follow up 24 hours later—give the media contact time to get through their inbox. Don’t follow up more than once. If a journalist doesn’t reply, they’re most likely not interested.
  • Try again with a new angle. No one wants to write about the same thing over and over, so media contacts are always looking for a new angle. If your first press release didn’t do the trick, try revising it with a new angle.
  • Put press releases on your website. In addition to emailing press releases, put them on your company’s website (create a section for “Media” or “News”). Journalists looking for businesses like yours or stories like yours will be able to find you if your press releases use good SEO.

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