8 min read
When was the last time you saw a business featured in the news? Odds are you've seen news media about Apple's latest iPhone release, Open AI's advancements with large language models, Rupert Murdoch's retirement, or the goings-on of a local business that's making waves in your own community.
What all of these news stories likely have in common is an origin in a press release.
To learn more about press releases, their importance, and the process of writing and distributing press releases for business, GrowthForce's Founder and CEO, Stephen King, had a conversation with Mickie Kennedy on a recent episode of Path to Profit. Kennedy is the Founder of eReleases, an online press release distribution service that aims to improve press release writing and distribution for small and medium-sized enterprises.
A press release is a document that serves as an original, primary information source that provides a statement delivered directly to reporters and journalists, or other members of the media and news. The purpose of a press release is to provide information and make an official announcement or statement to the public.
Press Release Best Practices: How to Write a Press Release and Deliver It to the Media
Writing a press release and distributing it in a way that results in your business being featured in the media is an art, and it's crucial to master your press release writing and distribution skills to attract the perfect press attention for your business. To accomplish this, you must understand the various elements of a press release and implement some best practices for distributing press releases.
The Components of a Press Release
Every press release needs a headline or title. Your headline should let the reader know what the press release is about while also being interesting and engaging, enticing the reader to learn more. Be careful not to inflate the content, so that your headline doesn't feel like clickbait. For the headline, use the AP style guide's rules for title caps and no closing punctuation.
Location and Date
Below the headline, the first line of your press release content should begin by listing the location and date (location, month day, year) followed by an em dash.
After the em dash, write a quick summary of your press release's content. In two or three sentences, the summary should briefly describe the "who, what, when, where, and why" of your press release.
The body is the main portion of the press release. While it should also be concise and to the point, it can be about two to three paragraphs long. This portion should include all of the details of your announcement. Additionally, the body of a press release can also include a quote from a key stakeholder in your business or an individual directly involved with the news you're announcing. These quotes are a great tool for the press reporting on your business's story, and they also add a touch of emotion and humanity to your content.
The boilerplate is the last paragraph of a press release. In essence, it is a short "about us" section where you can include basic information about your business, what it is, what it does, and when it was founded. The boilerplate can also include a call to action that lets publishers know how they can engage with your business. The call to action should immediately be followed with specific contact information such as the name, phone number, and email address of the person distributing the press release.
At the end of a press release, ### (three, consecutive pound signs or hashtags) centered at the bottom of the page indicates the end of the content. This prevents publishers from accidentally publishing an incomplete press release or including extraneous content that was not intended for publication.
Press Release Length
The perfect press release will be around 400 words or a single page long. It's alright if yours is a little shorter or a little longer. However, a press release that is too short likely does not contain enough information, while a press release that is too long is probably overly wordy and might not be thoroughly read.
Distributing Your Press Release and Getting Published
Focus on Trends and Differentiating Factors
You can write a perfect press release, but if the content isn't interesting, then you likely won't get published or attract any media attention. To increase the odds of publication and media coverage, try to focus on topics that are trending in your industry, the media, your community, or the world at large. Tying your business news to a trending topic can make your story increasingly relevant and interesting to a greater portion of the news media's audience.
You can also focus your content on something unique and new that your business is doing. If the content in your press release highlights a way your business is innovating, this makes the content more interesting and relevant to the news.
Compile a Local "Rolodex"
Whether a business owner or their head of marketing does it, they should compile a list and be in touch with individuals in the local news media.
"I always tell people to start with local news [and] local media," said Kennedy. "The local media is the easiest media for you to [contact] yourself and build your own Rolodex."
Kennedy explains that within each local market, there are maybe around 10 individuals in the press who might report on your business, its activities, or your industry. So, it's important to create a list of these individuals and then get in contact with them. Kennedy suggests sending them an email with a short introduction and a two or three-sentence pitch on an interesting story involving your business. Then, he recommends following up about six times each year with new ideas and pitches. This helps you remain at the top of their mind so that when a local reporter has a spot for a story on a local business, they'll think of you.
According to Kennedy, most of these reporters are happier and more likely to report on local, small and medium-sized enterprises and their activities. When big businesses like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, or Apple are always in the news, stories on local businesses are more interesting and relevant to their audiences. For example, people would prefer to read about the successes of a single mother or disabled veteran making waves with a successful small business.
Consider Various Media Channels
When you're sending out press releases, Kennedy also reminds business owners not to lose sight of all the different media channels available including television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and industry journals.
Pay Attention to Your Industry News
In addition to industry journals, Kennedy recommends keeping an eye out for any news outlet that spotlights businesses in your industry, doing similar things, or that has features, programs, or segments that your business's story would fit into.
"Find out who the producer or booker of that segment is. Ask for their email address and then send them the same pitch that you would [send] to a journalist."
Practice A/B Testing
Additionally, Kennedy recommends A/B testing for everything in your business from email subject lines and landing page imagery to ad copy and new client gift baskets.
A/B testing, also known as split testing, takes two ideas and stacks their results up against each other to determine the most successful strategy. For example, you could A/B test the subject line of your press release emails, sending one subject line to a certain group and another to a different group and then seeing which results in the greatest response rate. You can then learn from this data to improve your subject lines and press release writing going forward.
Use a Professional Press Release Service
If you aren't finding much success with writing and distributing your own press releases or if you simply don't have the bandwidth or the in-house marketing department to manage press release writing, then you can always outsource to experts. Kennedy's company, eReleases, for example, specializes in coaching, editing, and perfecting press releases for SMEs. Additionally, they have a wide pool of press contacts and can help business owners identify the most relevant contacts for their press releases which helps increase the publishing success rate.
Why Your Business Needs a Press Release Strategy
Media attention can be a powerful marketing tool for your business. It's like word-of-mouth marketing with a much wider reach than any, average individual has. Plus, perhaps most importantly, press releases that earn media attention result in free advertising, helping your business's marketing efforts without a big marketing expense.
So, learning to write a solid press release and spending time creating your list of media contacts is an effort that will result in a valuable reward for your business.