Promotion is key for creative entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses. Part of that is getting press coverage, whether that is through traditional offline methods or social media.
The news release, also known as the press release, is one of your most valuable tools for gaining publicity and growing your business. You gain name recognition and become the “expert” in your field.
Reporters do not dig up all the stories you read in the paper, see and hear on television or view on social media outlets. Many of these stories originated with a news release. While the news release is not a substitute for a news story, it often serves as its starting point.
Why Use a News Release?
Obviously, the purpose of a news release is to gain publicity for your business. One way you can do this is through advertising; another is with the news release. Each has advantages and disadvantages.
The news release is considered “free” publicity. Because the information contained in the release is used in a news story, it has greater credibility than an advertisement. Additionally, the information can lead to a feature story and more “free” publicity.
You can prepare a news release relatively quickly and at a low cost. Advertising, on the other hand, involves the costs of artwork and ad placement.
The news release can also be a cost-effective way to get valuable information to large numbers of people. Consider how many people you reach from a story in the newspaper that was generated by your news release versus the cost to reach the same people in a direct-mail advertising campaign.
Of course, the news release is not without its disadvantages. The most significant is the loss of control. Once you send the release, you are no longer in charge of your words. The recipient is under no obligation to print the release. It can be edited and rewritten without your permission. And, you do not have a say as to when it will be used. Paid advertising, on the other hand, includes the assurance of publication.
Preparing Your News Release
How effective your efforts are at gaining publicity are directly related to the quality of your news release. A good news release meets the criteria of a good news story. First and foremost, it must contain a news angle.
The good news story uses an inverted pyramid style in which the most important information is provided first. It is used for two reasons: people may stop reading at any time, so you must provide the important information first; and space constraints often require editors to cut the story length. It is easiest to do so starting from the bottom. If you want to study the inverted pyramid, just look at USA Today.
To get started on your release, decide on its purpose and then answer the six journalistic questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?
Once you have the answers, you can write your lead, which includes the most important information. From there, you go on to add secondary information and elaborate on ideas with any supporting data. You can introduce additional information, but be sure it is ranked by importance.
One problem people have is burying the important information in the middle of the release. I think it is because we do not want to appear to be “selling” something. One trick I use in writing leads for both press releases and news stories is to imagine I am sharing the information with someone I know and have only one sentence to use. Limiting your words gets you to the point quickly. Remember, if you do not get someone’s attention in the beginning, they will not read any further.
One important note: You are writing a news release, not a news story. Present the facts accurately in a clear, concise manner. If at all possible, try to keep the release to one page.
Finally, add a headline and perhaps a subhead to your release. Your purpose is to grab the attention of the journalist/reader. In all likelihood, your title will be changed by the media outlet, so don’t fret over it being perfect. Just be sure it grabs attention.
Depending on your purpose, consider including a “sample.” I can recall receiving a release for a new book, which when I first perused seemed to have a daunting technique. The author included samples so I could see how it was done. I reviewed the book. A second instance involved a small bag pattern. The release arrived in a Priority Mail box and included a completed sample. Both got my attention.
Adapting for Social Media
Today, social media needs to be part of your press release campaign. The traditional press release is you sending your message. A social media release can become a conversation as it is commented on and shared. While you may have a more informal writing style, you still need to consider the same six journalistic questions, because sharing news is the key.
When writing a release with social media in mind, consider that it will be shared. You will want to include relevant links to your product on your website, a YouTube video, and images. Think about short content that can be tweeted.
Be sure that your headline is no longer than 60 characters, as that is as far as the search engine optimization robots read. Also, be sure to use your keywords, again so that it will help SEO.
Because the release will be shared, you can also recommend ways for the reader to share, such as on a Facebook fan page or by using Twitter hashtags. When the release in on your website, be sure to use social media icons to encourage sharing.
Include visuals. While you can add pictures to a traditional news release, you can embed them within the content of your release that is intended for social media.
So, what news do you have to share? Get the work out.