It’s easy when you know how but many business owners simply don’t know-how. The media are interested in a story, a good story that will sell their publication or show. If you pitch it right then why wouldn’t they want to feature your business? The first step before even sending out a press release is to get known.
Introduce yourself to the media
Journalists like to know who they can rely upon for comment or interview at a moment’s notice. The news is fast-paced and everyone is scurrying to be the first on the scene or to have the latest scoop. Before a journalist goes searching for who they can quote or interview they will take a look at their existing contacts. Getting your name on that list is essential so take the time to introduce yourself and your area of expertise.
A simple email or phone call will suffice. Don’t waste their time by waffling on about everything under the sun but simply get in touch, stage your name and business name, mention that you want to introduce yourself and make yourself available should they require someone in your area of expertise. Briefly share what you do and end off with your email address, phone number, website and social media sites.
Make it easy for a journalist to access you. Store their number on your phone so if you see them calling you take their call. If you don’t they will just move on to the next person. If you see an email from them read it and reply right away. When they call asking if you can come in for an interview say yes and then rearrange your diary after you have put the phone down. If you become known as a reliable source they will call on you again and again.
Don’t expect a journalist to chase you but equally, journalists hate being chased and this can actually damage things. So wait a week and then drop another email just to check they’ve received the information. Do this once only – if you don’t hear back assume it’s a no and move on.
If you are asked for something then provide it. When you say you will send an article over send it in. You are unlikely to hear back as to whether it was received or even used. So follow up with a quick email or phone call to see if it has been received and if it will be used asked when. You will seldom be told when a piece goes into the paper or on radio or TV, you have to be following them to find out or ask and you will be told.
Create hooks that reel the journalists in
Before you even put pen to paper you will need to decide on a theme and a hook for your story. Answer these questions:
- What is my message
- What one thing do I want people to remember?
- Why should they care?
- Is it relevant to the readers?
- Is it news?
Common angles that you might want to consider:
- New product or development
- Human interest
Clever ways to hook people in
- Provide a twist on what is trending
- Piggyback on an existing story by adding your angle
- Make national news relevant locally or visa-versa
- Offer an alternative opinion on a one-sided news story
Once you have these questions answered in your mind and you have created a catchy hook you can begin writing your press release.
Use the standard press release structure
So, now that you are introduced, known as an expert and available to local journalists, let’s start by running through the basic structure of a press release; headline, body, footer. Remember the primary audience for your press release is a journalist. You need to convince them to print what you have written or invite you in for a radio or TV interview.
Headlines that say ‘read more’.
Your headline is probably the most important part of your press release. If your headline is not catchy then your entire story could get overlooked. In times past you would prepare your press release in a word document and send it in a structured format. I have learned that these days many emails are blocked when they have attachments so I tend to use the email itself for the press release. Your headline would be in your email subject line as well as the first sentence of your email in bold so it stands out again.
The first line of your press release should state “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” or “FOR RELEASE ON [insert date].” This should be all in capital letters and without it your press release may be overlooked. Just because you say that something is for release on a specific date doesn’t mean that they will honour that date. Never send out an embargoed press release without first checking the publication’s embargo policy.
Top 9 headlines tips
- Write as if you are going on the front page of a newspaper or are the main headline on the news. Consider the headline as if you were seeing it on the front page. Do the journalists see it on the front page? This doesn’t mean you will get on the front page, you just never know what more newsworthy story will pop up, but a good front-page worthy headline could get you the front page or a good place in the media.
- Keep it short and to the point. Long headlines can be confusing or cause people to switch off and move to the next one. The great thing about a short punchy headline is that it is Twitter-friendly too.
- Use an active voice to make the reader a part of the story. The passive voice gives us unnecessary words and longer sentences. e.g. Abi mailed the letter = active, The letter was mailed by Abi = passive
- Bring out the drama for effect. People like excitement, drama, good news and bad news. Pure information can be boring unless it is the budget announcement with a dramatic effect on your finances. Humour is also catchy.
- Use statistics if they are relevant to your story to prove that your story is unique.
- Be creative with presenting your story. Find an angle and paint a picture with it.
- Lead with a concept, not your business name e.g. Theatre ‘has bright future’ thanks to £1m revamp rather than The Roses Theatre…
- Check spelling and grammar. There is nothing worse tahn reding a poorley writen pres releease. Apostrophes can change the meaning entirely, just look at there, their and they’re for example. The journalist will quickly assume that the rest of the article is poorly written too and is unlikely to read it.
- Read the newspaper and watch the news to see what is already working.
There is a great website that you can use to analyse your headline, go to coschedule.com/headline-analyzer
You are not writing a novel but a press release and the journalists want information that is well presented and ready to go. The more you can do to make your story ready the fewer changes they are likely to make. Errors in grammar and spelling can kill your credibility so read and re-read your piece several times before you send it. Ensure that your story reads like a story and has a beginning, middle and end with a strong call to action at the end.
If your headline is appealing and has grabbed an editor’s attention, he is likely to scan the opening paragraph. If this paragraph isn’t interesting then it’s unlikely that anyone will read any further.
- Explain in an interesting way what, when, where, why and who you are writing about.
- Include the most exciting and newsworthy information first.
- Avoid using industry-specific jargon or words that will not be easily understood by the general public.
- Write a news story and not a sales pitch. Is your story newsworthy?
- Avoid excessive use of adjectives.
Including all relevant information and including quotes from parties involved.
- Never use the past tense.
- Always use relevant quotes from community leaders, satisfied customers or anyone involved.
- Write in the third person, don’t use “I”, “we” or “you” but rather “it”, “he” and “they”.
- Avoid abbreviations
End by pointing people to a way to get in touch or a place to find out more information.
There is absolutely no point to writing a great press release if no one can get hold of you. Your footer is essential and should contain your contact details and any other relevant info that you may not necessarily want to be printed such as links to an image gallery or links to your sources. You can also include some general information about yourself and/or your business.
Clearly indicate the footer section by using “###” or “ENDS” at the end of your body and before the footer text starts.
We have dedicated an entire chapter of our Success Story System to PR, get involved and tap into all of our valuable resources to support you in your business.