How to craft the perfect press release

Each week, Gemma Guise at Journolink looks at how to craft the perfect press release in order to get your business the attention it deserves. 

Gemma covers:

  1. Offering value
  2. Use your sales skills
  3. Grab attention
  4. Paying the pros

Read on and learn how to craft the perfect press release.

perfect sales pitch

Offer value

Quite simply, to offer value to a reader, you need to put yourself in their shoes. What value would you want out of an article, and what would entice you into saying at the end of reading it, “That was time well spent”?

Research tells us that there are four themes that equate to value:

  • A freebie, or a discount
  • Some relevant advice
  • Some facts that are intellectually stimulating
  • Something that is easy enjoyable reading, humorous and relaxing

Freebies

The ‘freebie or discount’ is fairly logical. If you are a holiday company giving away free holidays, expect to have people happy to read your offer. Discounts are a useful way of attracting attention to a brand, and often form part of a marketing campaign, but equally, not many businesses like to give the shop away completely just to get their brand out.

Relevant advice

Providing relevant advice on the other hand is often just as effective as an expensive marketing campaign, with readers appreciative of free guidance. This is a very common strategy, particularly with leisure, health, foods and fitness businesses, but works just as well with things like DIY, and generally ‘what to buy’. Look at your business and think about using the “Top 10 tips” approach.

The facts

A list of good facts interests readers who are stimulated by learning something new, and we often see articles written which are based on a recently released survey, simply because journalists know they get to the readers by doing so. So when you want to get your brand seen, perhaps for a new product launch, try and hang the story around some survey findings that have led you to launch the new product.

Entertainment

Finally, in today’s manic and stressful world, we all like something that relaxes us and puts a smile on our face. Content with a humorous angle will generally catch the interest of most readers, and in the same way as the survey hook, will be something the journalists will find it hard to resist. That’s not at all to say that a press release should be written as a comedy sketch, but do think about the graphic that you provide. If that can have a comical angle to it, it may well make the difference.

A plea from the reader though would be to make sure your content is presented clearly and succinctly. If need be use one of the online services like www.journolink.com to help you.

But the test is very simple; If you are smart enough to write the content, you are smart enough to challenge yourself on whether what you have written some form of real interest within it. So make that an inviolate rule.

Use your skill as a salesman

Successful business owners, whatever they sell, have to have one fundamental skill – they have to be able to sell. So it is no surprise at all that whenever you ask a business owner to write a press release, or even more basically just to tell you about their business, they will always revert into sales mode. And that’s where the journalists turn off. This is why many simply do not open the piles of emails that businesses have sent them, they just naturally assume it’s sales time again.

That leaves the business owners with two key challenges. Firstly how they capture the journalists interest, but more important still, how they put together their press release so that it still promotes their business, but without overtly being the pushy salesman.

There are three principles in achieving this:

Mention your brand

Firstly, always have in the forefront of your mind why you are making the ‘world’ aware of what you are doing. In one shape or another you are trying to boost sales. So, make sure you have several mentions of your brand (but don’t over-do it), and make sure you put in at least one good quote with you business and title attached to it.

Generally a journalist will use a quote, and they have to attribute it – so your name, title and business will get printed. If it’s an event you are promoting, or an award you are pruning yourself over, put in the full details with a further brand mention.

All this aimed at one objective: getting your brand mentioned.

Eye-catching imagery

Secondly, give the journalist a good graphic, which has your brand somewhere in it. Maybe give a selection, but always have the brand in there somewhere. Even if it’s only on a tee shirt being worn by someone, or on a brochure in the near part of the graphic. Journalists like good graphics. They fill in the column inches, and draw a reader’s eye to the article.

Make it interesting

The third principle, though, is the one that overrides everything else you do. Help the journalist make his article interesting.

Make the headline controversial, edgy even, to capture everyone’s interest. Then give some facts that are newsworthy. Surveys are useful in this respect in that they have facts that people will generally want to read, and also in that they give you a further opportunity to win a brand mention. The more provocative they are in their conclusions, the more likely that they will get picked up. Challenge yourself on whether your teenage son would put down his iPhone to read an article based on what you are releasing. If not, it is unlikely that you will have the journalist on the hook either.

Your thinking should follow a clear route. First make sure you get covered by winning over the journalist. Second make that what you are saying has your brand linked to it through mentions and quotes. And thirdly add some colour with a ‘brand mentioning’ graphic. Keep saying to yourself, ‘profile building but not salesy’.

Grab journalist attention

We’re not saying all journalists are like this. But make the assumption that you are dealing with someone who only looks at their emails once a week, gets 3000 of them, and treats every press release as spam.

So that’s the challenge. Short of sending a fire cracker to grab the attention you have to be very focused on differentiating your story from everyone else. And you need to present it well, and through several channels.

They are the three key rules:

  1. Differentiate it well
  2. Present it well
  3. Send it well

Differentiation

Differentiating it means that you should not simply try to promote your product and brand, but you need to come up with an angle that is interesting to the most cynical reader, and aligns itself to a current major news article or news theme, such as employment numbers, obesity, or a sports event. Anticipate a news event, and link your release to it and be a bit provocative. Work on the basis that you need to seize the reader’s attention, and keep it.

Presentation

Presenting it well needs you assuming that you will have 15 seconds of the journalist’s attention before they move on. So your presentation should be split into three. Firstly a seriously catchy headline that would coax a teenager away from his I phone, secondly a short, succinct summary paragraph of what’s coming next, and thirdly a fuller, but still succinct, piece, with facts, a good news hook, and at least one credible quote. Add to this a link to a graphic and contact details.

Send

Then, send it well, using several channels, as different journalists and bloggers will use different routes to access their content. Use a traditional press release, and post it either through a regular PR agency if you have the budget. If budget is an issue use one of the more affordable on line services like Journolink. But also use social media, through Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram for example. If you can get to the journalist directly, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone.

But more than anything, put yourself through the ‘teenager test’. Don’t just try and convince yourself that your news is interesting, when in truth you yawned when writing it. Get the ‘irritating teenager’ to tell you its got an edge before you send it off.

Pay the professionals

There is nothing so powerful than the risk of losing a well paying contract. So a sure fire way of keeping a PR firm pitching for you is to sign up to a big monthly retainer. Then they will be on your case the whole time, tying to get you coverage, and at the very least telling you everything they are doing in the hope that you stick with them. But most smaller businesses simply don’t have the budget to be able to commit to a big retainer.

So it’s worth reflecting on what you, as the business, can do to make the PR firm really want to work with you, almost to the extent of giving you a free service. And that comes down to two simple rules:

  • Really have something different to say
  • Make life easy and enjoyable for the PR firm

Say something different

On the first rule, nothing pleases a PR firm more than getting good coverage for their client.

Not necessarily because they like doing a good job for them, but what is far more important is building up their coverage track record for them to use as they pitch to new clients. So your good coverage becomes their marketing story.

If you have a really good story, or something different, that journalists will fight over, you are the PR firm’s best friend and they will want you on their books whatever the price. So your challenge is to create that story, putting a spin on it that would have absolutely everyone wanting to read about it.

Don’t just focus on what you do. Get your head into the mind set of the reader and position your story to that.

For instance, no one is interested in you designing a new trainer, but they are interested in being able to knock 14 seconds off the world running record. So your news should focus not around being a trainer manufacturer, but rather that you are in the business of helping people smash their personal bests. So, first rule, have something really different to say, and say it well.

Make life easy

Moving onto the second rule is an extension of the first. Once you have that good story, make the PR firm’s life easy by presenting the opportunity well and as a result help them to place it. You come up with the spin and the words and support this with a really good graphic. Then make sure you are available 24/7 to talk to the journalist or broadcaster whenever the approach comes.

But when the approach does come, make sure you are really good with the journalist. In other words make sure your media training is good. There are plenty of free tips you can pick up from various web sites. Rehearse what your lines are, so that when the call comes, you really win over the journalist.

That will ensure coverage, and a big smile on the PR firm’s face, and that’s the time too to knock down the cost of the retainer, or switch to a much more affordable on line DIY option.

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