For some smaller or startup companies, the media and all related jargon and etiquette can be an intimidating arena to walk into. Press releases and embargoes and boilerplates… it can all seem just a bit overwhelming, and that can mean your very newsworthy development ends up going largely unnoticed.
But you too can harness the power of the media to showcase your big news to the wider world. All you need are these five steps:
1. Make sure your story is really a story
The first step to getting in the news is to actually have some news. Whether you should pull out all the PR stops for a story will depend on what that news is and which platforms you’re hoping to be featured on. A good general rule is that if it’s new (e.g. a new big product or venture) and noteworthy (e.g. a national award, a huge investment) then people will want to hear about it. That means it’s time to jump on the next train to Press Release City.
2. Write your press release
Press releases are vital when it comes to getting your news featured: they are the complete information parcel that you wrap up neatly and send out. Without one, you’ll find that either you spend the whole day answering questions about the story so that a journalist has enough details to write something interesting, or it just won’t get picked up because it’s too much like hard work for an already busy reporter. It’s all about making the story interesting and the workload minimal, and a good press release should present all the necessary info in a way that does just that.
When it comes to writing a good press release, the essential things to remember are:
- Interest: make sure your title and first paragraph spark interest with a snappy but clear summary of the story.
- Concision: keep it short and informative, and structure it like you would a news article – most important at the top, down to additional, non-essential details at the end.
- Quotes and statistics: make sure whoever is running the story has everything they need to write it up from the get-go – that means quotes from the relevant parties, names, dates, and statistics.
3. Preparing the ground work
Before you start firing out your press release, get together a list of papers and platforms you want to reach out to, and find the relevant people to contact. Then, early in the day, ring or email each one and quickly introduce yourself and the name of the business.
When speaking over the phone, summarise the story in 20 seconds – at this point they don’t need all the finer details, just an overview to give them a sense of the news. You can also offer an interview. When you’ve done that, simply say you’ll email over the press release and wish them a nice day. Now when they receive your press release it won’t be completely unsolicited and it’s much more likely to be read.
When sending out your press release, there are some key things to bear in mind:
- Send the press release in the body of the email rather than as an attachment (again, making life just that little bit easier for them on the other end).
- Start the email with the heading ‘Press Release’, then the date and then the title. Also write the title of the press release in the subject line in lower case.
- If the news is to be put out as soon as possible, specify that it is for ‘immediate release’. If you’re sending out the news in preparation for an announcement the next day or later in the day, say that it’s under embargo until that date and time.
- Include your contact details.
- Don’t send news that someone else has already covered the day before. The news should be sent out fresh to everyone you want to target on the same day.
5. Follow up
Later in the day it’s a good idea to call around to ask if or when the story will be put out, if it hasn’t already. To avoid coming across as nagging or a pest you can ask if they received the press release or whether they need any extra information or photography.
If you’re specifically targeting local news outlets, make sure there’s a local spin on the story that will make it of interest to that audience.
You might want to offer the story as an exclusive to a particular outlet – if so, make sure you don’t send the story to anyone else until they’ve had time to put it out.
Can you offer more media tips and tricks? Share your thoughts with other startups, freelancers and small business owners on Twitter or Facebook.
Guest post by Appointedd, a provider of online booking and scheduling solutions for busy owners and managers of small and medium-sized businesses. Find out more about their flexible time management technology here.