Buy this, look at that, follow this! With all this noise surrounding the mediascape, how would a small business cut through the cacophony with a press release to create a concise and clear message that will effectively communicate to its target audience?
There is no better way than hearing the message straight from the source, and crafting a well-written press release is one of the OG ways to get your brand’s message out, combined with targeted dissemination – your brand will be off to a good start in a matter of weeks.
What is a press release for?
Press releases have entered many permutations over the years to incorporate the importance of digital marketing but in essence, it remains the same. To break it down, press releases serve these three main functions.
– Launching a new product or service
This is probably the most common reason for a press release. Announcing a new advancement for your business and then sending it out to all the right media outlets can amplify your message quickly.
– Keeping your stakeholders informed
With constant updates on your brand and business offerings, it is important to define the most attention-grabbing information in a press release to keep audiences engaged and primed for purchase.
– Boost the visibility of the brand
Having an official ‘voice’ and spokesperson for your business also helps build rapport and trust between the brand and journalists. With constant long-term press release distribution and relationship-building, journalists will recall your brand when it fits their line-up and are more likely to include you for publicity.
How does a press release look like?
As attention spans are short, a press release should be about 1.5 pages long with all the pertinent information about the brand and its news point within the lead paragraph.
As a PR professional, have I been guilty of 8-page press kits? Yes, I have. However, instead of rambling on in the main press release, everything else can be placed in an annexe appended at the end of the release for additional information. Check out Indie Game Girl’s press release template below for easy reference.
Press Release vs Press Kit: know the difference
Put simply, a press release is a component inside a press kit. Back in the day, press kits used to be given in hardware such as thumbdrives or CDs (or even further back, microfilm) but now it’s usually just sent in the form of a Cloud link.
A press kit comprises all the information needed on the company such as:
- A press release with the key information
- A backgrounder/boilerplate explaining the company’s history
- A bio of the founder or spokesperson (if required)
- Hi-res images of the product, service and/or founder
Think of it as a toolbox for journalists, it should answer all the 5W1H (who, what, when, where, why and how) without them needing to ask for more basic information from the get-go. The easier you make their jobs, the chance of your news making it, increases.
How to write and send out a press release
1) What do I want to communicate?
Not everything requires a press release. I have encountered one too many clients that think a 15% off a coffee set is worth all the media hype – I’m sure you were bored reading that sentence too, so imagine journalists reading this “exciting” piece of news. Make sure what you want to say is impactful and significant enough to warrant space on their editorial calendar such as “Two For the Price of One for all of September for all Medical Professionals”.
Darren Wee, owner of Hungry Nerds Catering Co says: “A press release is always important because it helps the media better understand your company and your brand. Whether you’re a new startup, or an existing company, a well-written press release helps the media pick up on salient points about your business. It should always be concise and straight-to-the-point.” He has also previously owned restaurants such as Ninja Bowl, Ninja Cut and Babette.
Keeping your press releases focused not only shows that the brand has a solid strategy in mind but also avoid “media fatigue”. Imagine being bombarded with multiple minuscule updates from a company…it’s almost like receiving pop-up ads every time you surf the web. Well, you certainly don’t want the media to put up their own “adblocker” and stop covering news about your small business!
If you’ve hired an agency, they would have curated at least two lists for you. One for mass dissemination – this typically includes your dailies, weeklies, monthlies and online media all segregated into their “beats” or sections, and another list of targeted media for specific pitching – this can range from interview opportunities or exclusive experiences for individual journalists. The latter helps tailor your news to the media outlet which results in a higher uptake.
Tailoring a news pitch is essentially creating a specific topic such as an interview opportunity or review for the journalist. For example, you would create a tech skewed angle for a website such as Which? to signpost to a tech journalist that this is a story for their beat.
Doing it yourself is possible, but you would need access to distribution websites such as PRNewswire but there are no guarantees of quality news media (this is typically a trick used by agencies to gain more effortless PR Value. Read more about agencies in our last article here).
Subscribing to a media database such as Telum, Prowly or Meltwater can be costly but it may be a worthwhile investment in the long run. Or you could opt for the old school way and flip through copies of magazines or newspapers for the email addresses of reporters or do a little leg work searching for the right journalist to reach out to for online portals. It sounds tedious – because it is – but, no pain no gain.
2) My press release is out, what do I do now?
Typically, it would be prudent to wait three working days before following up with the media to check if they have received the materials. It is normal not to receive an acknowledgement but giving them a nudge would push your email back to the top of their inboxes for a second chance at grabbing their attention. It would help tremendously to set up a Google Alert with keywords about your release to track the coverage from your press release.
3) What about influencers? Should I send them my press release?
Influencers are essentially content creators. With that, they would rather generate their own content, i.e. they won’t post stock photos or information without being able to review or photograph the product/service.
Unless they have a blog on top of their social media accounts. Influencers with blogs may post the news about your press release and utilise the press images as a content filler, although they would still rather take their own photos and review the product/service. Influencers should only receive a press release in conjunction with an event or a product send-out, for the best effect.
Can I write press releases by myself?
In a nutshell, yes you can. It would also help to refer to the online press rooms (usually found on a company’s website or on aggregator sites like PRNewswire) on a similar product/service to get an idea. However, paying a PR agency for their network and seasoned writing skills would help you get a clear idea of expectations if this is your first time. Leveraging on an agency’s relations will help bring your brand to the media’s attention, making it easier to follow up on other launches in the future.
After that, you can attempt to duplicate the agency’s work by yourself – but do note that results may vary without professional advice. Depending on the country, agencies and media work at different speeds and have a multitude of requirements – if you’re trying to go global, it would still be best to hire a local agency for each market for optimum results. However, it is a different ball game if you know the playing field.
Darren, who is also a radio DJ in Singapore and well-versed in the media scene explains: “I’ve worked on my own press kits because I find it helps me better control the outcome of what I intend to achieve with each round of marketing efforts. Working with an agency is always good but it also puts a barrier between you and the media. I’m quite a hands-on business owner so I like the fact that I get to meet directly with my media partners and make some new friends along the way.”