Submitting press releases to your local news media is an effective strategy for securing media coverage for your brand or business. Announcements you can make through a press release include sharing interesting industry news, promoting an event (like a launch) or sharing a particular business milestone.
To increase the chances of getting published, ensure that your content is newsworthy and does not only focus on your company, services or product, Lunice Johnston, founder of Lunice Johnston Communications advised in a previous article. Her communications firm specialises in media relations, public relations (PR), reputation management, crisis communication, stakeholder management, social media management and media.
Many local startups cleverly utilise media coverage to amplify their messaging and raise awareness around their product or service. According to Johnston, media coverage can help small business owners in the following ways:
– Position themselves as a thought leader – share valuable content, including insights on industry issues and engage with potential customers.
– Raise awareness for the brand/company – share quality content so your brand/ company is known as the go-to place for a particular topic.
– Stand out from their competitors – it’s important to identify what is your business’ Unique Selling Proposition because a journalist might ask you about this.
Johnston provides the following important must-knows for writing an effective press release:
The difference between a media release, an opinion piece and a holding statement
• A media release is to the point, quoting the relevant spokespeople. Maximum 550 words.
• An opinion piece is written on behalf of CEO or senior manager, and should contain the opinion of that individual. No direct quotes.
• A holding statement is issued reactively, mainly in times of a crisis and only contains facts (no emotions).
• Find your angle. Every good news story has an angle. To hone your angle, think of the first thing you would tell your friend about your news. Get that right up top.
• In your first paragraph include information that answers the who, what, how, when and where.
• Order your information from the most important to the least important. Use the inverted pyramid as a guide.
• Write short sentences and short paragraphs. Keep the information simple and to the point. The first paragraph should be no more than three sentences max.
• Make sure that you insert a quote(s). Media releases are meant to be a packaged story for journalists, so make it easy by including direct quote from a person at the company. Ensure the quotes are newsworthy.
• Head the press release with “Media Release” and date it clearly.
• Use a catchy headline. Editors receive hundreds of releases a day and a good headline catches their eye and ensures they realise the contents quickly.
• Use hyperlinks. Including hyperlinks to your website and social media pages will not only make it easier for the writer to collect more information but will help drive traffic to your site if the release is published as is.
• Try to keep the press release to one page.
• At the end of the release, add “for further information, contact. . . ” The contact details should include name and telephone number, including an after-hours number.
• Use a spell check, and proofread twice. A good press release has no spelling, typographical or grammatical errors.
• Try to send photos of the people quoted in the release, or of your product, if the release pertains to that.
• Send the press release out to the appropriate media channels. It will do no good to send your release about a Johannesburg company’s grand opening to the Pretoria News.
• Look to the local press. People love locality. Industry and consumer news sources that the release pertains to are also great outlets to receive more coverage.
• Use slang, unpopular jargon or complicated acronyms.
• Overcomplicate a press release. Stick to the least amount of paragraphs needed to get the information across. People generally don’t read an entire news release.
• Exaggerate or make false promises.
• List technical information about a new product or business.
• Simply announce your new business. Remember, you need a news hook.
• Use self-congratulatory adjectives like ‘amazing’ or ‘awesome’. This is not a sales pitch.
• Use the ‘spray and pray’ approach. In other words, don’t pitch your news release to everyone, but rather to some key media contacts that will give it the attention it deserves.