A low budget is no excuse for sloppy public relations. Thanks to the wealth of online resources and cost-effective wire services, even DIY PR campaigns have a solid chance of getting press coverage.
Let’s take press releases, for instance. Even if you’re a PR newbie or small business, you can still get a fair share of media pickups and attention if you play your cards right. Below is a step-by-step guide to help you maximize your chances of getting the coveted media spotlight:
Prior to writing
Pick something newsworthy to write about
This sounds obvious, but the fact is too many companies out there publish fluffy press releases. These articles are either just rehashed news or adverts disguised as news that set off journalists’ BS detector from a mile away. Needless to say, it’s best to steer clear from these types of releases. Instead, strive to find newsworthy information about your company.
If there aren’t any big news or events within your organization, see if you can MAKE news. Cook up a promo for your customers. Partner up with another company. Honor an employee or client who has made an impact on your business. Or why not release a study relevant to your industry? These are just some examples of great press release material that you can put out there.
If creating news isn’t much of an option then at least try to find an interesting angle that you can work with. Is there something happening within your business that you can relate to current events (i.e. holidays, seasons, etc.)? If the answer is yes, then by all means, write about it.
Writing the release
Make it a good headline
Your headline is a make or break factor in your release, so it needs to be as informative and gripping as possible. It should tell readers what the article is all about, and it must do so in a compelling manner, so people will read beyond it.
Keep it below 120 characters, and include your keyword somewhere in the beginning of the headline.
Keep it at a reasonable length
The ideal length for a press release should be somewhere between 300 to 800 words. Publishing something below that can result in sources not picking up the release. On the other hand, busy journalists seldom have time to read releases more than 800 words, so sending out a really lengthy press release will not help you in any way. Try to limit it to one page. Brevity is key here.
When writing the release, always go straight to the point. Use the inverted pyramid style when writing. This means that you should lead with the most important information at the beginning, and then talk about the smaller details as you go along.
A press release is NOT an avenue to tell elaborate stories with flowery, meandering text. Readers should get a solid idea of what the article is all about when they read the headline and first sentence, so don’t beat around the bush when writing the article.
Keep SEO in mind, but don’t let it rule the entire article
While press releases can certainly get you links and some SEO juice, don’t forget that you’re writing it for people (journalists in particular) and not spiders. Focus on just a couple of keywords that you want to incorporate in the release, and include them in the article when it makes sense.
With regards to links, try to keep them under 3 and make sure that they don’t appear like they were forced in there. Press release links should appear natural and should genuinely help readers get more relevant information.
Double check for typos and accuracy of information
Nothing screams amateur more than careless typos. That’s why you should make it a point triple check your release for errors. Re-read the article and make sure that all names, dates, and amounts are correct.
And this doesn’t just apply to the body. Be sure to check your boiler plate as well. Since this is the part of the release that’s usually copy-pasted in every article, people tend to overlook and take it for granted. Don’t make this mistake. Go over your boiler plate before hitting the submit button to see to it that the information is up-to-date. For instance, if you recently switched CEOs or if you moved to another location, make sure that your boiler plate reflects those changes.
Publishing and distributing the release
Pick the right day
Generally speaking, unless it’s breaking news or really time-sensitive, it’s best to publish your release on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Monday is usually dedicated to playing catch up with work or email that piled up over the weekend, while Friday is much more relaxed since a lot of people are already on weekend mode.
Of course, these guidelines aren’t set in stone. If you really want to find out the ideal day to make your announcement, you should look into the editorial calendars of the publications in your industry, and base your publishing schedule on that.
Do the legwork
Don’t let your wire service do all the work for you. Yes, a PR distribution service can put your news out there, but that doesn’t mean that you can just sit back and wait for the press to come knocking after you click the publish button.
Research the journalists that would most likely cover your news and manually send your release to them, along with a personalized and compelling pitch. Read up on their previous articles and communicate the reasons why your news is relevant to their readers.
If you have a list of reporters who covered your company in the past, be sure to send them the release as well. (If you don’t have such a list, then you may want to start collecting those emails.)
Also be sure to actively share your press release on social media. Post it to your social accounts and invite your fans, followers, and friends to spread the word. If you’re mentioning another company or person in your press release (if you’re announcing a partnership for instance) be sure to tag them on social media as well, so they can see it and share it with their followers.