How to get your business into the press
If you're doing your own PR, you need to know how to get
journalists to take notice of your business. That means knowing how
to put together interesting and relevant press releases, building
up a useful network of media contacts and realising the great
advantages of an unusual stunt.
What journalists are looking for
- First off, you need to understand what makes news news. If you
know what makes journalists tick, you'll be a lot closer to giving
them a story they can use.
- Needs to involve something unusual, rare or unexpected.
- Must be a very recent occurrence, or there have been a new
development. Old news is not news!
- Quotes make a story: make sure someone can give comments or
further detail on the story.
- Rags to riches stories or unexpected changes in life direction
are good - an ex-City banker who suddenly decided he wanted to run
a Caribbean market food stall recently got a lot of coverage
because his change of direction brought a smile to people's
- Any socially-aware or environmental angle to your business is
hot news right now - but don't stretch the truth. No one's going to
write about you because you've decided to buy an eco-friendly
boiler and recycle your paper - it needs to be bigger than that. Be
aware that journalists will often give more time to social
- A completely new, highly innovative or whacky product should
fare well if it's interesting to the public.
- If you're targeting local press, you need a strong local angle
- either that your business is rejuvenating or benefiting the
community in some way, or that it's set to achieve lots (think
along the lines of 'Local Chingsborough lad looks set to topple
international blue chip companies from their perches with his new
- Awards won at a national level also often warrant stories in
- Everybody loves the underdog. If you can position yourself as a
new upstart set to compete with huge, multinational companies,
people will warm to you - if you get it right without seeming cocky
or unrealistically hopeful, that is. Think of Richard Branson in
his early years.
How to write a press release
Journalists get overwhelmed by press releases every day. These
guidelines will help yours stand out:
- First off, find the angle of your story - the hook that makes
it interesting, it's best bit.
- Tailor it to the readers of the publication - think what they'd
be interested in.
- You need to frame what you want to say as something interesting
to them - use your USPs.
- Create an angle if necessary. Tailor products and offerings to
promote publicity. For example, a new florist business is not a
news story. But a press release starts by explaining new evidence
the scent of lavender in the home is relaxing, combines it with
stats about how stress levels are rising, then goes on to introduce
a range of stress-busting flower arrangements for the home
featuring lavender and other homoeopathically beneficial plants,
you have something a journalist can use. You have a story.
- If you can't find an angle, offer a deal or discount to
readers. You may at least get a couple of lines of coverage from
that. Remember to include details and deadlines for the offer, and
how they can find your premises if they need to.
- Always, always, always keep your angle in mind. Always ask
yourself: What is the story here and why would the reader of this
publication want to hear about it?
- You have to make a journalist's life as easy as possible. So to
build the story in your press release and to support what you're
saying, put in lots of statistic and quotes they can use. This
means they don't have to spend time researching and have a
ready-made story - which they're far, far more likely to use than a
less developed press release.
- Include references for the stats and facts you use as footnotes
to the press release, citing other publications or documents.
- Never rely on Wikipedia for reliable stats - use proper
journals or corporate-branded research, or stats from newspapers,
and hyperlink to the source at the bottom of the release.
- Your press release should be no more than a side and a half of
A4 long. Journalists are always short on time.
- Write an introductory paragraph of a line or two, usually in
italics, at the beginning of the release - this sums up the story
before getting into it in more detail.
- Be clear and engaging. Don't use jargon. Get someone outside
the business to read through your release to make sure it makes
sense and it's interesting.
- Make sure your use a really punchy title for your release -
something that needs a second look and sounds unusual and exciting
- a bizarre statistic, a really unusual statement or a provocative
- Attach pictures where relevant (providing you're sending it out
by email) - a great picture can be enough to sway a publication to
use your story, and will definitely catch a reader's attention
better than a block of text.
- Contact details are an absolute must - give your full name and
- Notes to the editor are usually put at the bottom of a press
release, and explain the nitty-gritty of names and events mentioned
in the release.
- This is where you explain fully what your business does (where
in the main text of the release you may just have mentioned the
business name, not what it does, so as not to interrupt the flow of
- Including them will make your release look more
- Include your business logo in the top right-hand of the
- Research can be another way in to a press release.
- If you sponsor or organise a survey which produces interesting
or newsworthy results, you can get your business name into a story
as being the source if the research.
- Survey customers or use a market research, branding or PR
consultancy to organise the research.
- Detail the exact numbers of people questioned and exact results
in the Notes to editors section at the bottom.
- Make sure your survey is related to something relevant to the
publication or recent news. Targeting a trade magazine can often
work well for this approach as you can provide useful customer
feedback readers of the magazine would want.
Sending your press release to the right person
- Collect as many contact details of journalists as you can.
- Many will list their email addresses online, and sometimes
their phone numbers too.
- Some you may have to call up the reception of their office and
ask for politely.
- Keep a database of all email addresses and phone numbers.
- Of course, the best way to get your press release noticed is by
knowing the journalist you're sending it to.
- At networking events, make an effort to build relationships
- Follow up by sending them an email saying it was nice to meet
- Call the journalist(s) you're sending the release to before
sending to let them know it's coming and to build in interest
before they've received it.
- Send it by email.
- Follow up by calling them a couple of days later to see if
they're using it - but do it under the pretext of seeing if
they need any additional information.
- Remember to use all available media outlets - online blogs,
websites and email newsletters are good media outlets as well as
local papers, national papers, B2B magazines and specialis and
Creating media stunts
- Novelty stunts can give a whole new dimension to a press
release - but you need to be willing to take a risk.
- Doing something bizarre takes creative flair, but if it really
is something that makes people go 'Wow!', you can get great media
- Relatively new startup Sweemo, a site that allows users to bid
for various experiences, did this to great effect by offering users
the chance to bid to hit its CEO around the face with a huge
salmon. They got extensive media coverage before the event, then
got nice viral exposure from the video too - around 200,000 views at the
time of writing this guide.
- Another business was recently featured in the Sun for having a
work therapist in for the day who encouraged them all to spend the
day naked in the office - earning them coverage in the UK's biggest
- Make sure your stunt is related to your business, and in line
with brand values and image.
- Thinking up great publicity stunts comes naturally to only a
lucky few - don't force it if you don't have any ideas or are shy
about an idea, as they usually require a fair amount of
- You can decide to have a give-away day where you offer free
services for the day, or a no pollution day where you use no
electrical power, or a 50s-themes day, or something similar that
aligns with your business image, if you'd prefer a more toned-down
- Find the angle of your story
- Research it to include facts and stats
- Include your logo in the top right-hand corner
- Write an introductory paragraph
- Include Notes to the editor
- Include the original references to stats used in hyperlinks at
the bottom in the Notes to the editor section, linking to them if
they're online sources
- Attach any pictures that could be used for publication
- Include contact details, in particular your mobile number
- Get someone outside the business to read it through and give
- Call the journalists you're sending to before sending
- Follow up a few days later to see if they need any more info
and if they're using the story
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