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 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 faces.
- 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 enterprises.
- 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 invention').
- Awards won at a national level also often warrant stories in local papers.
- Everybody loves the underdog. If you can position yourself as a new start-up 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 - its 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 go on to introduce a range of stress-busting flower arrangements for the home featuring lavender and other homoeopathically beneficial plants and 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 you 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 question.
- 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 mobile number.
- 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 (wherein 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 your copy).
- Including them will make your release look more professional.
- Include your business logo in the top right-hand of the page.
- Research can be another way into 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 of 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.
For more tips on how to nail your press release, check out our free blog here.
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 with journalists.
- Follow up by sending them an email saying it was nice to meet them.
- 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 specialist and consumer magazines.
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 coverage.
- 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 selling newspaper.
- 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 bravado.
- You can decide to have a giveaway 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 publicity stunt.
- 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 feedback
- 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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