PR tips

Write my press release in the dust

Have you ever been in a meeting where someone says “we must do a press release”?Write my press release in the dust

That’s it: the press release is done.

But what does it actually do?

It’s a bit like producing a brochure and having hundreds or thousands sitting in boxes in the corner of the office gathering dust. We’ve invested our time in writing and design as well as money in printing, but we’re not getting any return on our investment as they sit there. All that we get is dust.

Writing the press release is often the easy part. Getting interest in it is the challenge. That’s where we have to ‘do’ a lot more.

If we’ve got relationships with journalists, we can talk to them about it.

We can distribute it to our target list of journalists.

We can post it on our web site.

We can share it on social media networks.

We can talk about it on audio or video.

We can think of other inventive ways to draw attention to it.

A bit like a Twitter stream rushing past, a press release in an email can get lost in a flood of other press releases. And if it doesn’t get noticed, it will have the same effect as those brochures gathering dust in our office.

Developing a process that brings press releases to the attention of target audiences takes some ‘doing’, but will get better value from a PR campaign.

How do you promote your press releases?

How often should I send press releases?

Some businesses send out one press release, often when they launch, and never send out a second. Other organisations send out press releases daily and even several times a day.

Is there a recommended frequency?

No.

There are lots of considerations. If you distribute press releases rarely, you’re unlikely to build a relationship with journalists and get coverage, while if you send out endless press releases about the slightest events, journalists are likely to switch off. If they can unsubscribe, they will.

We all want to be noticed and that means attracting attention with news that is interesting. We have to achieve the right balance.

Don’t waste journalists’ time

If you struggle to generate one really good press release once a month, then that could work for you. On the other hand, if you are lucky to have interesting pieces of news weekly or daily, think about how you target journalists. Remember that if they do read your press release, they will scan it for what is relevant to their specific publication. If they don’t find anything, they will delete it. If they receive too many irrelevant press releases, they will unsubscribe, as scanning each release wastes their time.

One option is to ensure you publish all your news on your web site or blog and establish yourself or your business as an authority on your chosen topic. If journalists know that you have lots of news and publish it regularly, they will know where to find it. Publishing on social media networks is also a good way of attracting their attention to different press releases.

These methods enable you to be more selective in what press releases you send to avoid overwhelming them. You can remind them on each press release that they can find more news on your web site.

Tailor distribution for different preferences

Achieving the right balance is a challenge, as different journalists will have different levels of tolerance with some lapping up as many press releases as possible and others being more selective. Journalists on daily newspapers could want more material than those writing for weekly or monthly magazines. Getting to know these preferences is a good idea so you can tailor news to their requirements. And if a journalist does request you to stop sending press releases because they find them irrelevant, do remember to take them off the distribution list.

If you persevere to achieve the frequency that suits your business, you will get the best from your PR campaigns.

Plant PR as a tree in your business forest

Plant PR as a tree in your business forest | pressmeIn my work as business journalist, I often get calls from people who have started a business and need to attract paying customers fast. “We need to do some PR,” they say.

Most businesses have overheads: rent or loans, electricity, phone and internet, vehicle costs and more. These costs need to be paid irrespective of whether any customer sales are bringing in money. Most forms of promotion take time to deliver results, so starting to think about PR when a business or product has been launched is too late to deliver immediate sales.

PR is best planned much earlier. When it is part of the business plan plotting the launch, a PR campaign can be based on the business data and objectives set out in the plan. These will help to answer questions such as: Who is the target audience? What do they like? What need will drive customers to purchase?

Incorporating PR into planning embeds it in everyday business processes rather than leaving it as an afterthought. This makes it a habit so that ideas and actions for PR are generated naturally and not as a separate, time-consuming chore. Targeting, scheduling, delivery and measurement can all be worked out logically and not left to last-minute guesswork.

When the time is right, the activities planned can be put into action fast. The business will also be more prepared to take advantage of PR opportunities that arise without warning.

If a business is a forest, PR should be one of the varieties of tree planted at the beginning. From a distance it might not stand out on its own, but it will take root and add to the impact of the whole.

How many words should I write for a press release?

As many as you need to tell the story and no more.

A short, punchy press release can sometimes cover all its news in 200-300 words, while a story needing more detail could run to 500 words or so.

What is important is that every word counts. If sentences ramble or contain incidental information that does not add much to the story, they could obscure the main message you want to get across.

Is there an absolute limit? No, although a longer press release must be enthralling or contain ground-breaking news to work. If it waffles or is stuffed with words and phrases that don’t move the story on, much is likely to be cut if a journalist has managed to read it all.

The test is to ask what every sentence or piece of information contributes. If it contributes nothing, cut it.

How sure must we be of facts?

If a customer asks for a written quotation, most businesses will honour it, even if they attach a time limit to it.

If a customer places an order on the basis of that quotation, they’ll very likely get angry if they get charged more or lots of extras are added without warning. Depending on the wording, they could even take the business to court if they had been misled.

Is there any difference with PR? Not really. Even if what we say is vague, people are likely to remember it and hold us to it. If we maintain we made a spur-of-the-moment remark, it does our reputation no good to withdraw it. Will people trust us again? Probably not.

That’s why it’s important to ensure that information we give out publicly – in a press release, article or spoken interview – is accurate.

Don’t be tempted if you’re not sure

Sometimes journalists will press for figures, especially if they seem impressive. It can be very tempting to blurt them out, like a bee unable to resist sweet honey, but the negative publicity if we get it wrong could be damaging. We could say our profits had increased by 15% and then find they had actually fallen by 5%. Not a good idea.

And remember not to mention sensitive information, especially if it has to be approved by a third party. If a partner organisation or customer or supplier finds out that we have given out information about them that they considered confidential, it could be disaster for our business.

We need to be sure of our facts before making them public.

Keep data at hand

If you find it hard to remember details, create a one-page summary of key information about your business or specific projects on your laptop, tablet device or phone or print it out to carry with you so you always have it to hand.

Build a checklist for details and data into your PR plan so that it becomes part of your business process and you are always prepared for journalists’ questions.

And remember that in the long run it is usually better to say we don’t know the answer rather than fudging it and looking stupid later.

 

What is the best file format for sending a press release?

I’ve just received a press release embedded in a PDF. It’s deadline day and to get the news in for the next issue I have to edit the text fast. I’ve got to open up the PDF and export the text or copy it.

Sometimes it works well and sometimes it picks up formatting, line breaks and other odd characters that need deleting or sorting out. It takes time and takes my attention away from the story. I could be phoning the sender to ask more questions instead of fiddling about on my laptop.

As a newspaper journalist how do I prefer to receive press releases?

In my experience, the best format for sending a press release is as the body text of an email. I can copy this and paste it straight into a text editor or word processing package.

The first thing I do is get rid of any text formatting, so don’t use fancy typefaces: often they simply make a press release more difficult to read.

How do I like to receive photos?

Just as text in PDFs can be awkward to extract so photos can be difficult to export. Generally, if someone embeds a photo in a PDF or a Word document, I ask them to send a separate file, preferably a high resolution JPEG.

Isn’t this being fussy?

Perhaps it doesn’t sound much, but when dealing with 10 or 20 press releases, this extra work adds a lot of extra time.

And it is a pure joy to receive a press release that can be used quickly and a high quality photo that jumps out of the screen.

It excites me and makes me take far more interest in the story.

Eliminate anything getting in the way

In my view, it’s best to eliminate any barrier that can hold back the excitement that a good story can create. Also, if you help journalists do their job and make it more enjoyable, they are far more likely to call you when they want comment or material.

That can only be good for your PR.

These are my experiences, but what are yours? What do you think works best?

• Robert Zarywacz is co-founder of pressme, business writer for the North Devon Journal and editor of #ndevon magazine.

 

Is that adjective redundant?

This is a great blog. I know that because I wrote it myself.

What?

All right, it’s a blog, but who says it’s great?

That’s the trouble with adjectives. You can slip them into text here and there and they sound fine until someone else reads them.

As a newspaper writer, I cut adjectives. Press releases tell me that a development is ‘exciting’ or a product is ‘unique’. When I read these words, I look for proof. Too often it is not there. I cut the adjectives.

At one time I used such words myself until I realised that few things are truly ‘great’ and that it’s unlikely that someone really ‘loves’ cake. Perhaps we’d better not go there.

Of course, we are often excited by our own work, but we are biased. Will everyone think the same? Perhaps customers are excited and will be happy to be quoted in a press release, although it could still be a minority opinion.

If you have facts to prove that an event attracted the ‘biggest’ audience recorded or that a product has won an award as the ‘best’ of its type, then do make the most of these achievements. Superlatives can be powerful when they are accurate.

So I know this is not the ‘greatest’ blog you’ve ever read and I won’t pretend it is.

 

When is the best time to think about promoting your business?

pressme-clock-01The phone rings. I answer it. It’s someone who’s just started a business. They could have invested in premises, in vehicles or equipment. They could have taken out a business loan or borrowed money from elsewhere. They’ve planned, trained and prepared and now they’re open for business. But no one knows they exist and they’re desperate to get some coverage in the local paper. They need paying customers.

Is this their marketing plan?

Sadly, this happens a lot.

So when is the best time to think about promoting your business? When you start to plan your business.

Attracting the number of customers you need for your business to be viable could take a long time. If you can, start creating awareness before you launch. It’s not always possible, but when you’ve got a heavy machine to get moving, the earlier you push start it and get it rolling slowly, the easier it will be to keep it going.

You don’t have to do a lot. Maybe add news to your web site, send a press release to newspapers when you’re ready, start social media activity, distribute brochures and business cards to stir up interest in your venture. Awareness of your business will start to grow.

It’s never to early to promote your business.

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