Marketing Methods That Immediately Grow Your Small Business, Part 4

Press releases are one of the most effective ways of getting free publicity for your small business. Many small business owners fail to capitalize on this method because they just don’t know how to write or successfully submit press releases. This article will show you exactly how to do this so you can add this method to your lead generation and customer acquisition tools, immediately.

What is a press release?

Let’s start by stating what a press release is not. A press release is NOT an advertisement or thinly veiled sales pitch for your small business. Instead it is an informative, newsworthy piece, submitted to the media with the intention of it being included in their publication or programming.

Why should I use a press release?

When published, press releases can draw the attention of your target market to events taking place at your company such as a new product launch, a sale, or a new venture. A successful press release can peak the interest of your ideal prospects and have them beating a path to your door.

You can also use press releases to establish yourself as an authority or expert in your field, an excellent strategy for building credibility in the eyes of your audience.

What can I write about?

The short answer is you can write about anything newsworthy that would be of interest to editors, journalists or producers of publications and programming for your target prospects. Here are seven of my favorite, tried and tested, newsworthy events to spur your press release ideas:

  • Events related to current affairs and news
  • An amazing, incredible and/or unusual story
  • Results of survey or study
  • Customer case study
  • Community events and involvement
  • Lists, related to timely news
  • Timely “how to” information

The most important thing regarding the subject of your press release is to be sure that it is newsworthy material your media contacts will want to publish. Never, ever submit blatant advertisements or sales pitches for your products, services, or business as press releases. You may create an unfavorable representation in the mind of the media professional that may prove difficult to overcome.

How do I write a press release?

When writing a press release, this first and foremost thing you should have in mind is your audience. Remember: your primary audience is NOT you target prospects. It is the media representatives who publish or produce programming for your target prospects.

As in all marketing, you write with your audience in mind. In the case of press releases, you are writing to editors, journalists and radio or TV producers. Your media contacts must find your release compelling or your target prospects will never see it. Therefore, the better you target your message to the media, the more likely you are to have your press release published.

Once you have determined what you are going to write about, that is, the point of your press release, you need to state it in a compelling way in your headline. Your headline should grab the reader’s attention and entice them to read more. The principals of writing headlines for direct marketing work beautifully here. If you need help in this area, drop me a line, I’ll be happy to send you some free resources to assist you.

After the headline, comes your introductory paragraph. The goal of this section is to draw the reader into the rest of your release. After your headline, the first 15 words of your introductory paragraph are the most important words of your entire release – choose them wisely.

While I can’t guarantee that every press release will run based solely on the strength of the content of this paragraph, I can absolutely assure you that releases are rejected based on the irrelevance or other perceived weakness of this paragraph. So communicate the most important elements of your story succinctly. Keep this paragraph sort and sweet and reiterate the headline of your story.

In the second paragraph, you can summarize your point. You must be factually accurate. Discuss facts and specifics. In this section you are building credibility. Do not exaggerate, as you will appear untrustworthy.

You might cite a source or an expert to establish credibility for your story. Create a connection in the mind of your reader between your story and the credible source. You could include a quote in this paragraph, ether from the source or from a representative related to your business or from a customer or client. In this section you are building a logical, rational support system for your story. Remember, you are building credibility.

In the third paragraph, I like to inject some personality into the release. This is where you authenticate any claims made in paragraph two and communicate them with enthusiasm and passion. In this paragraph, you connect at the emotional level with your readers.

In the fourth paragraph you elaborate on your story by providing more details. The answers to who, what, why, where, when, and how are included in this section. This is a great place to add bullets to your release. Bullets make this section easy to read and scan and help the reader glean the main points of this section. You could also include some biographical information about a source you quoted earlier in your release, and perhaps extend their message with an addition quote from them.

In the fifth paragraph you can include more specialized details of your story. These details will likely be less important to the general readership as a whole, but could appeal to those interested in the granular level detail of your story.

In the last paragraph you give a general overview of your business. This is a great place to communicate your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).

Once you have written your press release, read it aloud to uncover any sticking points in the sentence structure. Next, proof read the release and eliminate any spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. Finally, have at least one other person read your release before submitting it to the media.

How do I format my press release?

Formatting your press release is simple. Forget about fancy formatting, you’re not attempting to win any design awards or dazzle the media rep. with your graphic design skills.

Start with standard, letter size paper. Incorporate at least a one inch margin all the way around the page.

Begin with your headline, in title case (NOT ALL CAPS), in a bolded 12 point font. The bold formatting will draw attention to your headline. The remainder of your release will be in the same font, only without the bold formatting. Use two spaces after each sentence.

Begin the introductory paragraph with your city in capital letters, state and date followed by a dash symbol. Then lead straight into your opening paragraph. For example: LAS VEGAS, Nevada, July 1, 2010 – The Ivory Tower Hotel and Casino has announced that…

Wherever possible, limit your release to a single page. If you must, use two pages, but never more than two pages. If you cannot tell your story on a single page, finish the last sentence on the first page and indicate the continuation of the release by ending the first page with the word “more” between two dashes, centered on the page as follows:

– more –

Once you have completed your story, include your contact information. Make it as easy as possible for the media representatives to contact you should they wish to. Include all of your contact information including: street address, phone, fax, email, and website address.

Finally, signal the end of your release with three pound or hash symbols, left justified as follows:

# # #

In the event that you plan to print and submit your release via regular mail and it is more than one page, print on one side of the paper only.

How do I submit a press release?

The best answer to this question is in whatever manner your media contact prefers it. This will depend on the organization you are submitting your press release to and the individual receiving it.

Remember, when submitting your press release you are submitting it to a person, not a machine. Therefore, anything you can find out about that person’s preferences regarding press release submissions can only serve you. Why not call the person directly and ask them? Tell them that you have a story you think their audience will appreciate and communicate the essence of your headline. This approach can create anticipation on the part of the media representative and virtually guarantee that your submission will get noticed, once you submit it.

If you are not sure of how best to submit your release, a call to the organization or a visit to their website will usually clarify this matter for you. Usually, an emailed version of your release is acceptable, even preferred. Always check to be certain.

What do I do now?

Now that you know how to write, format and submit your press release, you are that much further ahead than the vast majority of small business owners who don’t know and haven’t invested the time to find out. My suggestion for you is to schedule 10-15 minutes with yourself either now or later today and review the seven newsworthy events we discussed earlier and come up with at least three angles for your press release.

Then get to work! Pick your favorite angle, write the release and submit it to the media representatives that serve your targeted prospects.

For best results, combine this approach with the other methods you have learned in this series. Why not issue a press release regarding a free offer you are making? How about announcing a joint venture or strategic partnership? The possibilities for generating leads and adding new customers to your small business with these methods are endless. All you have to do is take action and implement the ideas I have shared with you in this series. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get to work!