A successful press release is an effective way of getting your small business in front of journalists, informing them about your products and services and hopefully getting them to spread the word via coverage in their publications. Consequently, knowing how to create a press release is a useful skill for small business owners to master. The good news is that you don’t need to be a PR guru. By following a few tips and keeping to a simple format you will be able to produce a news release to be proud of.
Press releases can help you get valuable coverage in relevant industry publications, blogs and websites. In addition, if you write and distribute your own releases they won’t take a big bite out of your precious budget.
So what makes for successful press release content? Journalists get hundreds of emails so yours needs to stand out. The key thing to remember is to make it newsworthy – ask yourself if the information is going to be of interest to anyone outside your immediate business. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering but it needs to be interesting to those in your industry. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Launching a new product or feature
- Announcing a new partnership or a new employee
- Winning an award or accolade
- Speaking engagements or any upcoming events you are running
- Research findings or survey rests
- Charitable activities
- Special business milestones or anniversaries
- Free downloadable whitepapers or ebooks
Tips for creating a successful press release – do’s and don’ts
Here are a few helpful tips to bear in mind when creating a press release for your small online business.
- Always write in the third person and avoid using ‘you’ ‘I’ and ‘we’ except within quotes.
- Proofread thoroughly – spellings and grammatical errors look unprofessional
- Write in a professional manner. You are not writing for social media, you are writing for journalists so your tone needs to be formal.
- Be concise. Try and aim for one page and keep to the point.
- Be ‘salesy’ – remember you are writing a for editorial not advertising.
- Try and fluff your press release out with unnecessary waffle.
- Overdo ‘jargon’. Keep it clear and simple for a wider audience to understand.
- Use ALL CAPS’, exclamation marks or words like ‘amazing’ or ‘incredible’ to highlight or emphasise things. This will reduce the credibility of your release.
Basic format of a press release
There is a universally accepted format that you can follow to help you structure your press release in the correct way. There are of course variations but the key components remain the same.
Creating attention grabbing headline will help your press release stand out from all the other emails landing in journalists’ inboxes everyday. Keep it short, catchy and relevant. Use your most important keywords in the headline. You may actually find it easier to write your headline last, this way you can make certain it that it accurately reflects the content of your press release.
Your summary is a really important paragraph that summarises, in no more than a few sentences, the overall ‘news story’ contained in your press release. If journalists don’t like this they are unlikely to read any further. This is a good place to include your company name.
Always include your press release date near the top of your release. This way journalist can identify how new or old your new story is. You should also include your location next to the date. For example: 4th February 2016, Harpenden, Hertfordshire.
This is where you can elaborate on the content of your press release. It should support your message and provide your reader with more information however, don’t be tempted to waffle on – remember your whole press release should be concise and stick to the news story in question. The body of your press release might follow this format:
- Lead / opening paragraph: Your first, or lead paragraph should answer the following – Who, What, When, Where and Why. It should grab your reader’s attention and essential sum up the your story in no more than 100 words.
- Centre paragraph(s): This is where you substantiate your opening paragraph with information that supports your news-story. If you have quotes, statistics, research and information to reinforce your news then this is where to use it.
- Final paragraph. Summarise the key points of your release here.
5. Boiler plate
Your boiler plate is a standard statement that goes at the bottom of any press releases you create. It provides the journalists with some background information about your company. Include a link to your website in your boiler statement.
6. Contact details
Clear contact details enable journalists or anyone else interested in your press release to get in touch with you. Include your name, job tile, company name, company address, telephone (mobile and landline), email and website address.
Enhance your press release
If you can, try to liven up your press release. Adding in a quote or including an image can be a great way to grab a bit of additional attention.
Quotes: A relevant quote is a good way to support your message. Although, make sure it’s not just meaningless spiel – it should be interesting and pertinent to your story. Quotes can be from you, an industry expert or even an end-user of your product or service.
“Quotes should be used to provide insight and opinion and sound like a real person said them. They definitely shouldn’t be full of jargon or technical language.” Guardian Small Business Network
Research shows that links to videos and pictures in a press release increases engagement by about 18% for photos and 55% for videos.
Providing an image for the journalists is a good idea as it means they don’t need to chase you for one or source their own. Don’t embed the image in the press release, attach a high-resolution Jpeg. Printed media will need an image 300 dpi and at least 500kb in size. For online media your image should be at least 500 pixels wide.
You can choose to distribute your own press release or use a press release service. It will probably depend how much time, budget and resources your small business has available and how frequently you are intending to send news releases out. Subscribing to a service can be costly but if you are sending out press releases frequently you may find it money worth spending. Some services offer one-off distribution – for example PRWEB will do a one-off mailing for you from about £59 for basic distribution
If you are building your own list of contacts then start by researching relevant industry publications and simply add in editorial email contacts into an excel spreadsheet. You can then simply dispatch off an email through your email provider. If you keep building your contact list, in no time at all you’ll have a great database of press contacts.
Press releases offer a valuable way of getting coverage in relevant industry publications and shouldn’t be considered just the remit of PR professionals. Following the right format and avoiding the pitfalls we’ve outlined above, you should be confident to create and dispatch press releases for your small online business whenever you have something interesting to share.
We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences on creating effective press releases, so please do leave a comment.