Earlier this spring, I led a workshop at the Small Business Advisory Centre. I sat down with a range of business owners and organization managers who wanted to learn about writing a press release and ensuring it gets noticed by the media.
It was so much fun hearing their stories and working on a way to make them feel more confident in their writing and taking the best steps to get their press release published or announced.
With that, here are my top five tips to writing and submitting a press release that gets noticed.
#1 Make it a story.
When you’re trying to make an announcement for your business or organization, the last thing an editor wants to read is a sales pitch. They’ll tell you to take a hike or at least politely suggest an advertisement purchase. But if you include people into your release, it will read more like a story rather than an advertorial. Eliminate the cheese and instead push out content that tells a story while still promoting your wares. Here’s a good example of a press release that got published because of its personal content. (Algonquin College Summer Sampler PR)
#2 Have a good lead.
A lead (or, lede, for you old-school journos) is your story’s opening. It will determine whether or not your reader will continue to read the remainder of your piece. No pressure. A lead should be no more than 30 words and you can have a soft or hard lead. A soft lead slowly introduces the topic, while a hard lead gets right to the nitty gritty. An example of a slow lead is opening with a story about a person and getting to the point of your press release later on in the story.
Here’s an example:
Hard Lead: “The Celtic Festival opens this Saturday, July 19 at the Almonte Fairgrounds.”
Soft Lead: “For the past five years, the Newbino family has created a new annual tradition that always begins with sporting green hats and often ends with dancing until their feet hurt.”
#3 Give Plenty of Time.
Sending off a press release five days before your event likely won’t get the publicity coverage you need. Set a calendar of events and include dates when you plan to submit a press release, sending it off at least two weeks ahead of the media outlet’s publishing schedule.
#4 Make sure it’s news.
If you want to submit a press release outlining a special promotion you’re offering to clients, you won’t hook the readers let alone the news editor. Ensure what you want to say has a news hook and subliminally showcases your business. For instance, submit a press release on an upcoming fundraiser for the local dog shelter. Or let your local editor know about a 40-year employee who is set to retire. Having that news hook will likely get you better results.
#5 Follow Up
If you haven’t heard back from a news editor or a station manager within a week’s time, it’s okay to follow up with them. Be polite and ask if they received your press release and whether they’d be willing to run it. If they’re hesitant in their response, ask them for honesty. Ask questions such as: “Does this story follow your editorial policy?”. If their answer is no, ask, “Is there a way I can re-work it so that it does follow your editorial policy?”. They’ll appreciate your open approach. And the grouchy pants approach definitely does not work. By calling them up and telling them your story is news and should be published will likely put you in their bad books. Don’t be a jerk. It won’t get you far.
Do you have a tip to share when it comes to submitting a press release? Tell me about it!