Business is still slow for many small business owners these days, which makes marketing even more crucial than usual. With so much attention paid to social media marketing, some of the more traditional marketing tactics are overlooked—like press releases.
Are press releases still an effective marketing tool for a small business? Yes, if you know how to follow today’s rules for getting attention.
Press releases are mostly released online through news services or press release services today. This means in addition to being seen by journalists, writers, podcasters, and bloggers, they might also turn up in search results when your potential customers are online.
Here are the key elements every press release should have:
Make your headline attention-grabbing, immediately conveying what the release is about. Using keywords in your headline can help it show up in search results. Your headline should be 100 characters or less so that more of it will show up in search results. Shorter headlines are also easier to share on social media and still have the whole headline show up.
This is a short sub-headline that provides additional information expanding on the headline.
The city and state where your business is located and the date of the release (“San Francisco, CA, July 15, 2020”). Journalists seeking local news benefit from knowing where your business is located, and the date ensures they don’t use outdated releases.
In a few sentences, this paragraph should briefly explain the most important information in your release, including the five Ws (Who, What, When, Where, and Why). Include your company name as well. Most people won’t read beyond the first paragraph, so don’t leave out any crucial information.
Explain the information you’re sharing in more detail. Break it into short paragraphs. Your body copy should sound natural (not full of industry jargon) and include relevant keywords, without being “stuffed” with too many keywords.
Near the end of your body copy, include a quote or two from your company president or CEO (in other words, you) that journalists can use to liven up their articles. Include your full name and title (“Samantha Smith, CEO of XYZ Corp., says…”). You can also include a quote from a satisfied customer or client reinforcing what you’re pitching. But remember, keep it short.
Offering journalists photos, infographics, videos, and other visual elements they can use can help differentiate your release from the rest. If you’re sharing news about a product, person, or event, you can include photos in your release. However, you should also make high-resolution photos available for those that request them.
To avoid problems that can arise by sending photos, graphics, or videos as attachments, it’s best to put these elements on the version of the release that you post on your website. Create a News Room or Press Room section for your press releases and announcements. Then include links to the release on your website in the press release that you send to journalists. (Make the links trackable and you’ll even be able to see how much traffic your press releases drive to your site.)
At the end of your release, include a call-to-action (CTA)—something you want the reader to do. This could be as simple as “For more information about XYZ Co.’s upcoming Summer Fundraiser, visit XYZwebsite.com or call (xxx) xxx-xxxx.” Again, make it as easy as possible for the reader to know what you want them to do.
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Boilerplate is one brief paragraph about your business that you include at the end of every press release. Include company name, what your company does, when it was founded, and any other information that you want recipients to know.
List a spokesperson for your business who will be available to quickly respond to inquiries. Provide multiple ways to contact them (phone, email, social handles, etc.) since journalists may want to get in touch different ways.
Press releases should be one to two pages in length. Include links when necessary (such as to find out more information) but don’t go overboard; too many links can get your release marked as spam by press release distribution sites and search engines.
Need more help? PRLog suggests looking at its Most Viewed Press Releases to get ideas for how successful press releases are written. You can find press release templates online and use sites such as PR Distribution, PR Web and PR.com to distribute your releases.
The art of the pitch
Of course, the reason you’re writing a press release is to pitch the media. Here are some tips for pitching your product or your business to the media:
Do your homework. Research the person and publication you’re contacting before you pitch. Most of the pitches I decline are because they’re irrelevant to my beat (what I write about).
It’s actually not all about you. Focus on providing value to the recipient’s readers, viewers, or listeners, such as interesting statistics, news, or how-to information. If your pitch is too promotional and sounds like an ad, chances are it will be declined or ignored.
Timing is everything. As a general rule, the best time of day to send pitches is early morning to noon; the best time of the week is Monday through Wednesday.
Respond quickly. If someone responds to your pitch, answer ASAP. Journalists, bloggers, podcasters, etc. are busy. If you don’t answer them, they’ll move on to someone who will respond quickly.
Craft great email subject lines. An email’s subject line is what makes the difference in whether your email gets opened or ignored. Make your subject line intriguing, but not hyperbolic.
Keep it short. Most people prefer receiving pitches that are between 100 and 200 words. Take it from me—when you’re wading through 500 pitches a week, shorter is better.
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