It can be daunting for small businesses to contact the media. You may feel that you have a good story to tell, but how to go about it? Sadly, many companies – particularly smaller ones – end up hiding their lights under bushels.
But if you’ve decided to take the plunge, the best way, now and since dinosaurs roamed the earth, is by press release. However, there are certain rules and conventions to ensure that your release receives the attention that it deserves.
First and foremost, a bit of honesty. How newsworthy is your press release? Is it going to be of interest to the local or national media? Or is it something best suited to the trade press? In other words, create realistic expectations and work to them. If you’re opening a café in Glasgow, that will of local interest – so no point thinking about the national media unless, of course, you plan to open a whole chain within five years.
Tips on writing the perfect press release
Create a media list
Having thought through your target media, create a list. Your coffee shop is of local news, but how about food writers? What about student magazines? (You could offer them a discount on first purchases). Research your target media, and identify who’s been writing on the subject. And don’t forget relevant bloggers or other online sites – they can often be more influential than the mainstream media.
Draft out a rough structure for your release. Remember, the media want to know who, what, why, when and where. They want key facts, not waffle. Ultimately, they’ll be writing the story, not you.
Journalists receive huge amounts of dross every day and, often, the headline is as far as they read. Therefore, think very carefully about your headline. New café opens in Glasgow will go in the bin. New Glasgow café to put caffeine into the community will stand a better chance.
Whatever your company, or its size, you want to communicate messages of importance to your business. For our Glasgow café, are your ingredients Fairtrade? Will you be creating new jobs? Are you family-friendly? Do you offer wi-fi? However, don’t exaggerate and, if you’re quoting facts or statistics, double-check that they’re accurate.
News v advertising
It’s a truism, but a press release is about news. Everything else is advertising. Don’t get the two mixed up. Glasgow café sponsors local football team is news. Glasgow café would like more customers is advertising. Likewise, don’t use words like “best” or “unique” or “world-beating.” You may believe that about your company or product, but hyperbole is the surest way to cross the news/promotion boundary – and for the media bin to beckon. (Also, don’t use exclamation marks).
It always helps if you can make a journalist’s life a little easier, so check and double-check spelling and punctuation. It’ll also enhance your reputation as someone they can trust, and who is taking their media relations seriously. Good tip: write your press release then go home. Check it again the next day. You’ll be surprised at the little mistakes you missed the day before.
Quotes are great, because they’re the only part of a press release that can’t be changed. But use them sparsely, and use them to get your messages across. “We want our café to be an integral part of the community,” is probably quite a good quote. “As part of the refurbishment, we bought a new coffee machine,” probably isn’t.
Avoid like the plague. You are the master of your subject; don’t expect anybody else to be (unless your press release is aimed at highly specialist publications). A wise old advertising executive once said that jargon is the hallmark of a pretentious ass – and he’s right.
In media relations, size isn’t everything. If you can’t tell your story succinctly, it probably isn’t worth telling. For inspiration, have a read of The Sun or The Daily Record – good stories need not be long stories.
Once your release has been buffed and polished, send it by email, with a catchy subject line. Paste your release into the body of your email (some media outlets don’t like attachments from unknown senders) and, under your fine words, provide full contact details, a link to your website – and any further information you think might be useful.
The media is there to serve its readers, viewers or listeners. Not you. However, the well-crafted press release is still able to cut through the media clutter and benefit you and your business. Good luck!