Thursday, September 17, 2009

Getting Ink, Part 2

Last time, we talked about how small business owners can write their own press releases to attract some media coverage of their product or service.

But what should they do once they have them?

Writers all know that they need editors. Ask someone in the field of public relations to look over your first draft press release. If you don't know a PR person, hire one.

Revisions and rewriting are all part of the process, so expect to do three or four drafts before you settle on a final product. Then put a catchy but clear title on your press release.

The title (and subject line of your email) should communicate the essence of what you want to say, but also draw in the editor or opinion leader you’ve targeted. Don’t use hyperbole or syrupy language (“unique” or “fantastic”) to describe your business. Your audience of media professionals is a sophisticated and often cynical one. They will consider your release self-serving or patently false and jettison it.

Send your press release electronically. No one uses fancy paper press kits anymore. Put your efforts into targeting the proper recipient for your press release.

How? Closely follow your local media for a few months and identify reporters and editors who seem to be covering small business and, more specifically, your industry. These people are the ones who should be getting your press releases.

Don’t be surprised if it takes two months or more to hear back. Magazines and journals often have two- or three-month lead times, so if your release refers to an event, make sure you send it well in advance. If you’re targeting daily media, don’t send releases out too far in advance or they could get put aside and forgotten.

What does a press release look - and sound - like? Check out some releases at BusinessWire.com. They will give you a sense of what works and what doesn’t.

After you’ve sent your release, follow up with an email and a telephone call. Make sure you are available to talk to a reporter on deadline, if necessary. If you are lucky enough to get an interview, be honest but positive about your company and your product.

1 comment:

  1. Good points. In addition to the editing, a PR person can give you tips and advice for all your news releases, and even provide some advice in terms of follow-up with editors.

    As important as the news release is the note that is sent to editors with the news release. Through this note, show editors or reporters that you are familiar with their work. Emphasize the local angle if there is one. Editors get lots of news releases and story ideas, so you need to be very clear.

    Backtracking one step: make sure the subject line of the email sells the story. Don't just write: "news release by xyz company" or "story idea." Editors -- much like you and me -- read subject lines when deciding which of the 15 unopened emails will get our attention first.

    One last note: when following up with editors, please do not open with "did you get my news release?" It's a dead-end question. Instead, start with your story idea or news item. You can always mention that you sent the news release in a moment or two.

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