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By: Jim Frommel

One of marketing oldest tools, the press release, remains among the most effective ways to get your small business noticed by reporters, bloggers, and anyone else who shares information with the audiences you want to reach. A well-crafted press release directed to the right media outlets can spark valuable (and free) publicity for your business while raising your profile and positive perceptions in the process.

Because reporters and bloggers are bombarded with press releases every day, it’s important to make sure your press release grabs their attention, or at least doesn’t get deleted before its read.

What do you want to say? A press release can be about anything that may be relevant to the people you want to reach. Most are news-oriented: a new product or location, an award or milestone anniversary, or event announcement.

Who do you want to know about it? Depending on your intended audience, you need to decide the best outlet for your press release. Items of local interest are best suited to newspapers and broadcast media, while a trade journal may be the ideal way to share information on a national or industry scale.

How do you say it? You don’t need a journalism degree to write a press release, but there are right and wrong ways to do them. Press releases are typically short, providing just enough information to spark a reporter’s interest in learning more. Anything longer than two pages likely won’t be read. Stick to the basic “who, what, when, where, how, and why” information, and provide contact information on how you can be easily reached.

Sites such as mediacollege.com and webwire.com provide guidance on press release formats. You can also get ideas from online newsrooms that are part of many companies’ websites. Be sure your text includes common keywords for your topic or industry so that your release will show up in others’ online searches. Be sure to use good spelling and grammar!

How do you share it? Check each one of your selected media outlets to determine how they prefer to receive news—postal mail, email, or a web-based submittal form. There may also be a specific reporter assigned to cover news in a region or market segment, or a corporate press contact. In any event, make sure you spell that person’s name correctly.