The press release is a staple of the marketing and public relations world. Just as a blueprint is critical to a skyscraper’s construction or a screenplay lays out your favorite movie, the press release gives journalists the facts they need to tell your story.
Even as news and media have evolved, press releases remain a core tool. Cision analyzed more than 100,000 press releases and interviewed industry professionals to find out what types of press releases were being distributed and which were most effective. It found that the number of press releases sent were similar to pre-pandemic numbers, and in some cases have increased.
Of the public relations professionals surveyed for the Cision 2021 State of the Press Release report, 43% stated that their press outreach was the same as or more active than in pre-pandemic times, and 31% reported that their press outreach has remained the same.
Since press releases are not going anywhere, we’re here to offer tips on how to write more effective press releases for your small business.
It’s crucial for small businesses to get the word out and tell the world, specifically potential customers, about all the work they are doing. Press releases are one way to do so.
Think of it this way: What a small business puts out in the world is its image, and how the world sees that small business is its reputation. Consider the following benefits.
You have probably heard 100 times that you need to control your narrative. A press release gives you the chance to tell customers your small business’s story and articulate what you’re all about. Building a brand requires time and investment, but if you aren’t making an effort to tell people your mission, you will have trouble standing out from the crowd.
Has your business recently received an accolade you’re proud of? Is there a new product or service you are providing? These are just some of the reasons your business might need a press release. It’s a great way to drive traffic to your site.
Doing business in this day and age requires an online presence. You want to be searchable, and you want your business to appear on search engines like Google or Bing with good results. [Related: How to Use Google Business Profile]
Writing press releases is an opportunity to add those SEO keywords to your story. If the press release is picked up and an article is published, your business is promoted and coupled with the right SEO keywords to help your business get recognition from its target audience.
These press releases can also double as original content for your website. That press release can be converted into an original blog or website update, which helps customers find your business on Google.
Press releases help the journalists and media contacts you reach out to. Journalists are looking for quality stories, which leads them to wade through a large volume of pitches and stories. Most are discarded without a second thought, but an effective press release may just get pinned to the top of your media contacts’ inboxes.
A well-written press release will stand out and leave a good impression on those media contacts. The relationships you develop could lead to a fruitful future, ideally one that includes news coverage.
Now that we’ve identified how effective a press release can be, it’s our duty to help you craft one that’s successful. With so much competition in the press release world these days, how can you make sure that your press release will be effective?
The art of writing the press release is about balancing the story your company is trying to tell while making it digestible for your desired audience. Here are some tips on how to write a press release and what to keep in mind.
When deciding whether to write a press release, think about the big picture: Are journalists going to find your news interesting enough to share with their readers, or is it only interesting to you and your company?
“The best way to create a press release that gets read is to make sure that what you are announcing is actually newsworthy,” said Karolyn Raphael, president of Winger Marketing. “I know it sounds simple, but a surefire way to become ignored by the media is to send them press releases that are about news items that are only relevant to your business.”
To avoid ending up in a reporter’s trash folder, most PR professionals recommend saving press releases for major announcements, like new products or services, industry recognition, or special events. [Related: Advertising vs. Marketing vs. PR: What’s the Difference?]
“As a rule of thumb, your press release headline should be able to fit into Twitter’s character limit,” Raphael said. “Reporters are bombarded by emails, but sending a link to your press release through Twitter and email increases the likelihood of having it read. Having it be short enough to be read on Twitter also broadens your audience.”
Janet Falk, a PR professional who advises small business owners and nonprofit groups, suggests starting with the end in mind when you create a press release. “If you want a news story to be covered, remember that relevant content must be included in the press release. If a reporter does not have time to call you for an interview, and that information is not in the press release, it will [not be] in the news story.”
The subject line is very important, added Sheri Wachenheim, PR specialist at Mint Advertising in New Jersey. “If you want your press release to be read, your subject line should answer the question ‘why should I care?’ If you cannot convince a reader why they should care with your subject line, your press release will never be read.”
Boil down your headline to cut through the noise in a media contact’s inbox. Keep your headlines to around 70 characters, or else they will be cut off in email previews and the Google results page. Learn more about writing effective email subject lines.
The first lesson most journalists learn about news reporting is to cover the five W’s: who, what, where, when and why. These basic pieces of information make up the core of a news story and get the facts across in a clear, concise way. While a reporter may spread the W’s throughout the first few paragraphs of an article to make room for a catchy lede, your release should include them all upfront.
Journalists also just want the important facts, so deliver the details in bullet-point form.
“Reporters don’t have a lot of time to comb through a press release,” said Mike Adorno, vice president of communications at Hot Paper Lantern. “They want to know, ‘What are the key takeaways that I need to come away with?’ A very straightforward way to do that is to create a short bulleted list that has bite-sized, social media-ready information for any reporter or reader to quickly digest and utilize immediately.” [Related: 10 Public Relations Solutions for Small Businesses]
Keep the phrase “clear and concise” in mind when you’re writing a press release.
The fastest way to turn off a journalist is to include mistakes and inaccuracies. Make sure your press release is free from errors.
“When drafting a press release, writing copy that is grammatically correct is critical,” said Durée Ross, president and CEO of Durée & Co. “Also, it is important to be concise and include real facts, a quote from an expert source, and a link to the brand’s website and social media channels. This will ensure that the message is relayed clearly, as the press release can potentially be passed through to multiple editors and journalists.”
A great resource to aid you in writing and improving a press release is the Associated Press Stylebook, which gives you an up-to-date guide on word usage and styling for public-facing content.
Finding the right time to send a press release can be challenging. It used to be 10 a.m., or once the journalist was settled at their desk, but is that true today? The answer is yes and no.
The general consensus is that the peak times for sending a press release are between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
This time frame makes sense, as people are settled into their days around 10 a.m., and 2 p.m. catches people after lunch, but before the end of the day. It’s even suggested that you send press releases at times that are not on the hour or half hour; it may be more beneficial to see a release at 10:18 a.m., instead of right at 10:00. Keep time zones in mind as well.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are the optimal days to send press releases, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Avoid sending your press releases early in the morning or toward the end of the work day. You’re not going to get the most out of your releases at these times. Friday is also a no-go for press releases. Though you may catch some people, the open rate tends to be low, similar to the rate on weekends.
John Riddle and Nicole Fallon contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.