Why should a small business in 2018 spend time and money distributing a press release?
Increasingly, marketing and PR pros weigh the relative value of a press release in this new era of communications. You can reach your own conclusion, but here’s my take: do it. Whether you’re marketing a new business venture, promoting a book, or merely drawing attention to an event, the classic press release is still a valuable tool. It’s likely that many are unaware of exactly what a press release is, and what it does. Still others avoid the entire concept of public relations, perhaps finding it daunting or unfamiliar.
How Times Have Changed
Two decades ago, the press release embodied a literal meaning; it was a written page or two sent to news organizations with the hope of catching an editor’s eye. Occasionally it paid off in the form of a brief mention within the pages of a local daily. Other times, it developed into a full-blown news story composed by a reporter taking the time for an interview. And then came the sea change.
As time and technology marched on, “media” transformed from traditional news channels to a veritable universe of publishing platforms, and that progression has created a double-edged sword. With a bevy of competing venues, will your message get lost? On the other hand, your target audiences have multiplied by a factor of thousands, opening up extraordinary opportunities. Mixing up recipients between mainstream news outlets, specialty publications and industry-specific websites, explodes your chances of capturing attention in just the right place. Web publishing is especially lucrative, as back-linking from a single, well-read site can generate a ton of traffic to your own site.
Press Releases 101
So, what exactly is a press release?
A press release is an announcement of an event, a service, a business development, or anything you want it to be. Not quite as formal as they once were, press releases may be composed in a lighthearted, casual mood with enticing language that appeals to features writers. Or, they may conform to a more straightforward informational tone to suit a serious subject. Assignment editors give it a once-over (if you’re lucky) and either pass it along to reporters, save it for future reference, or, sadly, aim it toward the circular file. Either way, your name and message was absorbed to some degree.
Now that we have defined what a press release is, let’s define what it can do to benefit your business.
Increase Your Online Presence: Link Building
In 2018, press releases have found a new destination, winding up in outlets such as Google News, Bloomberg, and other digital newswire services offering an opportunity to reach online consumers searching for keywords you implant with links. This means the more links you include, the better you will rank in search results. Called “link-building,” this strategy models a saturation-style campaign of getting your name and concept out as frequently as possible. Google algorithms interpret good quality and large quantities as evidence of authority, assuming it will generate public interest. The result is higher ranking and a better chance that a keyword search will hit to your site.
Gain Consumer Trust and Industry Credibility: Earned Media
Just as it sounds, “earned media” represents an organic model of publicity that occurs through mainstream channels and online influencers. You can’t pay for it as if it were advertising, but rather you must find your way to coverage in a newspaper, television or radio station, magazine, and even social media. The weight of such longstanding, reputable media platforms goes a long way toward instilling confidence in your brand.
Improve Your Social Media Campaigns and Engagement: Influence Marketing
The evolution of social media has been mercurial and fascinating, capturing a massive audience share that often overlaps traditional media but is the resource of choice for younger generations. Classified as “influence marketing,” it relies on the inherent social network that drives its success. Because it is digital-based, the costs are low to nil, and entities are practically unlimited. Though they compete for audiences, dollar-for-dollar they can be a lucrative platform for getting your name and product out there.
What To Write About?
Next, we reach the most critical juncture. What do I write about? Typically, clients roll their eyes and show anxiety when I mention the phrase “press release.” Somewhere along the line, the concept has been interpreted as either obsolete or not relevant to all businesses. This is simply wrong.
Every publication, online or in print, requires a constant flow of unique material which results in them increasingly searching for ready-made content. Covering virtually tens of thousands of market niches and topics, the publishing industry today will always have room for what you’re selling. 20 years ago, a traditional press release followed a conventional template consisting of one-page blurbs, contact information and a formal body of text.
Today’s version can be far less stiff and more conversational, therefore making it easier to get published. Minor tweaks aside, you could find your original work appearing in print. And does it get much better than that?
Here are some ideas for how you may tailor your press release:
Current events commentary
Craft an opinion piece addressing a trending topic that impacts your industry. Write from a position of knowledge and a command of the subject, and try to address all anticipated objections.
Rebranding your business
Regardless of the reason, a shift in your brand may be a natural progression following an unfortunate public incident or a celebratory accomplishment. Get out in font of any high-profile news, whether positive or negative. Currying favor with media begins with a press release that assures a commitment to keeping your business on track.
Publicize a speaking event
If you’re prepping to deliver a keynote speech or other address, that’s not only an honor, but an important element of your placement within the industry. Announce it.
Publicize a media appearance
Are you scheduled to be interviewed on a radio or television show, or in a publication? Let other media outlets know. They just may follow suit.
Publicize an event sponsorship
Nothing grabs attention like a business participating in a worthy cause, or a popular event. Are you backing a Little League team? Running in a fundraiser 5K? Share your enthusiasm and watch it capture attention.
Announce a new development
Business publications, especially, are on a perpetual quest to cover new technology or service. If you’re rolling out a product that’s new and edgy, make sure you get the word out. Likewise, if you’ve added an in-demand consumer service, that’s worthy of mention.
Brag about endorsements
Is a celebrity or other high-profile figure showing specific interest in your product or service? Time and time again, studies show celebrity endorsements to be one of the most compelling way to pad credentials and persuade the general public to give your business a try.
Share the wealth
Last, and perhaps most important, always offer tips and suggestions that will help others in your sector succeed. Gaining trust within your industry is always a strategic win. But connecting your business brand to useful advice helps realize organic engagement and earns consumer trust.
To sum it up, the press release is one of the most potent low-cost business tools in your arsenal. Learn to embrace it, trust it, and use it, and you will find a positive return as media outlets and social media influencers respond to your story.
For tips and tools to help get your next press release started sign up and Get 5 Free eBooks full of PR and social media tips, press release samples, checklists and more! To receive more of my personal PR advice, recommendations and updates sign up for our monthly newsletter.
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Jean Templeton is a public relations director and copywriter who works with small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs to help grow their personal brands and businesses.
Jean is the co-founder of Consonant Marketing and believes in creating content that is organically produced and custom made. She is professionally trained in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and specializes in Creative Writing and Public Relations.