A press release might seem outdated in the age of digital media, especially when you can make any announcement to a curated audience of followers via social media instantaneously. But if you want to reach new audiences and build a rapport with new potential customers, you can hardly do better than press coverage—not least of which because it’s free. The press release procedure has changed quite a bit in recent years, however, so we’re here to help you understand the who, what, when, where, why and how of a press release in modern small business marketing.

What Is a Press Release and What Should You Include in It?

Press releases are formal, official announcements written about something timely, new or significant happening at your business. Their primary audience has always been journalists, but written correctly, press releases can help tell your business story and foster SEO.

Press releases have a pretty established basic structure which includes:

  • Headline: Keep it active, bold and short. Summarize your story in 10 words or less.
  • City, State Location: Traditionally, press releases begin by identifying the city and state before introducing the body copy. This is less important if you’re only releasing locally, but you should identify your location somewhere in the press release no matter what.
  • Intro Paragraph: Identify the who, what, when, where, why and how of your story, and try to keep it to three or four sentences.
  • Body Copy: Following the inverted pyramid structure, the body of your press release should be information that supports the claim in your headline or demonstrates how your story is important. This almost always includes quotes from people in your company as well as an outside source (customers, other business owners, experts in your field, etc.).
  • Boiler Plate: The standard information about your small business that you would put on any press release. It’s usually only two sentences and includes any unique facts or a quick summary of your business story.
  • Press Contact: It’s not unheard of for news outlets to directly print press releases. However, most journalists will want to follow up with you to get their own quotes and additional details. It’s vital you provide a contact name, phone number and email address.

The press release as a whole should be limited to a single page, single spaced. For larger stories, it’s a great idea to couple your press release with a press kit to provide journalists with a full suite of resources.

When Should Your Business Send a Press Release?

There are multiple situations that might merit a press release from your small business. The main thing to consider is whether or not the general public might be interested in knowing the information you have to share. Some examples of reasons for press releases include:

  • Grand openings: Opening a new business or location is often big news locally, and it’s the top reason to send out press releases about your business.
  • Special events: Reporters love timely information. If you have a special event coming up that solicits community involvement, it might merit a press release.
  • Awards: If your company won a local, regional or national award, let the community celebrate with you! Local news outlets especially love to support hometown pride.
  • New Hires: Much like awards, if you’ve hired a local into a prominent position, it’s a cause for celebration. Introducing someone new who works in a public position is another reason for a press release.
  • Crisis Management: If there was a fire at your location or a public scandal on your social media page, its best to get out in front of it with an official press release announcing the details of what happened and how your business is dealing with it.

Also note that ‘when’ includes the timing of your press release. If you are announcing an upcoming event or opening, make sure you send the press release out about a week ahead of time (or at the start of the week if it’s on a Friday or over the weekend). Crisis press releases should go out as soon as possible, and all other press releases should be sent no later than two weeks after the event/announcement took place.

Who Should Get Your Business’s Press Release and Where Should You Distribute It?

Traditionally, press releases have been distributed over “the wire,” or news feeds that many media outlets and bloggers subscribe to. Press wires have huge databases of contacts that you can search and hone down to create a concentrated list of people who might be interested in your small business’s story. Wire releases usually require a subscription to publish, though, and also charge a fee on top of that for each press release you put out.

This process applies more to businesses looking to make national headlines than small businesses looking to win press coverage by local media, however. Unless your press release contains groundbreaking or exclusive material, posting to your own company website and social media is a logical first step. So is creating a list of local news outlets’ emails and social media accounts and making sure you distribute to them.

How to Pitch Your Press Release to the Media

Doing a little extra research before sending out your press release can make a huge difference in your press coverage results. A basic Google search using the News tab can reveal similar stories that journalists in your area have written, giving you a clue of who might be interested in your story.

Many journalists have a publicly listed email or social media account connected to these stories. You can also search databases like Muckrack for a fee to find out exactly how reporters like to be contacted (it’s almost always email) and the stories they’re interested in. Make sure you take the time to write a brief email or social media message that shows the connection between their work and your press release, then direct them to the full press release copy either on your webpage or posted below the body content. Try to keep these messages as short and as relevant as possible and be as upfront as possible in your subject lines.

The best advice in pitching, however, is to get to know journalists before you need their attention on a press release. Repost their stories on Facebook. Respond to their comments on Twitter. Engage with them on LinkedIn. Send them a fan email. Just as you’re more likely to pick up the phone if you know the number, journalists are more likely to open your email if they recognize your name.

Why Should Your Small Business Send a Press Release?

Earned media is arguably the most affordable and effective way of marketing your small business. Today’s media is more fast paced than ever, with some journalists writing up to seven stories a day. Press releases save journalists and bloggers time on news research and writing, and they can make a big impact on your business by:

  • Boosting Your Website Traffic

Information published about your small business on a news outlet’s website or social media—especially if it links back to your website—can be a huge boon for your web traffic. Even if a news story simply mentions your business, it can drive customers to search for you online.

  • Create Media Contacts

A well-written press release can help you build relationships with media contacts and make them more likely to respond to your next big announcement.

  • Establish Business Credibility

Customers are much more likely to visit businesses that have been mentioned by the media. Local news is one of the most trusted media sources, and a mention in it can substantially increase your foot traffic.

Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Can Help

If you have a business in Jefferson County and learning more business growth strategies is your goal, we’re here to help. Become a member of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce today to start taking advantage of all the workshops, networking, and other benefits we have to offer. To find out more about how to join or to learn about how we can be a difference-maker for your small business, contact us online or by calling 865-397-9642.