By being the subject of a news story, your site and business receive an implicit endorsement that no amount of money spent on advertising can match. People tend to put more confidence in a business that is covered in a news article than they do in any paid advertisement. It should be part of your business promotional strategy to get your message into the various news media.
The established road into the news media is by way of a press release.
Why Send a Press Release?
Your online business has a newsworthy story. It may not be immediately recognizable, but there is news within your business. Because your business activities have news value to some members of the media, you need to get your story out there to be written. The standard means is by way of a written press release.
Your first step is to find a newsworthy story. In the news business, that is referred to as the “angle”. To find a news angle, many people suggest thinking like a journalist. An even better idea is to think like an editor. The publication editor will always want to know the news value of the story and its angle. It’s up to you to provide it for them. Send them a press release.
There are many story ideas lurking in your business right now. You may have a new product that serves a specific need. Your website may have been redesigned in a new and unique way. Your staff may have had additions. Your site may have some special holiday or seasonal value. You may be involved in some unusual promotional or charitable events. There is also the good old human interest story.
The opportunities to find news within your organization are unlimited. It’s up to you to let the world know about them. The media exposure will bring in many new and qualified customers and clients.
A press release is like a cover letter and resume for your news story. It is written like a news story. In fact, some publications will print your press release without alteration, but don’t count on it. The best idea is to write it like a journalist would and review it through the eyes of the editor.
To start writing your press release, you must include some basic and necessary components.
Start with a headline. The headline is probably the single most important part of the release. It is the grabber. It makes or loses the sale. A busy editor, inundated with hundreds of press releases may not read beyond the headline.
Make it count. Words like You, New, How, Now, are especially strong and will help grab the editor’s attention. Like the headline in a good sales letter, newsletter, or your website, spend the majority of your time on the headline. It can make or break whether your story gets included or not. A headline should convey the idea of the article and compel the editor to read on to the lead paragraph.
The lead paragraph will answer the classic five who, what, where, when, and why questions. It should flow smoothly from the idea conveyed in the headline. The lead, as it’s called, should answer directly to the headline. If it doesn’t, either the lead, the headline, or both should be rewritten to send the same message.
Write the lead paragraph without heavy use of adjectives. If you can avoid any, that may be even better. Avoid writing adverbs too. Use as few words as possible. About 50 words should be enough to convey the story. Think like Sargent Friday from the old television series Dragnet: “Just the facts.” The lead should tell the entire story, even if the editor chooses to read no farther than the first paragraph.
The Main Paragraphs: Filling Out Your Story
The main body of your press release appears in the middle, following the lead paragraph. Here is where you provide the supporting news story for your lead and headline. Be sure to include some quotes from the key people involved in the story. If your press release is about a new product or innovative idea, testimonials from experts in the field and satisfied customers are ideal.
Write the press release in the inverted pyramid style. By that, I mean place the most important information first, and the less important supporting information second. Use short sentences with action verbs. Be sure your press release reads as a news story and not as a sales letter. If it sounds like sales literature, it will likely end up in the trash or delete file.
For product releases, many experts recommend using bulleted points. Three features is ideal, but don’t write more than five. The idea is to have your release published with as little editing as possible. The less your release is altered, the more your message will be read from your point of view.
At the end of the release, be certain to have your name, phone number where you are available, and a link to your website. Your contact information should also appear at the top of the release, below the headline. There you would include your company name, your contact name, address, phone and fax numbers, e-mail address, and your website URL.
Make yourself readily available and easily reached at all times to the media. If your release is not used, but you are easily contacted, you may still find yourself asked about other news stories in your industry. If at all possible, get to know as many editors and journalists who cover your industry and business in general. That familiarity can get your press release noticed, and your name remembered, for other industry news stories.
Send your press release to the online and traditional offline media who cover news stories in your industry. If the news angle you have chosen has wider appeal, feel free to send it to other media who cover that news area. Avoid sending your release to media who would have no interest in your story. Don’t ever be seen as a spammer. Your future releases will invariably wind up deleted if you are regarded that way.
While everyone imagines their story in the big city daily newspapers, they are only the tip of the iceberg. For them, your best bet is the business or technology section. Don’t overlook small weekly newspapers. Their distribution is local and their readers are your potential customers. Often pressed for time and staff resources, they may publish your release as is.
Many trade and industry publications, both online and offline, publish news stories in your industry. These highly specialized and targeted publications are read by those people in your business area. These magazines are very interested in receiving interesting and informative stories about your business, personnel, and products. They usually have special sections pertaining to those matters, and need stories to fill them.
Don’t forget to send your release to the many Internet press release distribution sites. They include http://www.prweb.com, http://www.pressreleasenetwork.com, and http://www.internetnewsbureau.com; among others. There are many more available with a search. These sites let you post your press release, either free or for a modest subscription, and are available to journalists worldwide. Be sure to post your press releases on those services. Being picked up by an unknown media outlet could lead to new contacts in the news industry.
Be certain to archive all of your previously distributed press releases on your website. Make them available to the media and the search engine spiders at all times. Your press releases are full of keyword rich content that will enhance your overall search engine rankings. Even an unused press release can perform powerful service as a search result page for your site.
Be sure the press releases are included in your site map and have easily followed keyword text links. Link them back to pages that provide background to the news angle being covered. Be sure the link includes the appropriate keywords. These links will enhance your search engine results.
Your site will receive valuable incoming links from all online media, and from many online versions of offline media as well. Links from media sites, who are often authority sites themselves, are strongly themed to your site. Not only will they enhance your Google PageRank and incoming link totals, they will go far toward establishing your website as an authority site for your keywords.
Make your releases available along with an entire press kit. That kit should include company information, biographies of key personnel, and all previous releases relating to your business. You will need them for journalists when you are contacted about an article. Along with maintaining a hard copy version, the online press kit will provide benefits too. The press kit’s keyword rich content will add more value to the search engines.
By sending out targeted press releases to online and offline media outlets who cover your industry, you can receive valuable free publicity. That media exposure is better than any amount of paid online or offline advertising. By being the topic of a news story, your business gains almost immediate stature as an expert in the field.
By forming and maintaining available, reliable, and honest media contacts, you can also be quoted as an industry expert in other news stories. Keeping the channels open with the media will help you. Talk to the various journalists and editors in your business area. Send them informal story ideas, even if they are not about your own company. You may still be quoted in the resulting article. Your own press releases will receive a warmer reception when you send them too.
Don’t forget to archive your press releases on your own website. They will add keyword rich content for the search engine spiders to feed upon. The added content factor gives your press releases double value; they can be news, and they can provide website content.
Press releases can help your business reach new customers and clients with free publicity that money simply can’t buy. Find a news angle in your business. Send out your press releases today.