Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Press Releases

Using press releases effectively is an easy way to market yourself and your business to the appropriate media outlets for much less than traditional advertising. To help explain how to do this effectively, I turned to a professional, Amy Schubert to be a guest blogger and share her knowledge with you!! Thank you so much Amy for all of the valuable information you've shared!!

Why should I write a press release?
The purpose of a press release is to get out news about your company to your audience, past, present and future clients. Some ideas for content for your press release include:
-announcing a new contest
-announcing a new product
-sharing a success story
-announcing an award won
-announcing participation/sponsorship in an event/conference/etc.

How do I write a press release?
The bare minimum that you will need in your press release are headline, dateline, and contact information. Beyond these basics, there are several tips to keep in mind.
  • Headline: It is best to provide a headline of around 20 words or less. Always make sure your company name is in the headline. A lot of online news portals (where many of your readers will find the news) only show the headline of the release. If you have any clients or media looking for news about your company, the headline may be their only clue.
  • Dateline: This is the city where your news originates from. Usually this will be the city your company is headquartered. An exception may be if your release is a follow-up to an event, your dateline may be the location of that event.
  • Contact information: This will be the person, phone number and email address where any reporters/media can contact the company to answer any questions. Please keep in mind it is best if this person is actually available to take calls around the time the release runs (you might be surprised how often this isn’t the case).
  • Logo: Whichever wire service you use should allow you to attach your company’s logo (confirm any fees with your sales representative). This adds brand recognition, as well as can be linked right back to your website.
  • Other multimedia: Depending on your wire service, you should be able to attach additional multimedia, such as photos, video, spreadsheets, and pdfs. Again, please confirm the fees with your account executive. News releases with visuals are generally better received that releases without, and the additional cost will be justified by the additional pickup.
    -another note about photos:
    -Always send the highest resolution photo you have. If the photo is too small, many editors (including AP) will not even look at it.
    -Make sure to include a caption and photo credit. The caption will have a word limit, and should include a brief description of the scene and the company name. The photo credit only needs to be as simple as (Photo: My Photography).
    -SEO guidelines apply: Utilize bolding, italics, keywords and hyperlinks. Your wire service should offer this capability for most (if not all) media points. Speak to your account executive about any limitations or problems with maximizing the HTML version of your story.
  • Content: Lastly, when writing your press release, here are a couple notes about content:
    - Make sure it is correct. Seems like a no brainer, but make sure your product names are spelled correctly, make sure your people names are correct, make sure you have quoted accurately. The release you send to your wire service should be in its final version. The editors can fix things like commas, or obvious typos, but it is always better if they don’t get releases with those mistakes in the first place.
    - Include relevant quotes. For example, from clients, affiliates, colleagues. This will be another person’s voice that reinforces the general theme of your release.
    - Keep it timely. If you are offering a discount to brides getting married in December, don’t send the news out in November. Which leads me to …
    - Consider your audience. Be careful of using industry lingo. For photographers, that means things like spelling out what WPJA stands for when you win an award, or describing what exactly a ‘flush-mount’ album is.
What do I do with the release once it is written? You’ll need to choose a wire service who will distribute your news to the appropriate media points. Think about what geographic area and what type of audience would most want to read your news. Next step is to contact your wire service to set up an account and send out the release. The 3 major wire services are: -Business Wire (www.businesswire.com) -Marketwire (www.marketwire.com) -PR Newswire (www.prnewswire.com) How do I choose a wire service? I currently work for a wire service, but this is not intended to be an advertisement. Rather, let me give you some guidelines about what is reasonable to expect from a wire service and what questions to ask when you’re shopping around. When you first contact the wire service, you will likely be directed to a salesperson, possibly the very one who would be assigned to handle your account.
    Questions to ask:
  • What is the procedure for membership?
    Find out what fees you will be charged, what you are responsible for and what the wire service is responsible for. Get copies of whatever you can for your records. They should be able to send you a rate card, contract, or other pertinent collateral
  • What can I expect once a release is submitted?
    Here you should be able to learn what steps are taken on their side after you have submitted a release; start to finish. Find out who will be looking at your release and what they will be looking for. Find out their estimated turnaround time (XX minutes per page). Find out what – if any changes – they will make, with and without your notification. Find out the procedure if you need to make any changes once the release is submitted. For example, it is reasonable to expect to be able to talk to the editor who will be formatting your release.
  • What circuit would you recommend for my business/press release?
    The sales representative should be able to ask you some things about your business and help you lay out a plan of attack. Likely he/she will recommend one or more of their products/circuits that would be best – which will not just be their largest/National circuit. If you have a photography business, now is a good time to ask about their photo distribution services.
  • What happens after my release is out there?
    Find out what kind of reporting the company can do to let you know how/where your release was picked up, downloaded or clicked on.
  • How is your company different from your competitors?
    This is the biggie. These are the main benefits you will have to weigh along with the pricing to determine who you’ll use. Things you’ll here will likely be error rate (how often the company’s or competitor’s editors make an error in your release), value of distribution (how many and what media points your release will go to), and product differences (sending the release in HTML, specialized circuits their competitors might have).
When and where do I want to send my release? Again, your sales representative will definitely be of help here. -When: First of all, know that you can schedule your release to go out ANYTIME. Any minute of the day, provided you give the editors enough time to prepare it. During normal business hours, Monday through Friday, is when most editors and media members will be looking at the news. In addition, there is usually a ton of news released on the hour or on the half-hour. If you wait to release it just a minute or two more, you will avoid having your release lost in the crowd. -Where: The exact circuit/product ordered depends on what your wire service offers. A geographic circuit generally includes newspapers, radio, television stations, and trade/business journals in that area. Personally, for a photography business, I would recommend the media points in your geographic market as well as online portals and trade publications if possible. Even if you want to be available to clients across the country, you don’t really need a national geographic distribution. If you live in Oregon, the newspapers in South Carolina probably don’t care about the award you just won. Instead, make sure your circuit includes online portals (like Google and Yahoo), where people anywhere can read your news online. Your wire service may also offer industry-related media. Be sure to talk to your sales executive about your best options. Extra stuff PRWeb offers another form of press release distribution. Generally, a press release going over the wire has a ‘life’ of about 30-90 days. That’s just the nature of news. Another option is, instead of sending your release over the wire to newspaper editors and the like, PRWeb will post your release on a permanent URL, made available forever online. While this might not be the best idea for workshop announcements, or other time-sensitive news, something like announcing an award you recently won is news that will never get old. Make sure to utilize search engine optimization in your release with things like bolding and bullets. View examples of photography releases here to get some ideas: http://www.prweb.com/newsbycategory/9914/2008-01-17/0/index.htm Also, be sure to visit PRWeb’s website talking about additional features that are offered. http://www.prweb.com/service_features.php
Highlights of posting your release with PRWeb:
-PRWeb utilizes some search engine optimization tools that constantly push your release to the top of web searches. A good photography example I found – Google the photographer “Marnie McCown-Guard.” The 5th return on Google goes to a

PRWeb URL – a release originally posted September 2006.
-PRWeb drives traffic to your website by including a live, interactive window to your website on the release posting itself.

3 comments:

  1. Is it worthwhile to approach specialty periodicals personally with your press release? For example if my PR is about a wedding business, should I send a copy to the editors at the Knot, in addition to using a wire service? Or will they pretty much ignore anything that is not coming from a wire service...

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  2. If you know exactly which publications you want to target, than I think you can definitely benefit from going to them directly.

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  3. thank you anne. i've read this about 5 times, i haven't done anything yet, but i've been absorbing the info. i'm getting ready to do one and referred back to this posting again. awesome info here.

    ReplyDelete

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