A press release should be newsworthy. It shouldn’t be a blatant ad for your business. Yet far too many businesses send out press releases without giving much thought to whether they’ve really got news to share.
Rob Nance, director of content marketing at Inovautus Consulting in Boulder, Colorado, said that if there’s any doubt that journalists and others will care about a press release, then you shouldn’t send it. Nance recalled that when he was working at an online media company covering the accounting business, he received a press release from an accounting firm announcing that it had a new sidewalk in front of its building.
“Funny, yes, but it’s not news or timely, useful information,” Nance said. “It’s a game of quality over quantity with press releases.”
Here are 12 tips that will help ensure your releases win the battle of quality over quantity.
1. Nail down the news.
If your business is opening a new location, that’s definitely newsworthy. If your business is sponsoring a major charitable event, then you’re probably wise to put out a press release. But not everything that happens at your business rises to the level of a press release.
“I would caution against putting out a press release simply to promote a special deal, sale or customer reward program,” said Gary Frisch, founder of Swordfish Communications in Laurel Springs, NJ. “That’s what advertising is for.”
2. Cover all the bases.
If you’ve determined that your business really does have some news, be sure your press release includes what all journalists look for: who, what, when, where, why and how. Crossing those six elements off your checklist will help boost the odds that a journalist will cover your news.
Ignore those standards, and your press release becomes “nothing more than annoying spam,” said Melisa Tropeano LaTour, president of The MTL Communications Group in Cranford, NJ.
3. Tell them who you are.
Frisch said your press release should include a brief description of your company. Remember to include a link to your website and a way for a journalist to get in touch with you.
“Don’t make the rookie mistake of assuming everyone reading your release will be familiar with your organization and what it does. That’s seldom the case,” Frisch said.
4. Use plain language.
Bob Zeitlinger, managing director of B To Z Communications in Dumont, NJ, recommends avoiding jargon. Reporters and editors don’t want to decipher your industry’s terminology, and neither do readers, viewers, and listeners. Frisch said useless phrases you should erase from press releases include “industry-leading,” “best of breed” and “solutions provider.”
5. Keep it short and sweet.
Megan Ingenbrandt, a PR specialist at Middletown, DE-based advertising search engine eZanga.com, said a good press release should be concise—no more than a page or two in a Word document.
6. Toot your own horn.
Don’t let a press release just float out there. Ed McMasters, director of marketing and communications at Crestview Hills, KY-based marketing firm The Flottman Co., said you should post the press release on your own website. That way, you’re adding fresh content to your site, which search engines love.
7. Use the personal touch.
Regardless of whether you’re issuing a press release, you should cultivate relationships with journalists. They’re more likely to cover your business if they already know you.
“Reach out to reporters and invite them in to see your business. Ask them to stop by for coffee. Send them a note when you particularly like something they have written,” said Kim Miller, president of Ink Link Marketing and PR in Miami Lakes, FL.
8. Target wisely.
If your customers don’t read The New York Times, then you shouldn’t aim for coverage there. Local newspapers, TV stations and radio stations are best for many local businesses.
9. Don’t overdo it.
Resist the urge to constantly churn out press releases. Journalists will grow tired of seeing them in their email inboxes. Marcia Golden, managing partner of New York City marketing company DJD/Golden, recommends that her clients send out press releases no more than every three to six weeks. “Otherwise, it becomes white noise,” she said.
10. Don’t get carried away with SEO.
Any company that does business online wants to rank highly on Google and other search engines. That’s where the practice of search engine optimization comes in. However, you shouldn’t load up a press release with tons of SEO keywords. If you do, it’ll reek of spam.
11. Avoid Fridays.
In the news business, Fridays are when companies and organizations deliver bad news, such as employee layoffs. Fridays are considered a black hole in the news business, as a lot of readers, viewers and listeners won’t be paying attention to news on a Friday or Saturday.
In short, your news probably will get lost on a Friday. Instead, you should aim to distribute a press release Monday through Thursday, when it’s more likely to be noticed. Of course, if you’re actually trying to bury some bad news, the reverse applies.
12. Be on the up-and-up.
You won’t win over a journalist if you’re deceptive or disrespectful. Here are four suggestions from Kim Miller of Ink Link Marketing and PR for making nice with reporters and editors:
• Be mindful of their time. If you a call a reporter or editor, find out whether he or she is on deadline.
• Be fair. Don’t ask for coverage and then demand that your conversation be off the record.
• Be smart. Don’t call a journalist without having your facts at the ready.
• Be honest. “Don’t ever lie to make a story sound bigger. Ever,” Miller said.