A press release is still one of the most popular communication tools that can be used to help share news about your brand, service or product. Securing press coverage – also known as earned media – helps to give your business third-party credibility and is an effective part of communications and content marketing strategies.
Compared to some channels, press releases may seem old hat. But a well-written, newsworthy and relevant press release can be an invaluable piece of content that can be used inside and outside of your organisation to share company news and generate earned media.
The majority of journalists we speak to still look to press releases to provide news, initial pitch ideas, content and feature ideas. And, because of its short form and storytelling style it’s often used for internal communications to update staff and for website content to announce company news and support SEO too.
But where to begin? As a starting point, here are 10 questions to ask yourself before even typing your first word:
- Should I even write a press release?
Press releases remain a cornerstone of public relations, but they’re not the answer to everything. Before putting pen to paper, consider whether the objective suits the means. For example, if you’re looking to gain traction with just one specific journalist or publication, creating a press release may not be the way to go; you’d be far better off working up a synopsis or with a fully personalised and tailored approach to make your pitch.
- What’s the story?
This may seem obvious, but far too often the actual point of the press release is lost in a sea of jargon and confused messaging. Think about the story you want to tell and why it’s important to readers. You’ll see endless PR 101 top tips online about the who, what, where, when, why and how for writing a press release. That’s important, but we think you can place all of that under two overarching themes: what is it? i.e. a new product, a new restaurant opening; but most importantly, why should your audience care, and why it is significant to the market?
- Who’s the audience?
Thinking about which particular eyeballs you’re hoping will see your news is critical when writing your press release. One press release doesn’t fit all and you should always think about who needs to know about your news story and what’s important to them. Planning out the different audiences you want to engage will help you write a more relevant press release for the people you want to read it.
- What’s the target media?
So now you’ve got your story and identified your audiences, the only thing standing between you and reaching those viewers and readers that you want to engage with is the journalist.
Do your research and understand the media platform, individual journalists and their interests and specific news pages and columns that feature as part of that publication or programme.
Journalists receive hundreds or press releases each week, many of which are irrelevant, so you need to ensure your press release is relevant to the publication and the audience that they cater for.
So, for example, don’t make the mistake of sending a business story to a consumer lifestyle publication and vice versa. Tailor your story to the media platform, for example:
Consumer/Regional/Lifestyle audience – A restaurant about to launch looking to attract its first customers:
The restaurant, situated just around the corner from the Galleries, will boast an extensive Mediterranean menu, a hand-picked wine list and premium cocktails.
B2B/Business audience – A restaurant about to launch announcing its arrival to local stakeholders and industry peers:
The opening of the restaurant brings with it job creation in the city centre and represents a substantial investment in the local economy.
- Who’s the spokesperson?
This is more important than you might think and our advice here is that the person quoted in the press release needs to be the most relevant one for your media audience, not necessarily the most senior.
A quote is a great way to add a human soundbite to your news story and bring credibility and insight into the story you’re telling.
Finally, has your spokesperson been media trained and will they be available for interview? The last thing you want to happen is to generate interest from a journalist only to have to turn down an interview and throw away the opportunity for some brilliant coverage.
- What’s the context?
Think about how the announcement could be related to bigger things going on in the world. Is there a relevant news hook?
Your new branch opening, or the launch of a nutritional app might seem like the biggest thing going on in your business, but it might fall short of captivating your audience unless you can communicate why your news really matters. For example, does your new branch opening represent much-needed job creation? Does the launch of your nutritional app help to combat current health issues, which is a growing concern amongst your target audience?
But always be genuine; a sceptical journalist will easily be able to see through a ‘non story’.
- Do you have a call to action?
In an ideal world, what do you want the consumer of your news to do? Head to your website to find out more about a new service? Apply for a job? Download your new app? Book a table at your restaurant? Or think about you differently?
Whatever it is, ensure you make it as easy as possible for the audience to achieve your objective, with all the information they’ll need clearly signposted and one click away.
- When is the press release being distributed?
When you’re sending out a press release, timing can be everything. This comes down to doing your research and knowing how and when your media targets plan to write and publish their editorial content. And, understanding the wider news agenda and how this fits in with your press release.
Timing could both help or harm your engagement? For example, linking your news to something of national interest – such as Mental Health Awareness Week or National Apprenticeship Week – could provide greater weight and context to your piece. On the flipside, be on the lookout for anything coming up that could result in negative backlash via social media. For example, McDonalds would never launch a new burger during Obesity Care Week …
- What supporting assets do you have?
Most media outlets are digitally driven and have a target number of daily click throughs to achieve. So, imagery and other supporting assets to support their online content needs has never been so important.
In additional to your press release you need to be including quality images, soundbites and video content that are relevant to the needs of each publication. From cut out product shots to a quality head and shoulders image for your spokesperson to short form video content that media can use across their own social media channels, make sure you create an ‘editorial content’ package to support your press release.
- How will it be integrated with other tactics?
Securing press coverage / earned media from your press release provides additional opportunities to share content to a wider audience.
You can use earned media to share across many of your owned channels – creating social media posts, repurposing blog content, showcasing press coverage in customer newsletters, sharing coverage links across staff communications and helping influence wider stakeholders.
Press releases should certainly be part of your content tool kit and can play an important part in successful marketing communications activity.