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Do you have an event, a new product or another newsworthy accomplishment you want to publicize? Getting press in a traditional outlet such as a newspaper or print magazine can be tricky, but don’t be discouraged — below are a few tried and true ways to get your business successes out to the community and get some press for your company.

Earned Media

Earned media occurs when a media outlet such as a newspaper, print magazine or radio show quotes you, discusses your business or interviews you. It’s “earned” because unlike advertising, you don’t pay for it.

Of course, because it’s not advertising, gaining earned media is a bit harder to do. But it’s not impossible.

Journalists have a job to do — relaying the news to their readers — and you have news to share. But writers are discriminating and won’t write about everyone who asks. You have to make your case and know what reporters want and need to do their jobs.
The first thing you need to do is send a press release to targeted media outlets. This is the widely accepted way to alert the press that your business has news.

Before you write that press release, you have to make sure that your news is worthy of press. Then, you need to be strategic and target specific news outlets that have a vested interest in your business, maybe because of location or because of the type of product you sell.

Evaluating Newsworthiness

So what constitutes news?

Something is considered news when it is timely or makes a connection to what is already happening in the news. It could be controversial or it could be something new or unusual that has never been done before. Something that clearly affects a community is also news. Often, reporters will be interested in covering human interest stories that have a local angle. Keeping these criteria in mind, you can start making a press list.

Creating a Press List

A press list is a list of media outlets you plan to contact about your news.

To help get you started, think about who your best customer is. Can you imagine which newspapers or magazines they read? If you’re not sure, reach out and ask. Your request can be as simple as sending out a tweet or as refined as a short survey you send at the conclusion of a sale.

Once you have information on your customer’s media habits, you’ll have the start of your press list. Even if you only have one example, it’s easy to extrapolate what other media they may consume. Write down all of the magazines, television shows, news shows, newspapers and radio shows you think they would read, watch or listen to.

Then, think about whether a particular outlet would be interested in your news, and why. You may adjust your list accordingly, and you may end up creating different lists for different types of news or events.

Your press list should include the name of the outlet and the type of outlet (magazine, news program, etc.), a contact name and an email address, lead times (more on that below) and a place for notes. It’s helpful to organize this information in a spreadsheet.

The easiest way to find contact information is via Google, the outlet’s website or at your local library.

To find the best contact for a particular outlet, take note of writers or hosts who cover similar topics such as arts and entertainment, community news or business news. You can find their names by looking at the bylines or segments in question. If you can’t find a contact’s name and email address online, you can call the outlet’s main phone line and ask for the email addresses for reporters who cover your subject area.

Note lead times for each publication. Lead times — how much time they need to be able to share your news — will vary depending on the type of media outlet. Print magazines will usually have longer lead times than daily newspapers or news programs — think months instead of weeks or days. Lead times are important to know when you’re sending your press release.

Keep in mind that reporters want news that is timely. So make sure your news is something upcoming and not something that has passed. Keep this in mind when you’re sending out your press release as you don’t want to send something after a reporter’s deadline or a publication’s lead time has already passed. Many weekly newspapers, for example, put sections together ahead of time, so the reporters can concentrate on breaking news later in their news cycle. This means, if you send a press release about an event that is happening at the end of the month, you may need to send our press release as early as a month in advance so the reporters can try to squeeze it onto their upcoming business or arts and entertainment pages.

Writing a Press Release

Now that you have a press list, you can start to focus on writing your release.

First, you need to compose your message. Ask yourself if your news affects a particular community. Is your news controversial? How is it new or unusual? Is it timely? Is there an interesting local angle? Use these guidelines to show that your pitch is newsworthy and then craft your message appropriately.

The point of writing a press release is to showcase your news while providing all the vital information a reporter or writer needs to know. It’s important that you write in a clear and concise manner and that you answer the essential “who, what, when, where, why and how” questions. In doing so, you’ll make it easier for the reporter or host to cover your news.

A press release should be short and sweet. Don’t be overly wordy. Focus on delivering the facts of your news.

Structuring Your Press Release

You’ll need to structure your press release in a certain way and make sure to include specific elements.

Write your press release on your letterhead. In the upper left corner include the following: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, then the date of the release. Continue by writing your business name, a link to easily downloadable high-resolution images for use by the media. Then list the name of a contact with your company, the email or phone number for that contact, your business website and any social media profiles.

The point of writing a press release is to showcase your news while providing all the vital information a reporter or writer needs to know.
In the center of the page, write the subject line of your press release. You want the subject to say what the release is about, but be interesting enough that someone would want to read more.

If you want to include images in your press release, you can insert them after the subject line. But don’t include more than three, and never attach or insert high-resolution images. You can link to easily downloadable high-resolution images in the contact block, as described above.

After including your images (if you choose to do so) start your opening paragraph with FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE or CITY, STATE of where your news is taking place, then continue with your content. The opening paragraph should answer the who, what, when, where, why and how questions.

In the following paragraphs, expand on your story by including interesting information and quotes. Including a quote helps reporters understand where you stand on the issue and helps position yourself as an expert on your news.

A press release shouldn’t be more than a few paragraphs long. Again, think clear and concise. Don’t include extraneous information. A wordy press release is one doomed for the delete key.

Start your final paragraph with your business name in bold, then give a brief biography of your business.

Finally, list your brand’s contact name with contact email or phone number again. Reporters may want more information or different quotes and it’s important that this person is available to respond quickly to their inquiries. If journalists can’t reach you or your contact, they will move on and you will have lost out on earned media.

End your release with ### centered. These number signs inform the press that they’ve reached the end of the release. 

Press Release Etiquette

Press releases are sent via email these days, so make sure all the links in your release are working. Link your logo to your website. Link your contact email and all your social media accounts. Use this sample press release template to get started.

Don’t send your press release as a full image. It’s best to include your full release in the body of your email and don’t add an introduction. Let your release stand on its own. You don’t need to attach anything, but if you must, attach the release as a PDF for redundancy.

The subject line of your email should read “Press Release — (Subject line of your press release).” Send your release from your brand’s contact email. This makes it easier for reporters to reply to that same email and get more information without having to hunt for a different email address.

Once you send out your release, you can follow up by resending it if a publication’s deadline is approaching and you haven’t heard back. Reporters and editors are busy and receive an overwhelming amount of email.

If you don’t hear back, don’t worry. Sometimes you’ll still receive coverage even if someone didn’t contact you, and sometimes you won’t. The important thing is to keep trying and when a publication does follow up, make sure you’re gracious and helpful. It’s the start of a valuable relationship you’ll be able to build upon.

Kelly Rand

Kelly Rand

contributor

Kelly is the author of “Handmade to Sell: Hello Craft’s Guide to Owning, Running, and Growing Your Crafty Biz,” published by Potter Craft in 2012. A freelance writer focusing on the intersection between art, craft, making and the environment, Kelly has written for The Crafts Report magazine, Cloth Paper Scissors Studios, the Etsy blog and Bust magazine.

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