Public Relations (PR) is coverage of your business in the media – tv, radio, newspapers, magazines and now blogs – as part of their news. While there is no money paid to the organisation for the coverage it does take time, effort and money to get lots of positive coverage for your business. The flipside of course is that not all PR is 100% positive but that is another story. The blogpost will summarise some key points to remember when preparing a press release to promote your business. There are two key stages in the process. The first is to think about an angle that makes your release newsworthy. You then need to write the release in a style and language that suits your audience. The second key stage is distribution of your release. At the end I will talk about the advantages of using a PR agency.
If you have never seen a press release you can view lots of them on the Irish Press Release website. You will be able to see how press releases are structured. You will also find a very good article entitled ‘5 Tips for writing a Press Release’.
The starting point is to craft a short written explanation about what your business does, your products and services and perhaps some key customers or markets. You can keep this factual so no need to use words like great, unique, or awesome. I would generally include these 3-4 lines in a note to the editor which goes at the end of the release. Here you also need to include your corporate contact details – Name, address, email, website and phone number.
The first key step in preparing your release is to brainstorm why your release will be newsworthy. Most of the releases I have issued relate to events that I am organising. You can have a ‘Date for Your Diary’ release which may get some coverage and then you can have a post event release informing people of the highlights. A good event will have a theme or angle to attract attendees. This should also be your starting point in brainstorming an angle for your release. Bridgewater Management spoke at an event in Clare in March 2011 – this is the release that I issued on behalf of Clare County Enterprise Board. We went for a topical commentary on how new businesses were funding their startup as our angle. Events such as a restaurant launch or a conference will get your business some coverage. Other ‘angles’ include releasing results of an interesting survey. You can also promote your links with charity or if your business wins an award. The release of end of year results or a major takeover would be of interest to the business pages. When considering your angle you need to consider what the reader will find newsworthy and interesting.
A good photograph is priceless. Your photo may get covered on a busy newsday when your release does not feature. I know that photos catch my eye when I am reading newspapers and magazines. It is worth hiring a professional photographer and then working with them to get a number of good photos. It is worth investing in props to make your photo stand out. When Grainne in InterTrade Ireland came to Limerick for an event to promote the Seedcorn competition a few years ago this photo was covered in one of the national papers. I always have a penguin stand or backdrop in the car for photo occasions. Other props that I have used would be large cheques, branded binders, big cut out signs, laptops, and a tricycle. You can use anything to brighten up the photo. I always try to avoid the ‘stand them up and shoot them’ photograph. A good idea is to have a look at the type of photographs being used in the publications in which you want to feature.
Issuing your release
When I issued my first release on behalf of IBEC it had to be faxed to the local newspapers – this is only 15 years ago. Thankfully this is all done by email now. The big problem that most new businesses will have is that they may not know who to send a release to or when. All you need to do is contact the media outlet and they will let you know how they accept releases and when the deadline is. For example the Limerick Post hits the streets each Thursday. The deadline is early on Tuesday. If you read the paper you will see that the Business Editor is Andrew Carey and firstname.lastname@example.org is his email address. I would:
– Send an individual email to the journalist and the editor with the releases attached.
– Ensure that the captions are embedded in the photos.
– Send different photographs to different media outlets.
– Publish online after the embargo (release can’t be published before this date) on my own website. I would also post photos to our Facebook page and post the release on other websites. The links are good for SEO.
Press releases must be kept short – one page is plenty – with one or two key points possibly including a quote or two. If you are preparing an article for a Business or Sectoral Magazine you will be working to a different format. These can be very important in establishing your expertise with your target audience.
Using a PR Agency
A PR/Communications Agency brings:
– Contacts to issue releases to as they have developed relationships over time, but more importantly
– Structure, clarity and creativity to the message.
My final point on Press Releases is that there is never a guarantee of coverage in any media outlet. As such the best approach is to plan a series of releases over a time period as part of your branding and marketing strategy.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Comments welcome!
Donncha Hughes (@donnchadhh)