First Person: Writing Press Releases That Work for My Small Business

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As a small business owner, I have never had the budget to hire a Public Relations (PR) firm to promote my business. One of the best PR vehicles I have found has been the press release. Getting a press release published isn't as easy as just writing a fluff piece on my business, though. Through the years I have learned what publications expect, and what types of releases are more likely to get noticed than others. Here are some things that have worked for me.

It Has to Be Newsworthy - I don't decide I want to write a press release about my business and then find something to write about. Instead, the subject has to drive the release. Subjects that have been successful for me have been events that my business is participating in or current trends in my area of expertise. Earlier this year my business co-sponsored an environmental event revolving around Earth Day. This was the perfect opportunity to let the public know both about the event itself, as well as our co-sponsorship.

I Know My Audience - The types of publications or websites I send my press releases to are determined by the content of the release. For the Earth Day event, I distributed them to local newspapers, schools and local environmental groups (for their calendars and newsletters), as well as to other event sponsors for their websites. When I do a release on industry trends, however, my audience is totally different. For those I distribute the release to trade publications and applicable websites.

I Don't Include Photos - I never include photos unless asked. Images can clog up a person's email and generally don't get used anyway. For the Earth Day event, when I did get requests for photos, each outlet was looking for something specific. Some wanted event and company logos and some wanted photos of past years' events. Sending them after they were requested also gave me an opportunity to talk with the staff directly and tell them more about my business.

How I Actually Write the Release - I have found that if the release is presented without needing much editing, the likelihood that it will be published is much greater. I follow the Associated Press (AP) style , which is what most publications prefer. I make sure all the critical information is in the first paragraph, by being brief and to the point. This is the "who, what, when, where and why" information. Then I expand with more details later in the release. This way, if the source is short on space, they can chop off the end of the release without compromising the content.

Supplemental Materials - At the end of the press release I usually add an "About Us" section that provides more details on my business. Although it is not often used in the press release, it has, on occasion, sparked an idea with the reporter handling the information to do a follow-up article on a different aspect of the event or trend.

I Always Follow Up - After initially sending out the press releases, I wait about a week and then follow up by phone. When I can actually get the correct person on the line, this step really pays off. Being able to communicate directly with another individual gets me a lot more personal attention and it has been those instances where my releases have most often been published.

More from this contributor:

First Person: Keeping My Small Business Green

First Person: How I Generate Prospects Through Public Speaking

First Person: The Zero Budget Small Business Marketing Campaign

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