Public relations differ to advertising as this method gets you coverage without paying.
For example, you could pay £250 for a quarter-page advert in a local paper, which would be advertising. Alternatively, if you have a newsworthy story, you could receive a full-page write-up for free: that’s public relations.
So how do you get a write-up? Journalists do go looking for stories, that’s true, but you can make it easy for them by writing a press release.
How to make your business newsworthy
Link your activity to current events
You’ll have seen plenty of businesses doing this during the coronavirus pandemic. Whether it’s a restaurant that’s feeding local school children for free, or a manufacturer who has swapped production to make visors, the stories are everywhere. News is all about current affairs, so make sure you use recent trends to your advantage. This may be through a link to a popular TV show, parliamentary decisions, or even the weather if it’s extreme enough.
Find a unique selling point
Remember, just because it’s new to you doesn’t mean it’s news.
Offering a new service isn’t a news story in and of itself. If your story is about a new offering, people are likely to either ignore it or tell you to secure paid advertising. Does what you are doing inspire others? Does it have a wider impact on the community, or just your customers?
One thing that may make the story novel is if there is a ‘first’. “First local lad to win the FA cup”, “First black woman to make a million”, “First company to 3D print prosthetic legs” etc.
Make it funny
Funny, interesting, relevant… any reader will give their attention to the headline that grabs them. Often associated with tabloids more than other mediums, adding a play on words can sometimes be enough to peak someone’s interest. Just be careful not to border on clickbait. If you have to try too hard, then it probably isn’t meant to be funny.
What to include
- Make it as easy as possible for the publisher to answer, “what is the story about?”
- Within the body answer: what, where, who, when, why, and how.
- Include a quote.
- Boilerplate – a brief description of your company or project, similar to an elevator pitch or brand offer.
- Indicate the end of the story by writing the word [END] on its own line.
- Add a note to the editor after the end with extra information:
- Any additional info such as funding bodies
- Links to any reference material cited, relevant studies etc.
- Contact details for yourself and relevant 3rd party people they can interview.
Templates are easy to find through search engines, so have a look at a few and see how they differ. Here’s one such example, from fitsmallbusiness.com
Once you’ve got a good idea of what is necessary, it’s best to create a standard template for your business, including a fixed boilerplate and editor’s note.
Top tips for sending a press release
- Choose the right publication. Think about your audience. It needs to align with the publisher’s goals: you’re not going to get in Vogue with a piece on recycling in Preston. (Well, unless a UCLan Fashion Design student wins London Fashion Week with an eco-friendly project.)
- You can send a press release to several papers, magazines or websites at once, but it’s only fair to let them know. You can add this detail in the background info.
- Rather than sending the press release to a general enquiry email, find a specific author. Look at previous publications for someone who covers your area and see who is credited in the strapline.
- Tell them it’s a press release in the email subject. Sure, give it a catchy line, but add the phrase [ – press release ] at the end.
- Write an executive summary and link your article to other current events. Include this paragraph in the email body, rather than the whole document. This way you are saving them time and stand a better chance of your press release getting read. Keep it short and sweet; write a suggestion for an opening paragraph and use bullet points for the rest of the content.
- Answer the phone! Our external mentor Mary Murtagh is adamant about this one. Journalists don’t keep office hours and could ring at any time. If you don’t pick up, they simply move on to the next story.