So you successfully started your own company. You have a strong support staff, maybe even an office that's too small for said staff. On a very local scale, individuals and businesses are beginning to use your product. You've spent loads of money putting advertisements in area newspapers, and you were the star in that one commercial they aired on news channel 4 during the late night special. Business is by no means slow, but it's also not growing as fast as you had hoped. Other, larger businesses are starting to outbid you for advertising space. What now?
You decide to turn to publicity, the marketing plan of low costs and high revenue, in an attempt to continue the growth of your business. But you've never called a media outlet in your life, you don't know how to write a press release, and you're in need of a lot of guidance.
Here are some things to keep in mind.
Know Your Media Outlet
Before you even think about picking up the phone to call a news organization, do your homework. If you don't already know, find out what types of stories the organization runs, and figure out how a story about your business would be appealing to them.
This might take a little more research than you might anticipate. Columnists will write about specific types of stories, and sometimes that can mean scanning through many different writers until you find the one who's right for you. If your organization is well-rounded, you should have no problem tracking down a journalist interested in your story.
Write Like a Journalist
Now we’re going somewhere! You called your media organization, and that journalist you were hoping to contact wants you to send a follow-up e-mail with more information. Compile a list of links to different stories in which you were featured by other media outlets to build credibility. When journalists see that you were featured by CNN, the Channel 9 News, and a prominent newspaper in your area, they will be far more likely to write a story about you, because they can see that your organization is legitimate.
In the e-mail, you'll also want to include a press release. I know what you're thinking: "I have to write a press release?! You must be insane!" Well, sanity aside, the simple answer is yes. Reach back into your college days when you spent over-caffeinated all-nighters writing seemingly unimportant papers and bring those writing skills back to the surface. Who knows? You might be surprised at what you find.
Make sure to write your press release like a journalist. This means writing that is concise, to the point, a little punchy, with a powerful lead sentence that starts off the story. If you need inspiration, check out any newspaper's website to see thousands of examples of journalistic writing. Also, consider investing in an AP Stylebook, a journalist's bible. You won't regret it.
Some important things to keep in mind while writing a press release that should appeal to journalists:
- Pay close attention to grammar and details. Be sure to eliminate any errors, syntactical or factual, before sending your press release to a journalist. Flawlessness is vital.
- Write a strong lead sentence. Your lead is the crux of the entire press release. Make sure to include important facts in the lead, but don't get bogged down with too much information. Keep your lead interesting, informative, and most importantly, concise. If your lead is not intriguing, you’ve lost your audience.
- Think like a journalist: "Why should I write about you?" Convince journalists in their own language that your organization is worth their time and energy.
Which brings me to my next point. Never forget about the "so what?" of your piece. What’s the takeaway of all this? Why are you writing this press release to begin with? Make sure you can answer these questions just by reading the press release. It might be useful to go with the classic editorial scheme here and give the press release to somebody else for proofreading. If that person tells you it's unclear, verbose, or they can't figure out why you’re writing it in the first place, you have some editing to do.
Remember the golden days of high school when your teachers always told you to go back to your thesis to stay on track? Same idea here. Don't stray too far from your lead, and make sure there is a clear, relevant message.
Wrapping It Up
You've made contact, you have a press release set up, and you've compiled all of your links. You are officially ready to write a short note reiterating why you think your organization is awesome and why the journalist should agree.
And with that, your follow-up email is ready for send off!
Zach Cutler is a dynamic entrepreneur and communications expert that founded Cutler Group in 2009. He has expertise in helping high-tech companies achieve major media attention.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business's development and growth.