The rapid increase of social media channels is a great way for small business owners to tell their story in their own words. However, despite the rise in social media marketing, public relations is still one of the best ways to elevate one's brand.
For those not familiar with public relations (PR), it is the practice of managing and distributing information about an individual or organization to the public through free media coverage instead of paid advertising.
The old saying “Advertising is what you pay for; publicity is what you pray for” is still true today but the opportunity to generate free press is substantially greater thanks to the internet.
Back in 1997, when I began my career in PR, getting free media coverage for an organization came with the potential for backlash. This was back when journalists were known for leaping out from behind the bushes to capture a stunned executive’s reaction to intimidating questions. If the executive was ill-prepared, any news coverage did more harm than good.
Unfortunately, being old school isn’t always advantageous since people now have more control over where, when, and how they consume information. As a result, public relations is no longer about feeding into a traditional news cycle. Instead, it is about providing relevant content when, where, and how your prospects, influencers, and customers will consume it.
Over a decade ago, people still relied on traditional newspapers and broadcast journalists for local, regional, and national news. Today, the vast majority of consumers scan headlines on the internet and use social media channels, such as Twitter and Facebook, to see what’s happening around the world. A recent survey of journalists by Atlanta PR firm Arketi Group found press releases are still the best resource for generating story ideas.
About Press Releases
A press release is an official announcement (written or recorded) issued by an organization to the news media and beyond. Whether you call it a "press release," a "press statement," a "news release," or a "media release," we're talking about the same thing. That's why large corporations and marketing agencies still write and distribute press releases as part of their PR campaigns.
Whether written for traditional news media or online, a release should include: a heading, two to three paragraphs of content, a quote, and contact information of the organization submitting the release.
When writing a press release it is important to format it based on whether you are targeting traditional or digital media. Social media releases are generally formatted to help journalists to identify and access key content quickly with bullets, lists of ready-made quotes, and hyperlinks if distributing the release electronically.
Both traditional and digital media reporters rely on the headline of the release to determine whether they will read it or trash it. The headline should contain the subject matter along with a hook. The hook is a way of presenting your news to stimulate interest from the media audience.
The hook can come in many formats, including an image, an amazing statistic, or a thought-provoking question, says Kate Logan of Active Press. Some businesses rely on PR stunts to create a hook designed to gain news media attention.
Press Release Content
The first paragraph of your release should answer the "who," "what," "why," and "where." While subsequent paragraphs should provide enough information so a reporter or news outlet can publish your story without having to contact anyone.
Press releases should be succinct and limited to one page -- two pages, tops. And while it may be tempting to include colorful adjectives to make a story sound more intriguing, remember the job of a reporter is to report facts, only.
With the barrage of media releases facing news outlets daily, editors and reporters have a set of standards to which they judge whether a story is “newsworthy” or not. Your press release may not contain “breaking news,” but if you can demonstrate that your story is relevant, timely, and useful to their audience(s), you increase your odds of obtaining PR coverage.
Sometimes it’s difficult to dream up the perfect PR idea. Before you invest your time and money into a PR campaign, here are some tips to help you should ask yourself these three questions:
1. Is it interesting?
2, Is it relevant to what we do?
3. Does it serve our purpose?
Finally, here are some basic types of announcements to help you carve out your PR campaign.
Mergers and acquisitions
New product launches
Receiving an award
Hosting an event
Opening a new office
Introducing a new partnership
New Hires and employee promotions