“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
It shocks me so few entrepreneurs understand the importance of press releases. Guessing here, but I bet less than 10% of businesses, including both small and large, put out press releases. Aside from online marketers and management of public companies (who are required by securities law to put our press releases concerning material developments), most entrepreneurs I’ve worked with completely ignore press releases, never even publishing one.
Think about that for a second. Your company has never put out a press release… in other words, your company has never done anything worth being printed in the news section. How can that be?
Whether you run a local community car wash or a large multinational, if your company is positively impacting people or industry, you have a reason to put out a press release.
If done right, press releases increase exposure which draws in new business; they catch the attention of industry players who may be suitable JV partners, garner the attention of journalists and are incredibly powerful for search engine optimization (SEO), among many other things. A press release almost always shows up on the first page of Google. If someone searches your company name, they’ll likely see your website, reviews, competitors and your most recent press release on page one. Not only that, but if someone searches the words ‘car wash in southwest Houston,’ and you’ve put out a press release about your car wash in that area, it’ll likely show up higher on the first page of Google than your website if you’re in a competitive space. In other words, the more competitive the industry you are in, the more important it is to publish press releases. That said, the more obscure the industry, the more important it is to publish press releases too – you need as much exposure as you can get.
From garage startups to flower shops and Silicon Valley unicorns, every business should put out press releases from time to time. You’re crazy not to.
1. Titles matter most: Your title MUST include the most novel tidbit about the release. If you’re opening up a new location for your flower shop because growth has been strong, the press release title could be this: “ABC Flower Expands into Dallas after Rapid Growth in Houston.” Compare that to what many press release titles look like, “ABC Flower Opens New Store in Dallas.” Explain the wow factor in the title. Future customers will want to visit your shop just to see why you have grown so fast with a title like the one I suggested…
In some cases, your press release will have two key talking points, so don’t be afraid to include a subtitle. Just remember that online perusers will only see your initial headline while searching, so it has to grab them.
2. Don’t waste words – cut to the chase: Take the Twitter approach to press releases. While 140 characters or less is tricky for a press release, the fundamental idea applies: short and sweet. Your first paragraph should cut straight to the point and is meant to keep the reader at the table. Press releases are meant to garner interest and traffic, not tell your whole company story. Anymore than four paragraphs in a press release and it’s too wordy.
3. Must have a quote: I work in the tech and resource industries, both of which can produce highly complex data that we like to share in press releases for industry-folks. However, for the layman, it can be overwhelming, which is exactly why we incorporate a quote from upper management (President or CEO is ideal) in the release that simply explains the meat and potatoes of our development. Not only does this simplify a sometimes technical message, it adds that personal connection which is so important. Some press releases are meant to be formal (public company releases), and that’s fine, but quotes provide an opportunity to connect with people via text.
4. Provide a link to supportive documentation: There will always be keeners reading your press release. Given that most press releases are read online, you should always provide a link in the body of the release where readers can find further information (usually best in the second or third paragraph – your website url is a good start). Your limited on space in press releases (remember the 4 paragraph guideline), so get a link in the body.
5. Edit, edit, then edit some more: Editing usually takes me about an hour for every paragraph in a press release. I’m meticulous about grammar because there’s no greater credibility killer than a press release that has typos or grammatical mistakes. If you’re not a strong writer, send your press release to a professional editor before publishing (Upwork has plenty of editors looking for small jobs like this – won’t cost more than $30-$40). Even if you are a grammar wiz, fresh eyes never hurt.
6. Contact information: Provide as much contact information at the sign off of the release as possible (your President or CEO should always sign off at the end of the release). Phone numbers, email, website, LinkedIn etc. Create those spontaneous outreaches.
I’m obviously a staunch believer in the value press releases provide businesses. I’ve been on the branding and marketing side of the public markets for a decade and have seen the direct, and often instant, correlation between business and valuation growth after a thoroughly written and vetted release hits the wire. This blog entry is meant to provide entrepreneurs with an introduction to writing great press releases, and I’ll be following up with more blogs on some of the strategies and writing styles used in the most effective press releases.
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