Many people believe that the only way to get great publicity for their business is to throw money at an expensive – and time consuming- marketing campaign. However, as explained by Hilary Wardle, there is one time honoured and extremely effective way to get all the promotion your business needs for free: via a well written, carefully targeted press release.

Good PR has the power to bypass the middleman and get your message heard by the people with the widest readership in the UK: the media. Newspapers and websites have thousands of column inches that they need to fill every day and many turn to press releases to create their stories. Like everyone else, editors and journalists are often looking for shortcuts and people that make their life easier.

By sending out interesting and well written press releases to newspapers, free local papers, magazines, websites and blogs you have a great chance of turning your announcement, product or service into one of those stories. However, in order to maximise your chances of making it into the press you do need to follow a few golden rules.

1) Put it into context.

What’s your Business Objective? Why do you want PR and how is going to translate in to profit for you or your client? Are you having a special offer, done something new, won an award, supported a charity, hiring new staff?

It’s important to think about the news value of your announcement. It might be important to you that your company won an award, but is it of interest to a wider readership? The good news is that it’s easy to make a story newsworthy by adding context.

  • For a regional publication perhaps your company’s award is important because it’s the first time a local organisation has won anything in that category? Or maybe your expansion is exciting because it will create new jobs in the area?
  • If you’re targeting magazines then you may find a more funny and heart warming human interest story is more successful.
  • You could piggy-back on another current event that people are interested in, and already getting lots of coverage, by giving the media another angle and excuse to write a similar story.

If you give your story a bit of background and a touch of ‘spin’, you’ll have more chance of getting it published. Editors will only be interested in your story if they think their readers will care about what’s in it.

2) Do your research.

Who is your Audience and how can you reach them? What are they likely to be reading? Identify this and you’ll know where you need to be. There’s no value in getting lots of coverage in the wrong places. When planning your news, then as with any other marketing that you’re doing – think about what keeps your audience awake at night. How will you answer the “What’s in it for me?” that they’ll be thinking when they read your piece, and that will make them pick up the phone to you.

The best way to establish contact with the media is by phone. Find out the name of their commissioning editor and make a note of it, and also ask what kind of stories they are currently looking for. Find out what any relevant deadlines are. This helps you decide who to prioritise, who it’s important to get the release in front of – and gives you the opportunity to adapt your press release to offer the angle they’re most interested in.

At this stage, it’s also important to get in touch with non traditional media outlets like local listings websites, online guidebooks, volunteer run publications and other location specific news providers as they receive fewer press releases than big name press organisations despite having a very wide readership.

3) Make sure it’s well written.

The final golden rule is to make sure the press release is concise, detailed and punchy enough to get an editor’s attention. A good press release should be no longer than one side of A4 paper.

Create a bold, attention grabbing headline for your release, before going on to answer the following questions: who, what, where, how and why. The ‘why’ is particularly important as it gives you a chance to add the context. Make sure you get all the important information in the first 3 sentences so that if the editor only read this bit, they’d understand the whole piece. Keep the rest no longer than it needs to be to get across the detail. Write it in the third person and avoid using “I” or “We” unless it’s in a quote. Limit yourself to one goal per press release and try to mimic the style of language used in your target publication.

You should also avoid using flowery language and stick to the facts. You can make the press release exciting by showing why your development is important (again, this comes down to context) rather than using words like ‘amazing’, ‘unique’ etc. Make sure you include your business website and contact details at the end of the release before sending. Then, simply sit back and wait for the enquiries to start flooding in!

Where have you had success with PR for your VA business? Let us know with a comment below and include any online links if you wish.