Press Release: To Send or Not to Send?

I’m impressed! You have news that you’d like to share with the world, with a particular emphasis on those who are potential clients and referral sources for your business venture, and you are sophisticated enough to think outside the box in an old-school way and consider sending—-ah ha!!—a press release. Yes, a press release remains a relevant tool, the standard route to media outreach.

While most everyone else chooses to make big announcements by way of social media you, sophisticated Freelancer friend, understand the reach and power of traditional media outlets, be it radio, neighborhood newspapers, or digital-format regional business magazines. Social media is great outreach but there are times when you want to get beyond your followers and obtain third-party support that implies objectivity and real world legitimacy.

Be aware that a press release is a marketing and sales tool. The idea is to communicate a message to customers and prospects through the vehicle of a print or online article, adding the authority and credibility of the publication to the message.

Before you go online and remind yourself how to write a press release—Who, What, When, Where, Why and How—first ask yourself these two questions and follow a couple of pointers. These may sound stringent but they’ll help you make a rational decision regarding media outreach for your organization.

  1. Am I newsworthy? Do you or your company that regularly receive media attention? If so, then you are newsworthy. Press releases by larger, established, household-name companies receive more attention than smaller companies and startups. Have you or your enterprise received any media attention at all? If so, that puts you at an advantage. Or, have you served on the board of your local chamber of commerce, library, or neighborhood business association? Are you a long-term and active member of a neighborhood group, school, Rotary Club, or place of worship? In other words, are you well-known in your community and can you leverage your renown to persuade an editor or reporter that you have sufficient name recognition among the media outlet’s readers or listeners that would motivate them to learn more about you?
  2. Is my story/announcement news? To get your message communicated through the publication, you’ll need to convince a reporter or editor that your message (or the story surrounding it) is newsworthy. Your story must have the potential to appeal to the readership of the publication, or listening audience if podcast or radio. So if your goal is to fill seats at a conference, don’t send a press release. The most important element of a press release is that it’s helpful to reporters, by offering them news of interest to their audience. Journalists don’t care to help fill seats at your conference.                                                                                                3. Write like a reporter   If your press release looks and feels like a real article, reporters will often just file it as a story with minimal editing. Therefore, it’s up to you to make sure that your press release looks and feels like a real news item. Avoid using business jargon.                                                     4. Call media outlets to confirm interest in your story Before sending a press release, call all media outlets on your wish list and ask to speak to the (business) appropriate editor or reporter. Do yourself a favor and read 3 – 4 issues to familiarize yourself with the types of stories that are carried and the names of reporters who cover your topic. Then, contact the reporters that you really want to cover the story. Mention that you’ve read their stories and name at least two. If you reach an editor, still make it known that you are familiar with other stories in your category.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: (circa 1988) Phil Donahue (L) and candidate for president George H.W. Bush on The Phil Donahue Show.

A Press Kit That Tells Your Brand Story

It is true that social media and content marketing have forever transformed marketing strategies and advertising campaigns.  How brands reach out and engage with current and potential customers to communicate marketing messages, reinforce the brand and provide product information has become highly targeted and granular, often interactive and as a result, rather personal and designed to build relationships and a community.

The various social media platforms can be wonderful additions to your marketing and advertising plans, but they’ve not yet vanquished the trusty throwback that is the press kit. The press kit remains viable and is a must-have promotional tool for every organization—for-profit or not-for-profit, large, small, solopreneur, or start-up. Also known as a media kit, the press kit can be considered a resume for your business and with it you can create a narrative for your organization, in electronic format or as hard copy enclosed in a folder that you personally hand out.

Your press kit can contain any number of resources that inform recipients about your company and it can be customized to promote objectives you’d like to achieve. Business editors and journalists targeted to receive a press release, prospective clients that you plan to court, potential investors and business partners are among those who are press kit candidates.  Below is a list of ingredients that will help you tell your brand story:

1. Company Fact Sheet (known as the one sheet)

  • When and where the company was founded and its current location
  • Is the company privately or publicly held (date of initial public offering, if applicable)?
  • Company mission statement
  • Two or three of the most prominent clients if B2B, or largest target customer groups if B2C
  • Primary products or services
  • Number of employees
  • Company legal structure (corporation or limited liability company)
  • Website address and social media links

2. Photos

  • Professionally done headshots of the founder(s) and the leadership team (as high resolution images suitable for print or online publications)
  • A photo of the building where your office is located and/or a photo of the office entryway or reception area

3. Press releases

  • Selected press releases that have been sent to media outlets
  • Links to (selected) articles that have been written about the organization
  • Links to (selected) industry related articles written by the founder(s) or other company leaders

4. Videos

  • A three-minute clip of the founder(s) giving an overview of the company story, or announcing a new product or strategic partnership (if production budget is available)
  • If the founder(s) has been interviewed on television or radio to speak about the company or the industry, include a three-minute clip.

Business editors and journalists will be more willing to feature or include your company in an article if you can quickly email a press kit that gives them some background information.  If you plan to contact media outlets to announce a new product or service, for example, or let the public know that you will participate in a noteworthy charity event in your metro area,  put together an online media kit before you send the press release.

Before you hit the send button, call the publication and confirm who should receive the information.  A day or two after sending, call to confirm that it was received and ask if additional information would be appreciated.  Offer to send your press kit. Invite the reporter to your office for a casual chat or a formal interview (you can hand out the hard copy press kit if you’ve not yet sent the online version).

If attracting prestige clients to join your roster is the goal, your press kit can be an effective marketing tool that helps to convince those prospects that you are capable, trustworthy and have a good track record.  Prospects will learn the basics about you, your leadership team, the history of your company. They’ll see that you’ve worked with other good clients and that media outlets have written about, or quoted you (if you include press clippings).

Financial and business performance information, such as year-end balance sheets, growth and earnings statistics and other key performance indicators will please potential investors and partners and allow them to quickly understand the financial position of the company. Your press kit can potentially help to persuade certain of them to enter discussions that could result in an infusion of cash that would propel your venture to the next level.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Press Kit Recipe

Public Relations experts say that creating a good press kit is as essential as creating a good website.  Both items reflect your brand and are important marketing tools for your business.  Make your press kit one-stop shopping for a busy journalist,  prospective customer or potential referral source who would like information about you and the products and services that your business provides.  PR pros say that a useful press kit contains the following ingredients:

Company overview    AKA the “one sheet” gives a thumbnail sketch of your business: company name,  year formed,  contact info,  name and contact info of the company’s media spokesperson if the business is not a single person entity,  a succinct description of the products and services provided and two or three key benefits,  value addeds or outcomes derived.

FAQs    Differentiate your company from the competition and provide helpful information with a Frequently Asked Questions page,  if you desire.  Use as a guide questions that prospective clients ask when you meet to discuss doing business.

Bio   The founders,  principals,  C-level executives and major investors should submit a one page bio for the press kit.  The qualifications of the leadership team should be made known.  Lou Hammond,  of the public relations firm Hammond and Associates,  recommends that three paragraphs is the ideal length of a bio.

Testimonials    Customer testimonials allow those who have done business with you to sing your praises and add loads of credibility to your professional capability.  Invite your three best customers to write a sentence or two and extol your virtues.  Again,  keep the testimonial segment to one page.

Press releases    Include three or four recent press releases,  so that the press kit recipient will know what you are saying about your business activity: new product or service launches,  business partnership,  speaking engagements,  webinar presentations or participation in a local charity event,  for example.

Article links     Formerly known as press clippings,  include links to articles in which your business has been mentioned to let interested parties know that you’ve garnered press coverage.

Photos    Invest in a session with a professional photographer and get an attractive head shot of yourself and each leadership team member.

Audiovisuals    A link to a short video clip of you or a leadership team member speaking at a prestige event,  accepting an award and/or demonstrating a product can be included.  Customer testimonials can also be presented in this format.

Press kits are usually compiled and distributed electronically.  Nevertheless,  there can be reasons to have ready hard copy to present to select individuals on the spot.   A physical press kit represents another opportunity to communicate good things about your brand.  Create an attractive and informative package.  Enclose the information in a portfolio folder in your company’s signature color.  Attach a pre-printed label that contains your company name and logo.  Print documents on good quality paper stock.  Remember to include your business card.

Despite the rise of social media,  the relevance of traditional media outlets,  whether print or online,  has not diminished.  No matter how many social media followers you may have,  mention of your name in the business section of a legitimate publication gives real credibility to you and your business.  Invest the time and money necessary to create an informative and attractive press kit and update its contents each year.

Thanks for reading,

Kim