Optimize Your Press Release For Social Media

The social media tsunami shows no sign of abating. According to 2018 data supplied by Statista, 68% of US adults have a Facebook profile and 75% of that group logs on daily. According to data supplied by the social media management platform Hootsuite, 21 % of US residents are active users of Twitter in 2018; 22 % are age 30 – 49 years and 18 % are age 50 – 64 years.

Instagram claims the loyalty of 20 % of the US population, 38 % of users are women and 26 % are men. Thirty-three percent of Instagram active users are age 30 – 49 years and 18 % are age 50 – 64 years. Sprout Social, the social media management platform, reports that 71 % of US businesses have an Instagram account.  Instagram data shows that 80 % of its users follow at least one business and 60 % of users have learned about a business through the platform.

I think you’ll agree that we  may reasonably conclude that exploiting social media’s hold on the population is a wise business decision.  Social media platforms are widely accepted in both the business and personal sectors and as indicated by the statics above, its influence continues to rapidly expand as innovators and thought leaders continually pioneer creative uses for it.

The tried-and-true press release has recently been pulled into the social media orbit.  Why not make your company’s next press release stand out to journalists and bloggers and kick it up a notch with social media tools? A press release optimized with the right social media platforms can be a savvy promotional add-on that complements the standard format you’ll send to media outlets.

Step One is to create a traditional press release that concisely and dynamically describes the who, what, when, where and why of your announcement and communicates why readers of your target media outlets, as well as your clients and social media followers, will appreciate the information.

Step Two is to customize your press release with social media that make your story pop and hook your target audience.  Let’s review the building blocks of a well-written press release:

Headline
Devise an attention-grabbing hook for your headline. Use SEO key words, wherever practical.

Sub-Headline (if needed)
There may be a second, follow-up headline that enhances or clarifies the primary headline. Use SEO key words here.

Contact
Who do interested parties contact for follow-up or more information? Include the name, title and preferred method of contact specifics.

Summary
A two or three sentence overview of the key message(s) of the press release may be appreciated, especially if it is longer than one page.

Body
Place the selling points of your media pitch here, in language that resonates with readers.  Incorporate key words for those who may be searching the topic.

Company info
Include a brief company bio with links to the company website and social media.

Social media links
Optimize your press release with social media links that enhance its storytelling power and go beyond the traditional text format. Include a brief video, two or three still photos and links to additional text that will support your story and resonate with your intended readers.

Media kit links
A soft-sell promotion of your company will be achieved when you dip into the media kit and include links to previous press releases, whether social media optimized or not. If your company has been favorably mentioned in the press, especially in articles that support the purpose of your press release, provide links.

Tags
Share your social media optimized press release on your company’s Facebook Fan page, Twitter hashtags and social bookmarking sites.

Thanks for reading,
Kim

Image: A poem for “The Pavilion with Various Views,” attributed to Mi Fu (1051 – 1107) Northern Song Dynasty, China

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Headline Hooks That Reel In Readers

Whether you’ve written an email,  blog post,  newsletter,  white paper or press release,  your primary job is to persuade your intended readers to read what you’ve written.  Anyone worth writing for is buried in potential reading material.  Prioritizing and skimming are the norm.  Use yourself as an example.  When sorting through business or personal reading material,  what persuades you to stop and read?  The headline!

The headline is the hook that reels in readers.  Dull headlines do not grab attention.  They do not resonate with or intrigue your intended readers.  They do not communicate the value of the content that you’ve spent time to research and write.  Package and sell your content with a headline that makes your intended readers know that your content,  email or press release contains valuable information.

Headlines alert intended readers to subjects of interest.  Attention-grabbing headlines cause us to read even articles that we may conclude are a waste of time and which we may abandon,  but the subject line was like a siren song to our eyes.  Consider what would be most appealing,  or alarming,  to your intended readers and also descriptive of the content.  The perspective from which you must create your subject line / title is from the intended reader’s ultimate vetting question,  “What’s in it for me”?

The right headline gets you more attention,  more readers,  more buzz and more results.  Keep these headline categories in mind as you create the headline for your next important communication:

I.     How-to headline

Content that instructs and informs will benefit from a headline that motivates intended readers to take action

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  • Headline Hooks That Reel In Readers

II.    Challenge headline

Headlines that pose a question that intended readers are presumed to want answered,  because they likely grapple with the predicament that the content addresses

  • Is Your Business Model Still Relevant?
  • Will Producing Content Take Over Your Life?
  • Would You Like To Scoop Your Biggest Competitor’s Biggest Client?

III.  Targeted headline

Needless to say,  targeting is the basis of marketing and customer outreach and the more specific the headline is to the interests of the intended readers,  the greater the probability that the content will be read

  • Financial Management Tips for the Finance Phobic
  • PR Strategies for Cash-Strapped Start-Ups
  • Teaching Brings Cash and Credibility to Freelance Consultants

IV.   Warning headline 

“Shock and awe”  headlines put intended readers in a head lock and drag them in,  often times even if they would rather not.  Many newspapers and magazines specialize in such headlines

  • What Your Clients Won’t Tell You About Your Sales Pitch
  • Why Your Advertising Budget is Only Money Down the Drain
  • You Can’t Retire On Less Than $2 Million

V.      Story headline

Entice intended readers with a headline hook that communicates the theme of your compelling narrative

  • A Back Bay Grande Dame Celebrates Her 125th Birthday
  • The Client Wore Black
  • From Living in a Car to Living at the Taj: An Uncensored Story of the Entrepreneurial Life

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

Getting Good PR

Every Freelance consultant and business owner has an eye open for good publicity opportunities.  Articles written about one’s business are far more effective than paid advertisements,  because they are considered objective opinions.  Other than word of mouth by satisfied clients who sing your praises,  there is nothing better than good PR to help build the buzz that makes you look credible and successful and worthy of still more business.  So what are the best ways to get good publicity?

If you have the kind of business that can potentially attract more than sporadic media attention,  then building relationships with editors and writers whose publications and stories focus on your category of business is a good use of your time.  Once you’ve identified good media prospects by reading their articles,  send a press release that details an event that would interest.  In your email,  reference an article or two of theirs that you’ve read.  Follow up with a telephone call.  Offer to take that person to lunch or coffee.  Even if your press release doesn’t get you any editorial space,   you may be called to provide comments as an expert when other stories are written.  Check in periodically,  to maintain the relationship.  Meeting for coffee every once in a while can pay off.

Bloggers have lots of influence and it is sometimes a challenge to reach them.  Blog Dash is a site I recently found that helps you connect with bloggers whom you can hire to spread the good word about your business.  Fifteen categories of business are represented,  from arts to travel,  and numerous bloggers within each category can be reached.  There is a free option,  which will give you no real access to bloggers  (but they will see your business and may comment),  or you can pay up to $50.00/month and be able to pitch bloggers directly and build relationships.  http://blogdash.com

Write a good press release  (see my post Press Release Primer,  3.1.11)  to encourage traditional journalists and bloggers to give your story some editorial space.   They are considered old school in some quarters,  but a press release is still the way to get the word out to journalists and bloggers,  whether or not they know you.   But you have to provide good content and 95%  of the time what a Freelancer or other business person has to say is not considered relevant.  Hint:  when one advertises,  one generally receives editorial space.

Solicitations to provide expert opinion or commentary showcase you to look like the go-to in your field.   Help a Reporter Out HARO  http://helpareporter.com and Seek or Shout  http://sos.cision.com  allow you to respond to requests for quotes on any subject,  from big data to the medical device industry.  Three or four years ago I signed up with HARO but I quickly shut this free service off.  I was nearly buried in emails and I couldn’t take it.

It is obvious that the adage  “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”  was created before the dawn of social media.  Social media can cause a minor PR hiccup,  or negative customer review made by a spiteful customer (or maybe a competitor),  to blow up out of proportion and do you some damage.  Resist the temptation to hand over your social media functions to some 22 year old.  In theory,  social media updates ought to be a great responsibility for a young person who lives this stuff anyway, understands how to get the word out and works cheap.   The problem is,  that young person may not have the wherewithal to give the right answer when something challenging is written.

Creating good buzz about your business is part of the Freelance consultant or business owner’s job.  How to get that done in the most effective manner requires a strategic approach,  like all of your other business activities.  If sporadic PR is what your business attracts,  it is best to engage in a variety of activities to ensure that you appear viable and relevant to clients and colleagues.  You may not get written up,  but you will build a good reputation.   If your business is the type that would attract more press,  then spend the time and money to advertise in the relevant publications and build relationships with journalists who cover your kind of business.   Subscribe to have the ability to reach out to bloggers and see what that does for you.  Budget for a year and then evaluate.  Learn to write a good press release  (see my post  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE,  3.19.13).

Thanks for reading,

Kim

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: How to Write A Press Release

In numerous posts,  I have urged readers to send out press releases.  Despite the presence of social media outlets,  traditional media outlets still matter and the usefulness of a well-crafted press,  or news,  release continues.  When you win an award,  participate in a major charity event in your community,  teach a class, host a webinar, or debut a new product or service,  a press release should be sent to the appropriate media outlets.

Writing a good press release can be a challenge.  The stakes are high for Freelance consultants and other small business owners who must promote their products and services to target markets on a shoestring budget.  The press release is an important representation of you and your brand and it’s imperative to make it effective. Reporters might receive dozens of press releases a week,  so the relevance of your story must be obvious.  The key to success is an interesting news hook,  says Lou Colasuonno,  former editor-in-chief at both The New York Post and The New York Daily News and now Senior Managing Director at the New York City P.R. firm FTI Consulting.

Colasuonno advises his P.R. clients to consider how newsworthy their story will be to a publication’s target audience. Colasuonno also advises that the press release email subject line summarize your story hook in 10 words or less.  Your release needs a good headline,  so that the editor or reporter will immediately see how your story will impact their readers.   He recommends that you customize your press release to the editor or reporter who has responsibility for whatever your topic is,  to improve the likelihood of a response.  Finally,  he cautions that you visit media outlet websites and note publishing deadlines.  Two weeks lead time is standard for many newspapers and a bi-monthly magazine may require three months lead time.

  • Determine the story your release will tell
  • Write a  “hook”  that communicates why your story qualifies as news to recipient media outlets
  • Avoid using words and phrases that are likely to get your email blocked by a spam filter
  • Keep to a 400 word maximum release

Follow the standard format when you compose your release.   At center top in capital letters,  write FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE and below that include the contact information,  with email address,  web address,  telephone number and today’s date.  Centered below the contact info and written in bold capital letters,  provide your headline.  If your press release must exceed 400 words or one page,  include a short synopsis of your story below the headline.

Many press releases begin with a dateline,  giving its city and state of origin in parentheses.  In the first paragraph,  summarize the story’s theme and newsworthy info very concisely.  The most significant items appear at the top of the page and less important information is stated in subsequent paragraphs.   The final paragraph gives standard company info,  including the company mission,  when the company was founded,  awards that have been received or other major achievements,  so that the media recipient will have some background information.

Add credibility to your news release by including at least one quote from someone in authority  (maybe that’s you).   An insightful quote communicates to readers why your story is important and deserves publication.  You might also add audio-visual aspects to your press release and include a YouTube or podcast link or link to a client testimonial from your website.  Finally,  it’s recommended to send your news release in the body of the email and also as an attachment,  since many editors and reporters will not open an attachment from someone whom they do not know.

Alas,  even when we follow all the  “rules”,  our press release may go begging.  Carson Stanwood,  Freelance PR/media consultant and COO of Channel Signal,  a social media analytics platform in Jackson Hole, WY,  claims that in his experience,  only about 10% of press releases receive a response from recipients.  He recommends that you follow-up your press release with a phone call and cautions that you not call daily or otherwise make a pest of yourself. I prefer to call the editor or reporter first,  to determine whether there is interest in my story.

I pitch first and then send the press release if appropriate.  My strategy does not always work,  because editors and reporters sometimes lie,  unfortunately.  Really,  whether your story sees the light of day depends on what other news is happening and what the editor or reporter finds compelling.  But keep sending out press releases when appropriate,  because that is how relationships with the media are developed.  Offer to take a business reporter or editor to coffee and pitch your story in person.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Press Release Primer

What you need is a media event.   Along with positive word of mouth generated by satisfied customers,  there’s nothing that will enhance your business cred like a nice mention in print,  online,  social,  radio or television media.  Even if your phone doesn’t ring immediately,  you are guaranteed to take that good publicity straight to the bank.

You must get the ball rolling.   Keep your eyes and ears open for a newsworthy event to which you can attach yourself.   School boy or girl sports events,   health fairs,   neighborhood clean-up and flower planting initiatives or art fairs  are potential publicity opportunities.  

Or brainstorm a way that you can turn a spotlight onto something interesting that you will do.  Maybe you can nominate yourself for a professional or volunteer service award and figure out a way to win?  You must get creative and get involved.

You will send a press release.   A press release is a standard way of communicating with journalists.  Providing content is the most important function of the press release,  in addition to grabbing attention.  If written well,  your press release will pique the interest of the target journalists at your chosen media outlets.  Your press release will convey the essentials of your story.  It will make things easy for the journalist and increase the chance that you will receive coverage. 

You must identify the appropriate media outlets.   Get familiar with local business oriented radio and television programs,  bloggers and community and business newspapers and magazines.  Watch the programs,  listen to broadcasts,  follow the blogs and read the magazines and newspapers.  Learn which journalists cover stories like yours.  Take notes on stories they’ve written or reported on.  Obtain their email and phone contacts from the media outlet website,  or call and ask the receptionist.  Make special note of issue deadlines.

Send press releases 4-5 weeks in advance of your event.   Give target journalists adequate time to evaluate and plan to cover your story. 

Send the press release in the body of the email.   If there will be a good photo opportunity at the event,  inform  the journalist.  If you have an event press kit photo, attach to the email.  In your introduction,  mention that you’ve listened to or read certain of his/her stories and that you wonder if there could be some interest in yours.

You must follow up with a phone call.   Ask the receptionist for the best call times,  or ask the journalist in your voicemail.  Confirm that the press release was received.  Ask if your story merits coverage.  Ask if additional information would be helpful.

  • Your email subject line should read FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE,  so the journalist will know that a press release has arrived.
  • In the upper left corner,  the press release sender gives contact info: name,  title,  company name and address,  email,  telephone and fax.  If you are alerting journalists to a particular event,  provide the organization name,  address,  website and other contact info in the upper right corner.
  • In BOLD CAPS,  state your press release headline.  Make it straight to the point,  a title for your story.  Above that give the press release date,  also in bold.
  • Below the title,  you may also provide a 3-4 sentence summary overview of the press release subject.
  • Next,  provide the body of the press release.  Write in the third person and include the relevant who,  what,  when,  where and why of your story or event.  Give an unbiased and factual account that communicates why the journalist and his/her audience will find your story newsworthy.
  • If your press release is longer than one page,  you may choose to include bullet points to detail key story elements.
  • Conclude with 2-3 sentences about your company,  your product/service and website link.  Also include links to any related or relevant articles in which you have been mentioned or profiled,  as well as applicable video links.

Persuading the media to publicize you,  your work or your community involvement is always much more compelling to current and prospective clients than any advertising you could ever buy.  Third party endorsement is always perceived as more credible.

If packaged correctly,  what you do in your professional and/or personal life could be considered newsworthy by any number of local (or national) media outlets.  Put on your thinking cap and identify how you can contribute a story that will pay dividends for your professional reputation. 

Thanks for reading,

Kim