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When Did You Last Use a Press Release?

by Jim Martin

Small business owners often neglect the marketing value of press releases. They are inexpensive, and if they are properly prepared and submitted, they can be great sales stimulants. Here are a few tips on how to set up a simple PR program that will really benefit your business.

Keep It Simple. You don’t have to be William Faulkner to write a good press release. If you organize your ideas, your words should flow easily. After all, you’re writing about something you love, something with which you’re very familiar: your business. Say what you want to say without unnecessary elaborations. If you don’t trust your writing skill, write the release and have someone you trust mark it up. In keeping it tidy, don’t forget to provide a name and phone number if they want to follow up on the release.

Know What You Want to Promote. Read the business pages of your favorite paper and see what they cover relative to local small businesses. They typically don’t cover sales, which they view as a normal (read non-newsworthy) function of business. Relocations (which I’m not recommending - perhaps a subject for later on), personnel changes and new product lines are more likely to gain attention. Sponsorships will almost always get you some ink. If you sponsor a little league team or a youth soccer club, those grab the local media. If you let the Boy Scouts or a local church group use your parking lot for an event, that also earns attention. This is the area in which you want to be the most creative. But remember, focus the release on the topic you’ve chosen, but ensure you have placed your business in the center.

Include a Photo. Most photos don’t get used, but editors who need a photo will be happy to use yours. Make sure it has great color. Even if it gets printed in black and white, the color may have helped to get it selected. Explain at the end of the release what the photo depicts. Make sure that any people in the photo are clearly identified.

Know What Your Customers Look For. You want to ensure this information excites potential customers. Add some major media praise for your new product. Add some quotes from satisfied customers. Cite applications that fit with your customers.

Develop Press Contacts. There are only a few local papers. Read them and find out who writes about small businesses. Call them before your first press release, introduce yourself and ask whether they prefer to have releases come directly to them or to the paper. Compliment them on the work they’ve done. After you’ve sent a release, follow up in a few days to see if they received it, and whether they have any questions. Include an email address from which they can request an electronic copy of the release. If they don’t have to type it, they will find it easier to use.

Use a Pleasant Format. A strange type will not catch attention. It will make your release hard to read, and hard to read means unread, placed in the round receptacle. Something like Ties New Roman would be effective. Double space, which makes it easier for the paper to edit. Use bold and italics (with restraint) to highlight key points. I know one business owner who always puts his business name in the shade of blue he has on his store front.

Don’t Over Do It. Unless you have a very big business with multiple locations and many different departments, I would recommend a maximum of four releases a year. That level would also place the smallest time constraint on you.