Press releases are powerful little pieces. In 500 words or fewer, they can reach readers all over the world, almost instantaneously, at little or no cost. Better yet, they often go viral, turning up in places you never expected. Best of all, sometimes your item will generate so much interest that a news publication will want to turn it into a feature story.
Press releases are usually free in print publications; several online press release sites will broadcast your news item widely over the Internet, some free, some for a fee. With the fee-based ones, you can choose from a range of features and corresponding prices.
In order to do their job, however, news releases must be written in a certain way to capture the attention of (first) news editors and (second) your reading audience. Here are four problems you’ll want to avoid:
1. Too salesy
A press release, should, on the surface, be an information piece. Its job is to create awareness about your business and your product or service and establish an image of you and your business as standouts in your niche. It should sound like an impartial, factual account; too much hyperbole, flowery language, or first-person (“I”) and second-person (“you”) language will undermine the authoritativeness of the piece.
2. Not salesy enough
The ultimate goal of a press release is to motivate people to buy from you. It should always lead back to you, your business, your product or service, your website, or your store. With that goal in mind, your news needs to be more compelling than “now open for business!” That’s okay to use when you’re just getting started, but more persuasive angles are discussed in #4. Always close with a call to action.
3. Too infrequent
A press release shouldn’t be a one-time thing; rather, submit them frequently for a cumulative effect. Once a month is a good frequency to maintain top-of-mind awareness among your target market. Also distribute them widely. Depending on whether you’re an online business, a brick-and-mortar business, or both, you have many options: your local newspaper(s), trade publications, and online news release services. For the most cumulative effect, send it multiple places.
4. Poor timing
At any given time, the news is dominated by a certain set of issues. If the topic of your press release seems irrelevant to the current news climate, the news editor won’t be interested; even if your piece did see print, not many people would read it. For best effect, tie into current news in one of the following ways:Piggyback on a “hot button” news item. This kind of news already has reader attention; they’ll be interested in your story because it’s relevant.
Tie into a holiday or other special day. The calendar is full of “awareness weeks,” “recognition months,” and other special times. Find one to connect your product or service with.
Tell about a controversy. Or create one, by challenging something an expert has recently said.
Reveal a scam. People love to hate scams!
Announce a free report, white paper, or guide you’ve just released. (Be prepared to deliver the piece, of course.)
When done right, press releases can be powerful marketing tools. Find someone skilled in writing press releases and get in the habit of submitting them regularly. Your dedication to this part of your marketing plan will pay off in greater recognition and bigger profits.
Lisa J. Lehr is a freelance copywriter specializing in direct response and marketing collateral, with a special interest in the health, pets, specialty foods, and inspirational/motivational/self-help niches.