Gaining Free Publicity Through Press Releases
One of the greatest ways to promote your product or service is with publicity.
by Kathleen Gage
Many people have little, if any, understanding of how to go about securing publicity, never mind free publicity. Fact is, people will pay more attention to free publicity than they often do to paid advertising.
A simple way to gain free publicity is to write and distribute a well-written and well-formatted press release. A good press release is one of the most effective, and yet, most underutilized, of publicity tools. Simply put, a press release is an announcement you send to magazines, trade journals, newspapers, and newsletters. Also to radio and television. Often what you send to radio and television are referred to as PSA’s (Public Service Announcements).
I have one client who hosted an event and submitted one well-written and well-distributed press releases to the media. When the release made it in print, they went from having a 50% booking for their event through some direct mail efforts to filling up the entire room in less than 48 hours. This was worth a substantial amount of money to them.
Prior to writing a press release, determine the following:
- Who is your target market?
- What is your target media?
- Who is the contact person at the media outlet?
- What is the timeframe for submission?
- Do you have an attention-grabbing headline?
- Do you know the who, what, when, where, why, how?
- Do you have good quotes, research and technical date if appropriate?
Develop a system for writing and distribution of releases. Stay organized. Know how to send the press release to a specific media outlet and person. Each has their own preference as to how they want to receive it. It will be to your benefit to find out. A quick phone call will often provide you with this key information.
Editors are inundated with information. If you want their attention keep the release short and to the point. During busy times, like before a huge event in a city, they will be in information overload.
Don’t use massive amounts of buzzwords such as “its all-new, interactive, interoperable, cross-platform, new multimedia solution.” Avoid jargon. The general public will have no idea what your industry jargon means and editors rarely will take time to find out.
Give them the who/what/when/where/why as articulately as you can. Make your information is complete. Incomplete information is far more likely to get your press release in the trash bin than anything else.
The 5 Ws of Writing a Press Release or PSA
- Who should attend? Who will be there?
- What is taking place? What will come from this event? Is it a fundraiser?
- When is it happening?
- Where will this occur?
- Why would people be interested in the information? Why would they attend the event?
Sending press releases
Many journalists prefer that you send press releases via e-mail. You will find some die-hard snail mail folks, and a few who like faxes. If you're about to start working with a new journalist, and you're not sure how they prefer to receive their press information, ask. Once they tell you how they prefer the information, honor that request.
E-mail should be sent as a plain text file: the simpler, the better. Do not send a press release via email with an attachment. Most media people will automatically delete due to the concern of a virus. Do not send your email out via a mass email. Actually, if you use a good contact management database, you can send it by mass email and it appears as if each is a personalized email. Don't send a press release to your entire press list, with the entire recipient list visible.
When an editor calls for more information, respond to their call as quickly and professionally as possible. There is not substitute for building good relationships with the media. Don’t ever think you are too busy for them.
By making yourself available for the media, they tend to make themselves available for you. And what more could you possibly ask for?