True story: the week my sister and I opened our bakery, a reporter reached out and asked us for our press release. Frantically, I thought to myself “WTF is a press release????”, and then hopped on Google. I spent the next 2 hours in a near-panic, not wanting to lose out on a press opportunity (GOLD MINE!!), but thinking to myself that I’m way out of my league because I had never even SEEN a press release, let alone written one of my own.
In the end, I did manage to draft a press release that led to features in several newspapers, magazines, and local community blogs. I was thrilled! What was this magic?! Why weren’t more people writing press releases, or talking about how important this is for small businesses to get their name out there? This was free marketing! This was awesome!
Nearly 7 months later, we are still reaping the rewards of those articles. When you Google our business name, they come up at the top of the results. Customers come in alllll the time saying they heard about us through one of these articles. Free press is like the gift that keeps on giving!
Bottom line, every business should be using press releases to get the word out about their opening, new product line launches, or any other big news happening with your business. Big businesses do this all the time, and there is no reason why smaller + local business can’t be doing the same! Reporters want to write about you, and one really easy way to let them know what’s going on is through a press release.
What is a press release?
Let me back up a little bit here because if you’re anything like me, you might not even know what a press release is. Basically, a press release is an official announcement your business issues to the news media to communicate something newsworthy or important.
If you’re opening a storefront, releasing a new product line, opening a second location, hosting a fundraiser, moving locations...anything that would be of particular note and that reporters would want to write about in their publication (large or small) can get communicated out via a press release!
A press release is basically a “cheat sheet” for reporters to use when they write an article about your news or announcement. Sometimes, a reporter who receives your press release will reach out to conduct an interview so they can get more information about your big announcement, while other times they will write an article using just the information included in your press release.
Pssssst: I made a free mad-lib style template you can use to write a press release of your own in about 15 minutes...don’t forget to grab a copy if you want to simplify this whole process for yourself. I also included a sample press release you can use as a reference!
Should I be writing a press release?
Yeah, ya should be :-)
Seriously -- this is like free marketing! Writing a press release to get the word out about your business can be a total game-changer. If you’ve always thought press exposure is out of your league...think again. Being featured in the media, even a smaller local paper, can expose you to customers and opportunities you may not be able to access in any other way.
Writing a press release is a task you can accomplish in an hour or two...it’s a quick win you can get done for a $0 investment. What other marketing technique that has the potential to expose you to thousands of new customers costs (literally) nothing?!
If you don’t want to have to start from scratch, I put together a template you can use to knock out your first press release in about 15 minutes! Sign up below and I’ll e-mail it to you :-)
Have I convinced you yet?
What kind of media outlets can I get featured in? (Or: Where do I submit a press release?)
The sky is really the limit here, but I would recommend starting with local papers and publications (especially if you’re a new business).
Send your press release directly to local (or national!) reporters and bloggers. You’ll have to do your research here! Who you send your press release to will depend on your goals and your business. Some ideas for where to send your press release:
- Local newspapers
- Newspapers just outside your immediate geographic area (maybe there’s a larger city nearby, or a neighboring town where it’d make sense to send it)
- Local news magazines
- Local culture magazines
- National news outlets (New York Times, LA Times, etc)
- Industry-specific magazines
- Your local Chamber of Commerce or business district
- Local news blogs
Once you decide on the specific outlets or publications you want to submit your press release to, find the name of a specific person at each media outlet to e-mail (or snail-mail) your press release to. Make sure you do your research here...you don’t want to submit your news about a new restaurant to the technology reporter at your local paper (they won’t care!). Find the reporter who writes articles relevant to your announcement or industry, and send it to that individual directly. You can likely find their e-mail addresses via the publication’s website (or through some good old fashioned Google sleuthing!).
I did a quick search on one of the papers in my city (the Chicago Tribune) … clicking in to an article gives me an option to “Contact Reporter” right at the top of the page:
You can also try checking for a “Contact” section on the publication’s website (this may be located in the footer or bottom section allllllll the way at the bottom of the page).
Once you have the direct e-mail of the reporter or writer you want to send your press release to, you’re ready to send it off! Be sure to be friendly and personable, and brief. A quick note at the beginning of the e-mail will build rapport and go a long way to getting you noticed. (“Hello, Andy! My name is Meg and I wanted to send along a press release for a fundraiser I’m hosting for the Best Buddies program at the local high school. Thank you for your time!”)
Paste your press release directly into the e-mail instead of as an attachment.
Two more tips: don’t forget to include a relevant subject line when submitting press releases, and SPELL CHECK!
Meg, do you have an example of a press release?
I thought you’d never ask! Transforming the news about your new retail storefront / helpful product / awesome new service into a press release format that’s easily digestible for reporters is the real trick.
Before we break this down paragraph-by-paragraph...don’t forget to download my fillable press-release template to help you write your first press release in about 15 minutes (+ a sample press release for reference):
In general, when writing a press release you should stick to cold, hard facts. Leave out any flowery or overly-descriptive language and keep it straightforward and to-the-point. When in doubt, follow this format:
- State your news / reason for the press release in 1 sentence
- Give some brief background information on your news or business (1-2 sentences)
- Give some detail on why your news is UNIQUE or SPECIAL (e.g., why would anyone care?? Remember: stick to facts, and avoid embellishing.)
- Touch on any relevant background information
Give a quote the press can use. This is where you can get in a piece of your personality, since the rest of the press release should be all about facts.
- Give any final relevant information...it’s OK to reiterate what you said in the first sentence (prices, hours, release date, etc)
- Include your contact information at the very end (social media, website, e-mail, phone number)
To make this even easier for you...I put together a mad-lib style template you can use to write your press release in about 15 minutes! I also include an example press release so you can see how this works in action. Sign up below to grab that template!
Hopefully I’ve convinced you how easy + impactful writing a press release can be for your small business. Now get out there and start taking advantage of this incredible (+ free!!!) marketing tactic!