The Oh So Popular Press Release, How-To Win at the PR Popularity Contest

Every artist or business needs great press, yet in our modern digital era the competition is fierce just to get noticed, let alone get press. Which let’s face it, it something we all want because we are all doing it with the purpose to sell something, offer a service or somehow make some money. And since we now live in the DIY era, please let me give you a few insights as you set off to become your own media marketing guru…

There are a few things that confuse people about press releases–mainly the purpose–which then affects the results. What’s happening these days is kind of like a young kid who doesn’t know there was anything called a camera whose only function was to take photos before the iPhone was invented, LOL. In the advertising and marketing industry there are still a few things that surpass even the technological advances, and that is the PURPOSE of the press-release.

The purpose is NOT for advertising, it is NOT for sharing an upcoming event, a newly released service, book, etc.  – it is for sharing — NEWS in the hopes that SOMEONE ELSE working for some publication or website somewhere is going to write about you, and advertise and share your event or new product with the world. It is not a stand-alone piece no matter what the new genre of press companies online may seem  to indicate.

This may sound counter-intuitive, but let me explain.  I hate to break this to you, and if you know me in person, you know how polite I am, so it pains me to say this, LOL, but if you write a book, start a new business, release a new product, etc., no one cares, it’s NOT NEWS. It may seem like news, but it’s only news to your family, friends and loved ones, maybe some peers or clients, but to the general public and media outlets it’s not news. So sorry to be the bearer of this marketing tragedy :-) but I promise the insight will be helpful in the long run.

For example, let’s say you create a new environmentally friendly, non-toxic cleaning product that you believe is the absolute best in the world. Sure you can let people know, at a smaller level and in some niches you may get some traction, but major news outlets that reach mass public are not going to care. Now say the actress Jessica Alba creates a new line of eco-friendly products for babies and launches a new company to sell it, that is news to many major mass media markets and large demographic markets. Or let’s say actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s new book about cooking just landed on the New York Times Best-Seller list this week, that’s also news and will surely have publicists spinning their wheels to get more press and in turn garner more sales.

So what’s a small DIY’er to do? A few things…First you have to get creative and put a spin on something so it IS news. You need to find even just one element that makes what you have to say groundbreaking to peak a journalists interest. Then you need to know your “local” target market, not just meaning geographically local, but demographically local and where to find them. Next, make connections before you need them. Network, get to know someone from various publications and news outlets ahead of time in your local target market. The top business writer from the NY Times may not care, your local community magazine or one specific to your niche anyone on the internet, maybe so.

Here is an example of a press release I wrote for my Synagogue for a recent new service series they started this year. In and of itself, a Friday night Shabbat service is not news, however, having no Friday services for decades along with an old lineage, yet being newly growing this year, to me did indeed make it news, and I spun it as so.  It was picked up in our local community newspaper, which is where it was relevant to us and gave the organization a boost of press.  They printed it nearly verbatim to what we sent in. Read the .pdf sample here.

Now when it comes to the actual writing there are plenty of tips and you can goggle around to find a million, but here are a few basics:

Go back to 6th grade English class – each release must address the 5 W’s – who what, when, where, why and how…(I’ve never quite understood how “how” made it in there, but it did according to Ms. B in room 206, so I’m stickin’ to it!). A quote from someone noteworthy within your field or organization can be a good tactic.  Create a catchy, newsworthy title and subtitle. Keep it simple and to the point; leave out wordiness. No more than one page, less is always more.  Make sure your list of contacts is as relevant and targeted as you can.  Proper format/design is still key, but do it directly in your email. Do not send an attachment. Be aware you are sending this to journalists who get hundreds of releases each day, so follow the guidelines so you look professional and make it stand out the best you can.

Even if you want to use an online service that touts grandiose promises of getting your release seen by the masses of journalist for one low fee, you are just still a fish in a big sea of every other fish trying to get their fins noticed, then get someone to w rite about how great their fins are, and then someone to buy the very thing you made with those fins! Once you start getting noticed, then getting press, then growing your business, then making real profits, then to keep the ball rolling, you simply hire someone to do this all for you!

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