Writing a press release can be daunting if it is not something you are used to but rest assured, it is absolutely possible. While it is fantastic (and vitally important) to have a large number of followers on social media and blog subscribers, mainstream media can deliver the biggest bang for a non-existent buck (or Rand, Euro, or Dollar).
Mainstream media (we are talking about traditional print, broadcast, and some online publications) offers two things that social media does not: objectivity and credibility.
(Quick example: if you write on your blog that your service or product is the best, your readers will know on some level that it is you – or your copy writer – speaking. If a journalist says the same thing, even using the same words, the impact can be phenomenal. Make sense?)
Grabbing the attention of a journalist is not an easy thing to do but here are a few tricks from my years as a PR professional to help you on your way:
1) Media list
Who are you targeting with your products or services ? Are there publications, television or radio programmes or specific bloggers who attract the people who would be interested in your services or products? Make a list of these on a simple Excel or Word document (there is a simple version of a Word document that I often use with my clients in the image below).
Sample Media Distribution List
Finding contact details of a print magazine is easy and usually in the first few pages of the publication. In the rare case that an email address is not provided there should be a phone number: call and ask for the email address of the person who you would like to send the story.
With online publications, radio and television the easiest way to find contact details is via their webpage. Find a a phone number for radio and television and ask for the email address of the show’s producer. Bloggers usually have a Contact Us page, or similar to work from.
2) What’s your angle
In my opinion this is the trickiest part for non-PR people to overcome, and the biggest stumbling block because without nailing this, your article will not get published. First of all, do not think of this as advertising or marketing. Think of yourself as thought leader, I promise, you ARE a wealth of information, what do you know, or have that can help others? For example, let us look at a mom who has a home industry business, bakes pies and cakes, called Mom’s Cakes for example. Writing a press release about Mom’s Cake’s being the best on the planet will not get published (even if it is true!), nor will a story about discounts or specials currently being run. But, she could submit a recipe to highly sought-out publication. Or write a story on “Top Tips for Baking a Cake” (HINT: Tips and Lists make for great articles and are most often used, especially online publications like my article on mompreneurs that was printed by WomanOnline).
Depending on the angle of your article, start with a startling statistic that can be backed up (a quick Google search will likely give you good fodder) or offer a conundrum that you are about to solve? (to go back to Mom’s Cakes, an intro could be: ‘Cakes that do not rise, icing that does not set and not knowing how big of a cake to bake are just a few reasons that many women are afraid to try their hand at baking. However, Joanne Smith from Mom’s Cakes has a few sure fire tips to help even the most distressed want-to-be baker create her first masterpiece”
Shorter is better, 400-600 words usually (opinion pieces are a completely different ball game and can run up to 1000 or more. Chances are you are not submitting to the Mail & Guardian so keep it short and sweet).
Also to do with words, triple check for spelling and grammatical errors, and it is always better to err on the side of caution and get a second person to read through your article. This is ESPECIALLY true of the title in the subject line: it is a spell-check free zone! I cannot tell you how many times I have hit send, only to see a spelling mistake in the subject line as the email leaves my Outbox! It still haunts me.
You will see that in my blogs on EntrepreneurMom I use exclamation marks, the odd emotion icons and contractions (such as ‘I’m’ instead of ‘I am’). That is because it is not a press release and this is not mainstream media! PLEASE do not do that in a press release, and also do not overuse adjectives, try to remain objective!
5) A photo is worth a thousand words
Add a relevant photograph if you have one (and be prepared to source one at quick notice if a journalist requests one). Send a low resolution (under 100kb is just fine) but again, be prepared for higher resolution (1Mb) should there be a request (this is especially true for print publications but also television that may want photos as a backdrop. If you plan to regularly write pieces for mainstream media and live in the Johannesburg area, consider contacting Stephanie van der Molen from Tresors Studio for a well-priced photo shoot.
This is your time to shine, and a little piece to add after the ending of your press release, all about you and what makes you an expert in your field (again, trust your inner #mompreneur, you ARE an expert and it is okay to flaunt it!). Something like, “Claire Winson is a public relations consultant who has merged her passions for PR and helping mompreneurs into EntrepreneurMom. EntrepreneurMom is a digital platform dedicated to helping moms to start, grow, and create awareness of their businesses”
7) The pitch
This is when it all comes together (usually an email is best; you can follow up via phone in a few days). Write a short introduction, using formalities such as Dear (and the name, which you will know from point 1), or Good morning (name), and finish with a traditional closing such as Best wishes, etc. In between you are motivating succinctly why they should use your article, (back to Mom’s Cakes, “Many women struggle when it comes to baking for their loved ones. As a home industry owner with more than 10 years of experience in creating masterpieces in the kitchen I would like to share some of my tips with your readers.”). If you have selected the right publication for the story (a woman and home type) you will get a response!
You have worked hard to build your mom-based business, I believe harder than most entrepreneurs because there is more demanded of you and your time. Be proud of your accomplishments and do not be afraid to share your knowledge and expertise with others through mainstream media.
Feeling a little daunted? EntrepreneurMom offers PR services, aimed and priced for busy mompreneurs. Find out how to Work with Me here.
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