Public relations is a promotions channel that helps businesses build a favorable image in the media and in their communities. However, one of the most difficult activities to undertake for a small business is to get press coverage. One of the ways to do this is by sending out a press release. Learn how to effectively write and distribute press releases so you can get your business the media attention it deserves.

What Is a Press Release?

A key public relations activity, a press release is a written piece of communication that includes newsworthy information about your business. It is provided to the media through a variety of distribution channels in order to inform them of relevant and timely information that they in turn may write about in their own publications. Press releases can also be shared publicly with consumers and the company’s target market in order to inform them of key events within the business.

Unlike other marketing activities, a press release does not guarantee any kind of promotion about your business. While the media may read your press release, they may not publish any information about your business if they don’t deem it interesting to their own audience. The media are interested in relevant content and news releases about which their target audience wants to know, so they will only pick up your story if it fits in with their agenda.

The goal of a press release is to promote a significant event within your business. Most press releases follow a specific template and offer clear information to the press in order to obtain media coverage. It’s important for press releases to be short, well-written and clear above all else. Many professionals in the media get dozens or hundreds of press releases a day, so they only spend a few seconds deciding whether to pay attention to yours.

What Kind of Information Warrants a Press Release?

While every major milestone your business reaches is an important event for the company, not all business activities require a press release. It’s important to select only newsworthy, relevant and valuable information to be shared in a press release to the media. Otherwise, media contacts may stop paying attention to your press releases if they find they are not providing them with the kind of content for which they are looking.

The kind of stories you’ll include in a press release will depend on your target market and to which publications you’re sending press releases. For example, if you’ve hired a new employee who has previously worked for a leader in your industry, this may be news that a local business journal may want to publish. However, if you were pitching this story to a local lifestyle magazine, it likely wouldn’t run the story because it would not appeal to its readers.

When thinking of sending out a press release, focus on whether the media’s audience would be interested in your news story. If you can’t find at least a few reasons for them to want to hear more, then it’s unlikely the media will write an article or produce a segment based on your press release. Depending on the audience and media outlet, examples of newsworthy releases may include:

  • A new round of funding your business has acquired

  • A new product or service you’re offering and how it’s different from any competitor

  • A new staff member you’ve hired or organizational restructuring you’ve done

  • A new partnership you’ve established with a supplier, manufacturer or other stakeholder in the business

How to Write a Press Release

Most press releases follow an established press release template with which media are familiar. This makes it easy for them to find the key information they need to decide whether to run the story or not. Be sure to keep your press release short — no more than 400 to 600 words. Offer the relevant information up front so the media doesn’t have to read through the entire document before understanding the important points.

Press releases should include:

  • Eye-catching headline: This is the title of the press release and will also be the subject of your email. The title should act like a story in itself and engage the media to open the press release to learn more.

  • Informative subheading: Your subheading should be under 20 words and should fill in the blanks from the headline. Expand upon the headline so that the media has enough information to decide whether they want to keep reading or delete your press release.

  • First paragraph: The news angle of your story needs to be present in the first paragraph and ideally the first sentence. Try to tie your company news to a trendy topic in the media or solve a problem about which the publication’s audience cares. For example, if you’ve developed a new green manufacturing process, share the news around Earth Day to tie in with any green-related stories the media is perusing.

  • Body copy: The rest of your press release should expand on the details in your first paragraph. Be sure to include a quote from a stakeholder within the company, such as the owner, CEO or a salesperson. You can also quote an external stakeholder, such as a customer or partner. Link to a custom landing page that includes further information about the topic of the release.

  • Company boilerplate: This is a short “about us” description of your company. It provides the media with details on what your company does and also offers a link to your website.

  • Contact information: It’s important to include the phone number and email address of your business’s media contact so that the press can get in touch with you if they have more questions about your story.

Always write your company’s press release in third person and ensure you’re including more than just facts. Offer an emotional connection that the media can get behind enough to share with their audience. Be sure to consider the timing of your press release and how it relates to the topic. For example, sending out a press release about Christmas décor in July likely won’t get any hits.

How to Send a Press Release

Once you’ve written and fine-tuned your press release, it’s time to send it to media outlets and news outlets. There are several options when it comes to press release distribution:

  • Sending directly to news outlets and media contacts: Build a list of traditional and nontraditional publications and media that would be interested in your press release. Remember to think about their audience and whether your story will be relevant to them. Traditional outlets include local television stations, newspapers, magazines and radio stations, while nontraditional media include bloggers or small online news publishers. Email the press release directly to the media contact.

  • Using a press release distribution service: This syndicate service enables business owners to send their press release to thousands of journalists, members of the media and influencers all at once. Distribution plans can be purchased from between $100 to $500 a month based on how many releases you want to send, to how many contacts and various other factors. PRWeb, eReleases and PR Newswire are examples of press release distribution services.

  • Sharing widely on social media: Businesses can distribute press releases on social media and increase their visibility by using relevant hashtags so that people who are searching for content on that topic can find it. This method not only reaches members of the media but the general public as well.

How to Invite Press for a Business Event

If your small business has a newsworthy event for which you want to get media coverage, it’s important to strategically invite press to cover your event. Be sure to consider the timeliness of your pitch so that it works with topics that are currently being covered in the media. For example, if you’ve just released a hot new product that no competitor has available, it will only be a newsworthy story if you can tie it to a trending topic. For example, what benefits does the product offer that relate to what the media’s audience members want to know?

Reach out to local members of the media directly if you’re interested in having them cover your event. Be sure to do your research so you reach the right people. After you’ve sent them your press release and invitation to the event, be sure to follow up. Remember that reporters and journalists often receive multiple requests each day and may not have read your email, and be realistic in your expectations when inviting the media to cover a small-business event.

How to Measure the Success of a Press Release

Once you have distributed your press release, it’s critical to measure its effectiveness and success. This way, you can learn whether your release had an impact on your business. It’s also a good way to see which topics are valuable to the media and which don’t garner a response. Metrics that help you understand the success of your press release include:

  • Landing page analytics: If you placed a link to a custom landing page in your press release as per best practice, track the traffic, conversion rates and the amount of time people spent on the page.

  • Google alerts: You can set up Google to notify you every time a keyword you have selected is discovered online. Track your company name, product names and other details relevant to the press release.

  • Press release reposting: Track how many outlets picked up your press release and republished it on their own sites.

  • Social media mentions: Track how your social media traction has changed since releasing the news. Also see whether you gained or lost any followers around the time of the press release.

  • News stories: Track how many media outlets wrote content based on information you provided in the press release. Note whether any members of the media contacted you for further information. These are good contacts with whom to follow up for your next release.

  • Sales: At the end of the day, it’s critical to check how well your business is doing. Track your sales before and after the press release to see whether the announcement has made an impact on your revenue.

Working With a PR Expert

Public relations for small business has the potential to be a full-time job depending on your goals and your industry. If writing press releases and following up with the media is one of your priorities, consider partnering with a public relations agency that specializes in helping small businesses get media attention.

Evaluate whether hiring a PR expert is worth the investment for your company by outlining what you hope to achieve with the media coverage. In many cases, PR can be more cost effective than advertising. Plus, it adds a layer of credibility since your business gains third-party validation. Be sure to look at how your competition is handling their public relations strategy so you can create a plan to stand out from the crowd.