Classic scenario: Your company has some news that might be interesting to the public, but you’re not entirely sure it’s worth making a fuss. As marketing pros, we see this often, and our typical response is: When in doubt, put it out. In a press release.
One of the most common mistakes businesses make is believing the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” makes business sense. In the movie, a bankrupt farmer builds a baseball field in an Iowa corn field because a mysterious whisper tells him, “If you build it, they will come.” No business plan. No 5-year forecast. No specification as to what “it” is, or “they” are. It works out because it’s Kevin Costner, but in reality, if you build it, you need to get the word out. Your business isn’t in a Kevin Costner movie. So, when in doubt, put it out.
Marketing takes many shapes and forms—from writing the perfect website SEO to creating the stickiest content for social media—but a tried-and-true method of promotion is the press release. It’s been around since it was ingeniously invented after a Pennsylvania Railroad crash in 1906 and has chugged along to become the go-to method for small businesses, Fortune 500s and the United States government.
What is a Press Release?
A press release is just as it sounds: A release of information disseminated to the press. The purpose is to inform news organizations of noteworthy happenings within your business (product release, new services, new leadership) in order to spark interest and potentially generate coverage—aka, a news story.
Who is the immediate audience of a press release? The press, and then the public via the press. What is the purpose? That’s slightly more complicated.
The immediate purpose of a press release might be to inspire a journalist to cover your business, but for most non-Fortune 500s, that’s rarely the outcome. Often, the real value of a press release is in its cumulative effect with regards to press relations. Simply informing the press about your news makes you top-of-mind and more accessible should your category expertise, business insight, or product/services strengthen a story that’s being considered by a reporter or editor.
Like anything worth doing, press releases can take time to pay off. Sometimes, though, your news is so noteworthy, it’s covered immediately—a moment to celebrate by sharing that story on your social channels. It’s what we call an Earned Media Win!
As a business owner, it can be hard to judge which news will get the most engagement. That’s where the expert PR pros at WildRock can assist.
The 6 types of Press Releases
All news isn’t good news, but it is still news. From exciting new product launches to a change in business operations to the opening (or closing) of a business, there’s a press release for almost everything.
General Press Release
Maybe you sponsored the State Champion High School Softball Team, installed a new state-of-the-art eco-friendly piece of equipment in your building, or met a fundraising goal for a non-profit. This space is your catch-all. It often covers community outreach, company culture and initiatives outside of operations directly tied to profit. Just don’t overdo it—not all news is newsworthy. A PR pro can help you figure that out.
New Launch Release
New products, new business goals, new eco-friendly initiatives (with business implications), new locations, etc. This category often catches the eyes of reporters because three of anything makes a trend, and reporters love to write trend stories.
Event Press Release
Grand-openings, a live music series, outdoor movies on the lawn, makers markets—if you’re holding an event that has potential to catch multiple interests, a press release is a must-have. Not only is a press release a sure-fire way to get into the calendar listings of your local outlets, but it also attracts like-minded businesses/partners interested in networking.
Staff-Related Press Release
Whether you just onboarded an exciting new hire, created a brand-new position within your company or saw a leadership change at the helm, these press releases are always good to put out. It’s a great way to stay on the radar of industry publications, hiring boards and recruiters. Plus, it can make you more attractive to talent if they see you’re innovative in your position creation and hires.
Expertise Press Release
Does someone in your C-Suite or beyond have expert insight into trending news? Reporters might be interested. Research organizations like universities use this as their bread-and-butter for news coverage. Reporters are always thirsty for interesting sources, so if a valid source comes knocking, there’s a great chance the result will be earned media coverage.
This one isn’t fun at all! A well-timed and strategically crafted crisis communications press release can help save a business by getting out ahead of an imminent negative story or growing public disapproval. Crisis communications create a space for businesses to communicate without the narrative spiraling out of control.
How to Create and Distribute a Press Release
Writing an effective press release, knowing who to target and working media contacts to build the release into a fully-fledged story are all skills that make up a successful PR professional. But that doesn’t mean creating a press release is outside the possibility for a business owner.
While “when in doubt, put it out” is a fine rule to follow, there are some follow-up questions to consider. How will the news impact your audience? How recent is the information? Why should the media care? Is there anything unusual (that’s a good thing!) about the news? Is there conflict in the news? Is this a human-interest story? Does the news involve anyone notable?
Asking these questions will not only help you decide whether you should create a press release, it will also help you begin structuring it according to the inverted pyramid writing structure that press releases follow.
Inverted Pyramid Writing Structure
The inverted pyramid writing structure is fairly simple. Think of a triangle. Now turn it upside down. That’s how you’ll prioritize your information in the first, second and subsequent paragraphs of your release.
The flat, shallow top (what was once the base) is the first paragraph and contains your most important information—it’s the 30,000-foot view. The headline and first paragraph should have everything a reader will need to know to understand the story.
The middle chunk of the inverted triangle is the second paragraph—maybe add in a quote if you’ve got a good one. This is the value-add information that deepens a reader’s understanding. It’s all fairly important, but not essential.
The bottom of the inverted triangle is the nice-to-have information that ties the story together. Additional quotes, long-term outlook predictions, boilerplate company information. It concludes your story.
How To Distribute Your News
The final step is distributing your news—this is where it really pays to have a PR professional on hand. Pitching stories, placing releases on wires, monitoring trends and maintaining relationships with reporters, editors, bloggers and influencers is time intensive and relies on strategic expertise.
But a well-placed story can go a very long way in putting your business on the proverbial map.
Bring PR Professionals Into Your Fold
News sometimes happens overnight for businesses, but more often, it’s the work of a tireless PR professional that brings coverage to your business’s door. With the award-winning experience at WildRock PR & Marketing, carefully crafted press releases and smart media strategy will give you a leg up on building a newsworthy narrative about your business.
Still on the fence? Check out our book: CHANGE. ADAPT. ROCK. for Press Release tips that you can begin using today.