Many small and emerging growth businesses get a kind of writer’s block when it comes to communicating their latest accomplishments in press releases. What to write about, when to share it, who in the media to approach, how much to share — all are questions that can befuddle even the most ambitious business owner or marketing manager.
Keep in mind that, historically speaking, a press release is nothing more than a formulaic communication device used when making an announcement to the public through the media.
The Internet, however, has since flipped that concept on its head. What that means for business is that there are many more topics than ever before that can become the subject of a press release.
In the past, the audience for a press release was limited to mainstream media. On occasion shareholders or other stakeholders might read them. Rarely would they reach the hands of a wider audience.
Today, press releases have so many more possibilities. The crux is how to recognize a trigger event when it happens so that you can write a press release and share it with an appropriate audience.
My list below should give you some guidance:
Company founding: when your company is founded, it’s an opportunity to share it with the local business news, especially if it involves leasing real estate and hiring employees.
Product launch: announcing a new product or service line merits a press release every time. A press release will explain to both media and customers alike what the product or service is, when it’s launching, what the price is, how to find it, etc. Maybe it’s about a spring clothing line, a sales enablement tool for enterprises or a new organic cold brew coffee beverage available at Whole Foods. You will want to communicate the key facts as succinctly as possible to interested media and customers.
New employee: say you just hired a VP or C-level employee, you will be wise to issue a release to the local business reporters (and possibly trade journalists) as it represents a significant hire for any company.
Tech startup funding: no matter whether it’s a relatively small Angel investment or a larger Series A or B round of funding, you should always accompany the event with a press release targeting relevant tech media outlets.
Awards: what if you win an industry award like an ADDY or something from an industry trade group like the National Association of Home Builders? You have a reason to do a little bragging! A press release is the place to brag to media in hopes of getting some coverage that can help grow your reputation and sales funnel to boot. Just don’t come off too self-congratulatory or a reporter may get turned off.
Milestones: akin to an award, this allows you to tell the world about your latest accomplishment in the form of milestones like years in business, number of customers served, etc. Think of McDonald’s and the number of burgers sold, which the company stopped counting at 99 billion back in 1999, by the way.
Mergers, acquisitions or strategic partnerships: these can be big news for a community or a vertical industry and so should be communicated in a press release. The terms of the deal – acquisition price, share price, ownership percentages – need to be related to the business or trade press. A community business reporter wants to know how many jobs could be gained or lost as a result of the transaction. A trade blogger wants to talk about what the combined enterprise means for the industry as a whole – higher prices, lower prices, more investment in R&D, etc.
Real estate: when you expand into a larger office or operational facility it’s usually cause for a press release explaining what is causing the growth. Be ready to cite specifics of the real estate deal: square-feet of new space versus old space, rent, number of employees, and possibly even revenue numbers or growth rates.
Charitable contribution: large monetary gifts from businesses tend to get in the news, if only in the pictures section where an oversized check is handed over to a nonprofit executive director. If you have an award ceremony and the amount donated is substantial, then consider writing a media alert or press release announcing the gift and details of the event.
Charitable fundraisers: speaking of charitable contributions, a nonprofit holding its annual fundraiser is certainly wise to consider a press release when it comes to informing the local media about the who, what, where, when and why of the event.
Capital improvements: I’m not talking about a trip to Lowe’s for a can of paint and some new furniture. If your company is about to make a 7-figure investment in adding new plant capacity or other improvements, then pick up the laptop and start writing. Any local news departments will be curious to learn what the changes will mean for the local economy in the form of jobs, more traffic, higher tax revenues, etc.
Grants: say you won a major government grant from the CDC to study a new drug therapy for treating Ebola. Because of how complicated the research project probably is, a press release is a smart way to communicate the details without handing out a dissertation. A press release also allows you to include a couple quotes that can be used in case a full-on interview is not possible.
Educating customers: sometimes a press release is a great way to educate the customer about a new offering or recent success story and doing it in the form of a press release that you email out or post on your blog is a clever way to drive inquiries.
Search engine optimization: SEO became a huge driver in the recent proliferation of press release distribution websites like PRWeb and PRLeap. If you don’t have earth-shattering news to share yet want to improve your search engine rankings, press releases can be part of an overall strategy to effect a positive change in your Google or Yahoo ranking. Just be sure your press releases are still a source of good, quality content or readers may begin to view your content with a certain amount of skepticism – i.e., that you are trying to sell them something or pushing an SEO agenda as opposed to providing facts and relevant news. That, and Google tends to look askance at what it calls keyword stuffing in press releases; Hell hath no fury like Google’s penalties for what it considers black hat SEO.
Expansion: is your business expanding into a new territory? If you’re staffing up a team in the UK or Hong Kong, then a press release will inform the local media in both your city of origin and newest location about your hiring plans and expected impact on the local economy.
Software upgrade: is your tech startup about to release a major mobile software update, or issue a new app upgrade that helps companies with cybersecurity? A press release will help you capture all the new updates in a way that bloggers at TechCrunch, Mashable and VentureBeat can easily digest and incorporate into an article.
As you can see from above, the topics for a press release are as varied as your creative mind can reach.
The key is to know what your goals for the press release are. Is it for getting some prized publicity, to educate your customers or investors, to improve your search engine rankings or any combination of the above?
Once you know your target audience and communication goals, you can then create a press release that addresses the task at hand.
Got some ideas to add? Feel free to add them below!
About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded Austin PR and marketing agency for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave directly about the PR over Coffee blog, please email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.