5 Surprising Marketing Uses of Press Releases

imgresRemember the famous Florida orange juice commercials that said, “Orange Juice, it’s not just for breakfast anymore?”

Well, we can now say this about the staid, good-old press release: “Press releases, they’re not just for the media anymore!”

True, press releases still help you communicate news announcements to the media in hopes of getting news coverage. But today any small business, whether a tech startup in Austin or a boutique fitness gym Chicago, can use a press release to spread “news” directly to customers and prospects in hopes of getting more business.

Here are five practical marketing uses for press releases that you may not have thought of before:

1. Inform customers of new offerings: It’s always easier to grow revenue from existing customers. Press releases can inform them of how your products and services are helping others. Customers will always want to know more, so why not help them learn more about your products and services by informing them of your new offerings, customer successes and new accomplishments?

2. SEO: Improve search engine rankings through by optimizing your press releases for key words that relate back to your website. In fact, thanks to PRWeb.com, press releases have taken on a brand new life as content marketing tools that deliver highly relevant content while at the same time increasing search engine rankings with back-links to your website.

3. Communicate a call-to-action: A call-to-action can immediately elicit a response to a promotion. Many consumers who may be turned off by advertising may react differently if the same promotion is part of a “news announcement” that describes the offer in less “salesy” terminology.

4. Win new business: Got some new prospects you want to close? Consider sending press releases to them to inform them of your latest news as part of an overall drip marketing campaign. People are naturally nosy, so sending “breaking news” is a side-door way to pique their interest in what you are doing. In other words, you’re selling to them without actually looking like you’re trying to sell to them.

5. Social Media content: Add share buttons to press releases so they can be shared to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more. Social media is now an indispensable part of the marketing function, so utilize it in all possible ways. Allowing your press release to be shared on these platforms will help you gain a larger following and more views, ultimately resulting in more website traffic and new business.

Have a question or other tips you want to share? Leave them on our Facebook page or in the comment section below.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin PR agency for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009 as one of the only PR agencies in the country to provide performance-based PR pricing. In 2010, Dave launched PR over Coffee to provide small business PR advice so that entrepreneurs and startups could practice “DIY” PR and promote themselves directly to media outlets. For more information about Dave or PR over Coffee, email info(@)PRoverCoffee.com.

 

Press Release Tips for Small Businesses from Business Wire

Press Releases for Small BusinessesAs a small business owner, it can be hard to step outside your world and think about how you are going to get covered in the local, or even national, news media.

If your budget won’t allow you to hire a public relations firm, then the task can seem even more daunting. What media outlets should you target? What message about your business should you communicate? Should you use the Wire to distribute your press release or just a simple Internet distribution website?

Not to worry! Erica Schuckies of Business Wire provided us with a list of tips below on how to create and use press releases to promote your business to the media and public.

Newsworthy Topic: Ask yourself what is happening at your business that may be newsworthy? Avoid marketing slogans and sales pitches in favor of substantive messages tied to trending news or events that you have planned.

Headline: Arguably the most important part of your press release. This allows you to set the hook and get journalists to read the release.

Timely:  If there is a recent event or happening at the company, tell the story as it relates to the present time. What is happening in your industry that your business is contributing to? What relevant expertise can you communicate that will make your business part of the bigger picture. Timeliness can make the difference between beings ignored or picked up and written about.

Readability: Write your press release in an inverted pyramid style; the most important information should be in the first paragraph to help journalists determine if your release is worth a closer read.

Links: Don’t forget to link back to your website or landing page. The average link-to-text ratio in a press release should be about 1 link for every 100-125 words. Make sure to include both anchor text and the full link text, in case the anchor text link does not work.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): To achieve a stronger search engine rankings, chose one to two keyword phrases that you want to center your press release around. Think of important words or phrases that will allow you to be ranked in search engines. Place those keywords in your headline and throughout the body of the press release. Be careful not to stuff your press release; the key is to give it finesse and a natural flow but still remain relevant in search engines. As Erica would say “You want to walk the fine line between writing for the real person and writing for the search engine robots.”

Concise: The longer the press release, the less likely someone will read through it. One option is to create bullet points, which are great ways to get information across in a visually appealing way.

Multimedia: If possible, make it high resolution. This can include logos, photos, videos, graphics, white papers, or sound bites.

Target the Media: It’s important to know the type of reporter you are sending your piece to so it is relevant to them. Otherwise you’re wasting your time and annoying them in the process.

Availability: Journalists are often on a very strict schedule. If one responds back to you, then be prepared to drop what you are doing to accommodate their schedule. Otherwise, you can kiss your opportunity goodbye.

A huge “thanks” goes out to Erica at Business Wire for helping us with this list! If you have any suggestions or want to weigh in on it with your own personal experience, then please feel free to leave a comment below. Or if you want to email Erica about how to get more out of your next press release, then feel free to drop her a line at Erica.Schuckies(@)BusinessWire.com.

If you want to attend one of our meetings or learn about our new Press Release Writing Service, then check out our PR over Coffee website!

How to Pitch a Busy Reporter by Phone

Picking up the phone to tell your story to a busy reporter can be very intimidating.

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There’s something about making a phone pitch — not seeing the face on the other line, hearing only the edge in the voice or an impatient exhale — that puts the pressure-cooker in overdrive and makes even veteran PR professionals become mush-mouthed.

That said, for those who try (and keep trying), phone pitches can be a very effective way to get news coverage.

Here are some things to keep in mind the next time you call an over-worked, stressed-out reporter in your community:

  1. Be polite: it goes without saying, but be nice on the phone. Keep your tone of voice pleasant, even if the reporter doesn’t return the favor.
  2. Nothing personal: don’t take any negative comments, brusque lanquage or evasive behavior as a personal affront. Busy reporters are asked to do a lot of work in very little time so when they receive phone pitches they tend to cut to the chase.
  3. Get to the point: reporters are asked to do more with less time than ever. Consequently, many reporters are experts at sniffing out the potential value of a story in 60 seconds or less, which is why you must present your pitch and supporting facts as economically as possible.
  4. Don’t be a pest: if the reporter tells you no, then don’t keep bothering him or her. Try again when you have a new announcement to share. If a reporter doesn’t respond to your initial overtures, then don’t increase the frequency and/or urgency of your outreach. Chances are the reporter is just too busy to get back to you or may find the news irrelevant or not compelling enough to respond.
  5. Think fast: if a reporter challenges your assumptions on why your news is important, then try to come up with a different angle or share another fact in hopes of building your case. Reporters will often to play devil’s advocate, challenging you on why your news is so important, mostly because their editors do it to them all the time.
  6. Learn from past mistakes: instead of giving up after one or two stinging defeats, try to figure out what went wrong. Often a journalist, even if busy, will tell you why she is not interested. I got shot down by a Wall Street Journal reporter based on the fact that there just wasn’t enough evidence supporting my claim, which, sadly, was the painful truth. The next time I pitched her, I had my facts ready before the call.
  7. Know their beat: it will help you greatly if you already know the reporter’s rea of interest. By doing a little research in advance, you save yourself the embarassment of finding out that the reporter doesn’t actually cover technology startups but is instead writes about real estate.
  8. Offer to help: when phone pitching, make sure you offer the reporter a chance to interview others for the story to make the reporter’s job easier. It could be the difference between rejection and eventual news coverage.
  9. Leave clear voicemail: if you don’t reach the reporter the first time, then on’t be afraid to leave a voicemail to set the initial ‘hook.’ Speak in a clear, well-paced voice. Practice the voicemail ahead of time so you can easily summarize the significance of your news pitch in 15-20 seconds or less.

If you keep these pointers in mind when you first hear that reporter’s voice on the other end of the line, then you just might save yourself a lot of hard lessons and wasted time.

Happy pitching!

A Few Tips on How to Pitch a TechCrunch Blogger

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On Saturday night, March 8 as SXSW revelers poured through the streets of Austin, PR over Coffee hosted an exclusive Tech Writer Panel featuring writers from TechCrunch, Entrepreneur Magazine and Silicon Hills News at South By GoLab.

Startups from all over the U.S. came to learn how to get featured in various national publications, plus do a little schmoozing in hopes of pre-pitching their business for future coverage.

The following Q&A documents some of the insights from  Anthony Ha, a tech blogger for TechCrunch. Anthony pulled no punches when dispensing advice. He shared the occasional ugly truth and some harsh realities about trying to get featured by a famous technology blog like TechCrunch. Anthony’s style was uber mellow but he peppered his responses with colorful F-bombs (omitted here!) and the occasional witticism bordering on snark that befits a San Francisco blogger at the center of the tech universe.

What topics do you typically cover? Startups of all kinds, media & advertising topics, funding events and just about any tech story I find particularly interesting on a personal level.

What’s the best way to pitch a story? Email, period. I always try to respond, mostly with a “Thanks, I’ll pass on this one” if I think it doesn’t fit my news beat.

So you don’t like to receive Twitter pitches or other social media? No, not really. I rarely respond to tweets asking me to cover a story as it can be hard medium to work with compared to email. With email, it’s a lot easier for me to capture and track the idea in one place.

Do you like short pitches or long pitches? I don’t mind getting long pitches as long as they are done like an inverted pyramid. In other words, give the most important part of the pitch at the beginning so I can decide if it’s worth reviewing in its entirety.

What level of funding does a company need to have in order to grab your attention? I would say $1 million at a minimum. It’s a base-line number that proves there’s some kind of external validation of the business. If the amount is less than $1 million, then you have to work a lot harder to convince me your idea is worth writing about. I mean it really has to be good.

How much lead time do you need for breaking news story pitches? If I like your pitch, a week’s notice is ideal. Don’t wait until the 5pm the day-before to pitch me an “exclusive” because it’s gonna have to be a pretty BIG story for me to cancel dinner with friends to stay in the office and write the story.

What percentage of pitches received are good leads for you? Maybe 5-10% of all are worth me investigating a little further. Most are way off base.

Why so low? Many PR professionals don’t do the necessary research to know what I like to write about. They take the shotgun approach, which almost always never works.

What’s something you hate about pitches? Email blast pitches that are so generic you can tell there was no research into whether I was the right person for the pitch. That really pisses me off.

Do you like pitches that were covered by other news outlets? At TechCrunch we pride ourselves on being the first to break tech news. If you just got featured on Mashable, then you’d better be pretty amazing or offer me something genuinely new.

How much is too much pitching? Don’t pitch me more than once, especially if I say “I’ll have to pass on this one.” A reminder email is okay if I haven’t responded but once I do respond please don’t keep arguing your case.

What do you like most about SXSW? It’s a perfect way to talk shop, drink beer and meet new people.

How To Pitch Reporters Using Social Media

Pitching reporters through social media can be tricky and you should proceed with caution. With that said, the process is not impossible. With the right tactics, social media pitching can be an incredibly useful tactic for your small business PR campaign.

The most effective social media tool for PR pitches is Twitter. The micro-blogging allows 140 characters and, by necessity, forces people to be brief, which most journalists appreciate over long-winded PR pitches.url

Tweeting PR pitches is actually fairly easy, but you do have to follow a few rules when trying to push your PR message out. For starters, make sure to follow the reporters you want to pitch. How do you know which reporters to follow? Read a history of their tweets to familiarize yourself with what the reporter tends to cover and tweet about.

Then, and only then, should you engage them in casual conversation on Twitter. If you see a reporter tweet about an article they wrote, @ reply to it and engage in conversation about the article or the topic at hand. This will get your name on the reporter’s mind – and Twitter feed. You may want to do this a few times to get the journalist comfortable with hearing from you.

Then, when you have a story to pitch, a tweet promoting it will seem much more casual and not as “pushy” than had you “cold-tweeted.” Simply mention the reporter in a tweet saying: “You may be very interested in covering X topic…” Since the reporter will have already interacted with you, and because the topic is appealing to them, your chances of receiving a reply are better.

As for Facebook pitching, some – I would even say most – reporters consider their Facebook pages to be more personal and private. Indeed, a pitch on Facebook directly to a reporter could backfire and get you black-listed by the journalist. You may, however, have better luck pitching the Facebook page for the media outlet at which a specific journalist works. Because it’s the official page for the media outlet, it’s accustomed to receiving a variety of comments.

To sum up: Twitter PR pitching tactics seem to work the best. Always make sure to @ mention/reply them. Unless you know the reporter well, never use a direct message. Why? Because a direct message pitch is an invasion of privacy most reporters will undoubtedly resent.

Following these simple rules of the social media PR game will greatly increase your chances of connecting with the right media. Once you get some practice, you may find social media pitching to be a fairly effective means of getting great media coverage.

Happy tweeting!

What Is PR?

urlAccording to the PRSA, public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.

While this may seem like a simple, easy process, there actually are a variety of fields and types of PR available to a small business wanting to promote itself to a wider audience.

To help you navigate the PR options, here’s a list of just some of the different types of PR and how they can help your company grow.

Types of PR:

Company news: timely, relevant news about the company

  • Examples: A pet store wins an award from a national magazine. A new software company launched software app that may be a “take-over” target by Facebook or Google. A company is moving to a larger office to accommodate growth. A large military contract was awarded to a veteran-owned business.

Profile: overall profile of the company, its history, accomplishments, owner bio, future prospects of the company

  • Examples: A serial entrepreneur gets featured in a local newspaper or business journal and talks about her latest startup. A high-tech networking group founder reaches a milestone and earns a close-up from a tech reporter. A restaurant entrepreneur plans a new restaurant chain concept with a group of investors and cooks up a savory article for a food writer’s column.

Thought leadership: blogging, writing articles, eBooks, self-published books at Amazon, speaking engagements

  • Examples: A tech startup company would benefit greatly by having a blogger write about their product launch – and even more so by having a blogger review the product. A writer of an eBook or self-published book on Amazon would benefit by having an established author review the book. Industry speaking engagements illustrate a professional’s expertise and drive website traffic and even more speaking invitations.

Reactive PR: interviews related to current events happening in the community or nationally

  • Examples: A premium olive oil store gets invited to talk about the health benefits of olive oil during Cholesterol Awareness Month. A consignment shop gets local TV news coverage related to Earth Day for the ways it helps prevent clothing from getting dumped into landfills. A small ceramic studio gets written up on National Bird Feeding month about its upcoming kids’ class on how to make bird feeders, birdhouses and bird baths.

These are just some of the different types of PR out there. The key is to find out what works best for your product or company and then reach out to your local media outlets.

It’s critical to not pass up on any opportunity to promote your small business. Consistent media coverage will add credibility and significance to your brand and be a key contributor to your future growth.

How To Pick The Right PR Firm For Your Business

With so many hundreds of PR firms and consultants out there, it can be really difficult to decide which one is the best fit for your business.

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Because PR is one of the more effective means to get attention, website traffic and customers for your small business, selecting the right PR firm is critical.

Rather than race into a relationship with a PR firm, it makes sense to follow a sane, rational approach based on a variety of key information

As I said in an article on Entrepreneur.com, it comes down to a combination of your budget, your expectations, and the firm’s track record in delivering results.

Here are some more ideas to consider as you search for the right PR firm to help your business grow and prosper:

  • Budget: establish a PR budget and then determine which firms fit into your plans. PR compared to advertising is less expensive but you still have to invest in a PR firm to get you the results you seek. Know what you can afford and don’t be tempted to stray far from that number.
  • Chemistry: smaller PR firms usually rely upon one or two executives in the firm so get a good “gut feel” about the PR firm by interviewing the key players, asking them a variety of specific questions and seeing how the respond. They should be forthcoming and willing to learn about your dreams for the business. They should also be honest about your prospects for PR and not make grandiose promises that cannot possibly be met.
  • Devil’s in the Details: look at the contract details for each firm. You don’t want to get stuck into a binding long-term contract; you want the option of getting out of an arrangement as early as 90 days into the campaign if you know it’s not working out.
  • Prior Experience Need Only Apply: it helps to work with a firm that has dealt with your industry before. For example, if you run sports business make sure the firm has knowledge of this field. Still, some PR firms have experience in related industries and/or working with small businesses, both of which can make for a good fit.
  • Social Media: make sure they know how to use social media to promote themselves and their customers. Ask if they use Twitter or LinkedIn to connect with the media as an alternative way to promote you other than through email. Social media is now part of the PR tool set so every PR firm should have a strategy for using it.
  • References: don’t be afraid to ask for them. References are the best way you can find out if the PR firm has a track record of satisfying clients.
  • Availability: make sure your primary contact at the firm is responsive to your questions. You should not have to wait very long for responses to your emails and phone calls. Keep in mind that they may be busy and not be able to talk or email immediately, but same day responses are the norm.
  • Listening Skills: does the PR firm actually listen to what you have to say about your business and respond to your list of expectations. It’s a two-way street so the PR firm should incorporate your “insider” knowledge into its overall strategy for making you famous. This should not be a lecture about PR and how the PR firm is the best suited to work on your account.
  • Success Measurements: PR for small business needs to deliver results in 90 days or less. That’s why you should agree with the PR firm on what defines the PR campaign’s success: articles in local newspapers, TV news interviews, profiles on blogs, social media mentions, etc.

Got some good ideas that helped you find and hire the right PR firm? Feel free to share!

About Ryan Gardner: Ryan is an PR intern for Dave Manzer PR and Marketing, which is an Austin tech, healthcare and lifestyle PR agency based in Austin for startups and fast-growth businesses. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare, consumer and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. If you have any PR questions about your startup or small business, feel free to tweet Dave Manzer at @davemanzer or email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

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