Anatomy of a Press Release

A press release is a written communication piece typically between 1-2 pages in length that consists of a straight-forward portrayal of information about a company, event, or person. It is a formulaic communication between an organization and the news media, as well as stake holders such as customers, shareholders, volunteers, etc. The ultimate goal of a press release is to influence the perception of the organization by the public.

What follows is a description of the parts that make up a press release. By understanding the “anatomy” of a press release, you will be better able to write them and persuade interested parties to take action.

press release parts

As you can see from the graphic, an inverted pyramid best describes how much time you should spend on each part of your press release! In other words, spend more time on the headline as it is what sets the “hook” in your reader; the PR contact info and Boilerplate should take the least amount of time.

  • Headline: This is where you will really capture the reader’s attention. Use action verbs, relate it to a trending news story, and use keywords to make sure your release is helping your SEO strategy.
  • Sub-Headline: The headline and sub-headline should tell 80% of the story. Use the sub-headline to provide a supporting fact that grabs attention, but make sure to save the most important fact for the actual headline.
  • Intro Paragraph: This is where you continue to hook the reader and add some quick info – it’s a summary of your whole press release. Mention the company name immediately. Be specific and keep the intro to two sentences over no more than 3-4 lines. Be sure to either embed (anchor text) or use a direct URL that links back to your website’s home page or to an appropriate landing page.
  • Main Body: The part where you really flesh out your intro paragraph and add on key facts. Keep the each paragraph short, no more than 4-5 lines if possible, for readability. For best results, include a quote from a company or nonprofit representative, as well as one from 3rd party if applicable. Also, include a call-to-action at the end of the body to prompt readers to act. Include a URL for about every 100 words so your releases are not seen by the search engines (and readers) as thinly veiled SEO vehicles.
  • About Us (“Boilerplate”): A quick about us section that just gives the reader a short summary of what your company is about. Be short and brief, no more than 5-6 lines. This part should focus on an overall description of your business from a strategic perspective. Don’t overdo it on the fact, though. Keep it high-level. Another URL for your company is appropriate here.
  • PR Contact Info: This is where you provide all of the contact information and links for journalists or readers to use to contact you. Without this, you will make it a lot harder for a journalist to write about your latest news.

That’s it! A press release stripped down to the bare basics.

With all of that – plus a few hours of blood, sweat, and tears – you will have your very own press release to share with customers, prospects and media outlets. They will be putty in your hands!

Have any other tips you’d like to share about press releases? Post them on our Facebook page or in the comment section below.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded his own PR firm in Austin in 2009 as one of the only PR firms in the country to provide performance-based PR pricing. Dave Manzer PR and Marketing helps startups and emerging growth companies become recognizable brands through innovative, value-driven PR campaigns, PR stunts, blogging and ghost writing. He also launched PR over Coffee to provide small business PR advice so that entrepreneurs and startups could practice “DIY” PR and promote themselves to a much wider audience. For more information about Dave or PR over Coffee, email info(@)PRoverCoffee.com.

What Is A Press Kit and Does My Small Business Need One?

While a press kit won’t automatically increase your chance of getting media coverage, it does make it easier for a journalist interested in writing about you. And, by the way, making a journalist’s life easier is never a bad idea.

imagesMost small businesses are not very familiar with what a press kit is and how it comes in handy, so here is a quick run-down to help you decide if one is appropriate for your company:

Press kit explained

A press kit has everything journalists need to cover your pitch – right at their fingertips. The kit includes all necessary information about your company, its founders or management team, your news pitch, clients, etc. It also includes possible quotes for the journalist to use, product or service information, photos, historical information, or relevant key info relating to the topic at hand. Think of it as a bundle of important facts and notes for media outlets to quickly grasp what your company does and what makes it newsworthy.

Who can use a press kit?

Many kinds of businesses could benefit greatly from having a prepared press kit at the ready. Some of them include:

  • Pre-money and post-money tech startups seeking media coverage to enhance fundraising
  • Consumer product goods (CPG) companies interested in glossy magazine write-ups
  • Emerging growth companies expanding to new locations and adding employees
  • Innovative retailers with dreams of getting consistent news coverage
  • Tech companies launching new software or hardware products that may require more background information than a press release
  • Commercial real estate development companies in the habit of buying land for developments
  • Restaurants or food trucks with a cult following and chance of getting featured on the Food Network

Other uses of a press kit

  • Charity event to benefit a foundation
  • Museums of all kinds
  • New downtown condominium
  • Opening of a new entertainment venue or sports arena
  • Celebrities, rock bands and public officials

Worried you’re just a small business so you may not need one? Actually press kits are a great way to communicate what you do and share your “founder’s story” with all kinds of interested parties: media, customers, prospects, even job seekers. So don’t think small equates to insignificant or uninteresting in the eyes of the public.

Plus, with a press kit, you will have something of substance to share with a prospective journalist to make their job of writing about you even easier. What’s not to like about that?

Do you have any other clever ideas of how to use a press kit? If so, then feel free to share a comment below or leave one on our Facebook page!

To learn about our upcoming small business PR meetups, please visit our PR over Coffee website at: www.PRoverCoffee.com.

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

techcrunch2

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!

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