The Power of Press Releases for Small Business

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You may be operating a one-person-business, but there are many resources and tools out there that aren't just for the big guys anymore. Today we're going to focus on the power behind press releases. Yes, that's right; even small business's can achieve phenomenal growth with the proper use of press releases.

Online marketing and PR expert, Barbara Rozgonyi, founder of CoryWestMedia.com and publisher of WiredPRworks.com is a wealth of information, brilliant ideas, and resources for small and large companies alike. I've asked Barbara a few questions about how a one-person-business can benefit from press releases. I've learned a lot and I hope you will too!

Barbara, the most popular responses I get from clients when I suggest writing press releases are: "What would the press possibly want to know about me or my company?" and "I can't write!" How would you address those concerns for a one-person-business owner?

Size doesn't matter. Story does.

Any business is capable of being newsworthy, but reporters have to know about your news to cover your story. That's why it's so important to send out press releases. Reporters search for fresh stories every day.

So, start by thinking like a reporter and then about the people who read, listen to or watch their stories. What kind of topics do they cover? How does your story relate to their audience? What stories would they tell about you? How do you contribute to your community? Why do people come to you? How do you help people solve problems? Do you see a trend people need to know more about?

Begin to think about how to position you and your business as a reliable and valuable news source.

Your next assignment is to write attention-getting press releases. But, what if you can't write? You can hire someone else to write your releases for you. Professional writers craft elegantly polished releases that make your company sound appealing and highly newsworthy.

Writing your own press releases is simple, though. Outline your story into a who, what, where, when and why format. Reporters appreciate brief press releases that introduce an idea and leave room for them to retell the story in their own way. A well-written press release is only about 400 words – and that includes a few standard sentences about your business at the end.

What is the purpose of sending out press releases? How much could it really do for my business?

The purpose of a press release is to make news, get attention, create community and attract more business. Here's an overview.

Realistically, each individual release has its own intended purpose and targeted audience. One story might appeal to several groups; it's okay to write a press release for each one.

Some companies write press releases before they invent a product or produce a project. They want to set up a mindset to guide the process towards how they want to be seen in the news.

Publicity benefits businesses in many ways including better visibility, increased traffic, and more branding awareness. But, maybe the biggest benefit to a one person business is this: ongoing publicity positions you as a well-regarded thought leader.

Being quoted in the press gives you credibility that you can't get from any other marketing strategy. When prospects compare your company to the competition what do they see? Who has the best press? Having media coverage gives you an advantage.

The press must get thousands of press releases. How can I make mine stand out - especially since my company is so small?

You're so right about reporters being inundated with press releases, Marla. And, their audience is as overwhelmed as they are. That's why a blend of offline and online press release distribution works so well. You wind up where people can find you in the search engines – whether or not you get covered by the media. Getting placement in a traditional media outlet is at the discretion of the editor. That's why you want to develop relationships with journalists.

To make your story stand out, you need a headline to hook attention, an angle to grab interest and a call to action to motivate response.

A catchy headline can pop an average release to the top of page one. Boring headlines go nowhere. Professional writers often write up to 50 or even 100 headlines before they write the story.

Type your headlines in to see how they look on the screen. Going for online distribution? Keep the character count under 60 so that the entire headline shows up in search engines. Include at least one keyword in the headline, as close the beginning as possible. Search for your industry in the online news search engines and see which headlines jump out at you. Why?

Angle your story so that it's easy to get and grab onto. You can connect with something bigger, an anniversary, special event or partner with another business or non-profit. Only one angle per story, though.

Include a call to action at the end of your first paragraph. Direct people to a place for more information, to register, to buy, to vote – you get the idea. Make sure you include your company's contact information, including your email address, phone number and URL.

I don't know anyone in the press. Who do I send these to? How many, and how often should I do it to have the greatest impact?

Once you have your press release ready to go, you need to send it out. To do that, you need a layered list of media contacts that includes local, industry or trade and online connections like bloggers.

For each contact, call and let them know you're updating your media list and that you're available as news source. Get the name, phone number and email address of the reporter that covers your beat. When your release is ready to go, send a personalized email with the release in the message to every outlet on your list.

Have a blogger in mind? Read their blog, leave comments and ask questions. Develop a relationship before you propose a story idea.

When you distribute your press releases with an online service - like the ones listed below - you don't have to know any reporters – at all. Releases stay indexed in the search engines for 28 days; you may want to plan on sending out one release every month.

Subscribe to email updates from www.helpareporterout.com to respond to media inquiries directly and you may wind up in the Wall Street Journal or on the evening news.

I don't know if I have the talent to write something catchy, brief, and informative. But how can I hire someone to do it when they don't know me or my company?

Often your best bet is to hire someone else to write your stories for you. For three reasons: you get an outside perspective, professional PR expertise and existing media connections. Writers come in all experience levels. Look for someone who is familiar with your type of business, preferably from a marketing and public relations perspective. Ask about results and their system for writing and distribution and the media contact list. One way to appear bigger and grow visibility faster is to have a publicist present your story and mange your media relations.

How long will it take for this process to make a difference in my company?

The key word here is "difference." That's why setting goals is so important. What do you want to accomplish? Where do you want your story to be told? Decide on your publicity goals and then develop an action plan that helps you meet them. One of the biggest mistakes companies make is to only send out one or two press releases a year.

Test out a few online press release distribution services before you select the one you want to use the most. Low or no-cost options include www.pitchengine.com and www.webwire.com. You may decide it's worth a few hundred dollars to go with a service like www.prweb.com, www.prnewswire.com or www.marketwire.com for detailed results. Set up a monitoring and measurement system to see how your press release performs. You may want to measure: where your release ranks for your key search terms, spikes in site traffic, distribution of readers, new incoming links and pick up from other publications, including blogs and special interest sites.

When you get some great press, send out a new press release announcing the coverage and let your customers know, too. For a small investment of time (and maybe creative services), you'll make a huge impact on not only your business, but the world at large.

NOTE: Barbara offers a complimentary PR P-R-I-M-E-R. To sign up, email her at
connect@corywestmedia.com.

Last updated: Jan 27, 2009




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