Like any business with its head screwed on, you want people to know about you. Publicity is gold-dust and you reckon it’s time for a fresh sprinkling to bring some sparkle back to your sales figures.
This isn’t the time to be throwing money around, though – any investment in advertising must be cost-effective, so what do you choose? Direct mail can be targeted but a response rate of just 2-3% is the norm for a campaign so is that really the best choice? There’s traditional print advertising but that can be pricey for unpredictable results. So how about a press release?
No really, stop laughing, I’m serious.
Okay. Got your breath back now? Then let’s think it through.
No News Isn’t Good News
When people read adverts one thing is very clear to them: they’re reading adverts. The defences go up and they take everything with a pinch of salt.
When people are reading news stories those lines become much more blurred. In spite of the fact that Britain’s press is riddled with bias, exaggeration and just plain falsehood, people have a surprising propensity to believe what they read. Cheryl Cole dating tentacled alien from Proxima Centauri? We-e-ell, she had a rough time with that Ashley so who knows what’s possible on the rebound? Maybe…
The upshot of this for your business is that a story in a newspaper or magazine can have huge benefits for your public image and because it isn’t packaged as advertising it can generate positive associations for your company.
That’s why all the time you aren’t thinking of ways to generate potential stories you’re leaving a reservoir of positive public recognition untapped.
One of the biggest obstacles for businesses is getting over the psychological barrier of believing stories are newsworthy. Your factory doesn’t have to explode to get you news coverage and if you simply wait on the chance of Cheryl and Xaanulon turning up in your store before contacting the press you’re missing an opportunity.
For small businesses in particular your local newspaper is a prime target; you just have to start thinking about strategies. There are some stories which obviously lend themselves to press releases, such as new premises or a change of management, but if you package it in the right way you can create more newsworthy stories than you probably imagined.
- Keep track of the history of your business – any anniversaries or milestones make effective news.
- Keep track of your staff. Human interest stories are always wanted and any success or achievement by an employee can provide opportunities. Even if it’s not directly related to the company’s activities, you can always hold a newsworthy celebration.
- Are you conducting training for your staff? Create a prize, award it to the most successful trainee and you’ve turned company activity into another human interest story.
- Profits up? In the current climate more than ever that’s good news.
- Trade fairs? If as a local company you’re represented at a big trade fair it can be a source of pride for the local newspaper.
And so it goes on. You should get into the habit of looking at everything and asking how you could turn it into a newsworthy press release. Just make sure you remember to get both photos and quotes, which are vital in making a release successful.
With a Little Bit of Luck
There are two realities in the world of press releases that generally balance each other out.
Firstly, newspapers and magazines have space to fill and are always looking for new material. Mostly they don’t find this material for themselves, it’s sent to them. Consequently if you format your press release properly and write it skilfully there’s a good chance of it being used. Especially if the editor is short of material that day!
The flip-side to this is the second reality. If your release about the sales team’s charity doughnut-eating contest for Comic Relief coincides with Cheryl’s shock wedding to Xaanulon’s brother Kaarg, you stand no chance.
But with a consistent output of press releases, sensibly targeted at the appropriate publications, you’ll get that coverage at some point and it will provide a measurable boost to sales.
Press Release Plus – the Power of the Net
The potential of press releases has expanded considerably in the past decade because of the rise of the internet. For one thing, if you don’t want to spend time researching publications for submission you can use an online submission service such as Pressbox or Press Dispensary. These services will distribute your press release in a targeted fashion, saving time and – as a consequence – money. Be careful, though. Whilst they also offer services to write your press release you will often find a freelance copywriter will do the same for less money, as well as offering a more personal, less ‘pre-packaged’ service. The usual approach from distribution services is to write a release based on information you fill out in a form – any decent freelance copywriter would want to talk it through with you in detail.
The other great advantage is that there are many sites which post your press release online, including those above. This not only provides more visibility but crucially if you include your website details valuable inbound links are created, helping your site to rank higher in search engine results pages. What’s more, you can add the releases to your own site, keeping it updated with current news and once again pleasing search engines with fresh content.
So, there are plenty of good reasons to use press releases to increase publicity for your business. I’d outline even more but I need to get on a celebrity gossip website. I’ve just seen a tweet that Kaarg’s been photographed leaving a clinic after secret tentacle enlargement. Who’d have thought, eh…?