When a business owner first starts out, you treasure each and every customer. Heck, each and every transaction is like a small miracle to you, as that money is like your life’s blood.
Somewhere along the way, though, something changes. It’s almost like making a New Year’s resolution to “savor my food.” It’s fine for your first couple of meals, especially if you make a point to eat better than usual. But how long can you literally savor every bite you take? Eventually you’ll come to a point where you just have to eat a sandwich on the run to a meeting, and there’s no savoring that.
There’s a big difference between not “savoring” each customer and completely taking them for granted, though. If you start to assume those people will always be around no matter what you do, you’re dangerously close to taking your client and customer base for granted.
Spend a Little Extra Time
If you suddenly realize you are in fact taking your customers for granted, it’s surprisingly easy to fix. The main point to consider is you need to just spend a little bit more time on them.
Consider the above point about savoring food. What’s the difference between eating a meal and truly savoring a meal?
The time it takes you to eat that meal is the key. If you rush through dinner, there’s no time to really appreciate the energy and care that went into it. Once you slow down and chew your food slowly you enjoy what you have in front of you. You don’t take it for granted any longer.
So the same could be said of your customers (well, except the chewing part). Slow down and take the time to really appreciate the fact they’re around and keeping you in business. Don’t rush through every transaction and support issue – really figure out what that particular customer is all about and go out of your way to make them feel like they’re the only person in your business life.
Spending time on your customers is one thing. But you can spend all the time in the world on a customer and not really get anything done. Therefore, you should try to think of actions you can take to show your customers you really care.
For instance, you more than likely have some people you’ve regularly seen pop up over the years. These long-term shoppers and clients need some recognition for sticking with you so long. Why not send them a little pick me up with a coupon or discount code? Even better, some free schwag with their next order may do the trick.
If you really want to impress people while also giving your business some good word of mouth, create a “Customer Appreciation Month” campaign. Think of some fun ways you can show you really take time to think about who keeps you in business and it should also serve as a great way to bring in new business.
Just how important is public relations? To businesses it’s vital to staying relevant in a busy, fast-moving world. Most businesses would arguably go out of business without it, especially many of those that operate solely online. PR helps people become closer to the brands and businesses they frequent and makes a huge online world feel that much smaller.
But it does much more than that. I would argue that PR helps calm a crazy, turbulent world for your customers. PR provides them an opportunity to experience the world in an organized, calm manner.
Think that’s a little too over the top? Let’s take a look and tell me if you don’t agree.
Connects a Disconnected World
The vast majority of the world uses the web. Think about that – right now there’s a person on every single continent, in every single country, in every single city, using the web. You could literally hop online and talk to somebody in Antarctica if you tried hard enough.
While that’s exhilarating, it’s also a little terrifying. One of the first times someone described the Internet to me I remember being a little overwhelmed. “No thanks,” I said to them, “I’ll just get lost.” And it wasn’t a joke! Honestly, sometimes I still feel this way.
Your customers do as well. They like to stay in their “corners” of the web – why do you think Facebook became so popular, after all? The more you can convince them that your area is “safe,” that they can hang out there without feeling weird or alone, the better off you’ll be. With such a huge, scary world out there, your PR efforts let them know there are others that like the exact same things they do.
This isn’t even about interacting with you and your business. Again there is just so much info out there on the web that it’s hard to understand what we’re looking at sometimes. It’s strange, because when I first started using the Internet the World Wide Web wasn’t around yet – people primarily met on Bulletin Board Systems (BBS). These BBS’s would typically be a little messy and disorganized, especially compared to today, but they were still a place to come together.
Now, after decades of WWW being the norm, we have so many ways to organize the info we see every day. But at the same time, it’s just as messy as the BBS way of things. If you don’t know where to go you can easily get lost and led astray. Suddenly you’re downloading something you didn’t mean to and your screen’s gone all funny.
How does PR tie into this? In some small way you’re organizing the Internet and the world for your fans and customers. Even if it’s just for you and your company, or your industry, or maybe even the products you sell, you’re showing people how the world works. They now have a grasp on a concept they didn’t before.
In a world that many feel like it’s leaving them behind, this little bit of organization can go a long way. They’ll feel a certain connection with you if you provide this service for them. This could turn into a lifelong fan kind of situation – simply for providing them a bit of humanity in a computer based world.
It’s kind of a strange question when you get down to it – “why do my customers love me so much?” It’s more than just looking a gift horse in the mouth; it can come off as self-deprecating or a little needy. But the reality behind it is you do need to know why your customers love you to help you grow your business.
It’s one thing to be appreciative of your sales, but capitalizing on that success is entirely different matter. Talking to your fans to find out what they think and would like to see with your business can separate you from your competitors. You could even say this is the basis of PR.
Why it Matters
There are a few key elements that make your fans’ opinions so important to your business, all of which can mean big things for your company. If you’re not asking these questions you’re risking only getting half the picture when it comes to your business.
One thing this information can tell you is what aspect of your business you should focus on. What you think works about your company is practically irrelevant – the only thing that matters is what your customers like and want. If the two worlds aren’t in agreement you may have some problems.
For example, if you think your strength is great customer service but the public loves you for your amazing products, focusing on great customer service may not lead to more sales. It won’t hurt, sure; but it’s not what your customers are looking for. Perhaps you should spend more time on your products.
Another reason to find out why your customers love you is to grow the relationship between you and the public. The more you know about your customers the better you can serve them. If you realize your customers love you because of your products, for instance, you can have more meaningful conversations about what you make and the industry as a whole. This leads to deeper relationships, which can mean long-term fans as opposed to one-time customers.
How to Find Out
How do you find out what your customers like about you? Honestly, the best thing to do is ask! Whether you do so through Facebook, in person, in an email, or a focus group, just directly inquire how they discovered your business and why they stuck around.
People love to talk about themselves and you’re giving them a chance to do so. Simply by opening the channels of communication you’re inviting them in to participate with your business, which can make them feel special. This can also lead to long-time relationships with customers, as they will come to feel involved with your company and it’s success.
If you think they need some incentive to answer you, hold a contest so your customers receive something in return for filling out a poll or questionnaire. If you’re feeling particularly generous, you can give out coupons or discounts for everyone who participates. As much as people like to talk about themselves, they love to get stuff even more!
Why do you think your customers love your business? Have you ever asked them?
Seemingly out of the blue, your fans are all over your case. You thought you were doing everything right, but for whatever reason they’ve gotten something under their skin and are looking to complain. You get the feeling if you weren’t around they would’ve convened on someone else, but there you are, trying to figure out what the problem is.
So what do you do? Since you’re not really sure what their deal is, you can’t just “fix” anything. In the end, it doesn’t particularly matter what the cause is. You have to figure out how to keep everybody happy so they’ll keep buying your stuff.
You know that stereotypical communication problem between men and women people talk about? Where the woman has a problem and the man spends time trying to fix things rather than just listen? This could be happening with your customers.
Naturally you want to correct whatever is wrong so your customers will be happy. But if after a while nothing is working, it’s time to try something else. They may just want to be heard. There’s even a chance it doesn’t have anything to do with you or your company. Everyone could be on edge about a recent national or local tragedy and just lashing out at someone in sight.
Be the Calming Voice
This doesn’t mean you should just wait out the storm, though. You can still spend time talking to your fans even though they apparently hate your guts right now. The important thing to remember is to not get sucked into the vortex of negativity.
If you’ve ever worked customer service (or have a child) you know an argument or discussion feeds on energy. If both parties try to “out yell” each other, it typically gets out of hand. If someone in the argument keeps their cool, eventually the other person will come back down to a calmer level.
You have to be that calm voice. No matter how crazy your fans get – on social media, in email, even over the phone – you have to be the cool one in the discussion. If you get sucked into yelling or typing in caps, things will just get that much worse.
See What You Can Actually Do
Again, the ultimate cause of why they’re suddenly ornery doesn’t change the way you handle the situation. What could make a real difference to your fans is how you react. Figuring out what will put your fans on the bright side of life can do wonders in getting things back to normal.
Of course if there’s anything to apologize for, then go for it. Beyond that, though, try to figure out what you can actually do to make them happy again. Even if you don’t think you did anything wrong, the longer everyone is mad and upset the less they’re buying your products or services. The sooner you appease them, the sooner you start making money again.
Some ideas are to offer a one-time discount for the store or offer free shipping for a period of time. Also, make sure to notice if anyone has any specific demands – for example, if someone mentions your site needs to be more open with return policies, take measures to fix it – even if it has absolutely nothing to do with what they’re complaining about otherwise.
Have your fans ever freaked out on you for seemingly no reason?
Occasionally you run into a problem that seems to have no solution. You try and try to figure out how to help this client or make things clearer to them over social media and email but nothing’s going right. If only there was some way you can talk to them directly!
In this digital age we assume it’s much easier to deal with things through the computer. Often, it is, there’s no denying that, especially if you’re trying to multitask. However, once in a while simply picking up the phone and talking to somebody one-on-one is the only way to go.
Personal and Quick
Have you ever texted with a friend where to eat for dinner, only to realize forty texts in you should’ve just called them and be done with it? So many times we do things the hard way without even thinking about it. It may take a little more time when you include pleasantries, but a phone call can wrap up a confusing situation quickly.
Plus, it shows you care a little more about your clients. When all they get are emails or social media conversations it’s tough to imagine you’re primarily concerned with their well-being. Simply hearing your voice can go a long way in cementing a better relationship.
No matter how secure your email is there’s always a hesitancy to send confidential information through it, especially with the threat of hackers. If you have a big client that has an NDA contract with a major movie star, you don’t want that to get out to just anybody. One hacked password and the secret is out, ruining a potential sure moneymaker for everyone.
A phone call to relay super confidential information can ensure better security as there’s less chance of a leak. You may also be able to talk about breaking details and rumors that wouldn’t be easy to convey across email.
Of course you’re not always sitting in front of your computer. You’re out on the town wheelin’ and dealin’ and otherwise living your life. If a client has an important question as you’re getting in the car to go see your kid’s final performance of Hamlet you can’t just email them back as you’re driving.
This is where a Bluetooth or other handheld option comes in handy. A quick call using this device and your client is satisfied and your kid is grateful you made it on time.
Body and Voice Cues
Part of building a client relationship is getting to know each other. Have you ever heard the customer service tip of “speak with a smile?” It’s not middle management nonsense; the trick actually works as the customer can hear that you’re smiling. It sounds strange, but it’s true.
To actually get to know your clients it helps to actually speak with them now and again. Typing “lol” isn’t the same as sharing a hearty laugh over a goofy joke you read somewhere. The next time you think about getting away with just an email to a client, try calling instead. It may improve your business in more ways than one.
How often do you call your clients rather than email?
You are three little steps away from making some of the most money you’ve ever made with your store. Just three things you need to completely overhaul with your business to make everything click.
Don’t blame me – talk to your customers. They’re the ones saying it. They want to buy more of your stuff, but something’s holding them back. Fixing the following three elements of your business could make the difference between losing sales and whistling all the way to the bank.
1. Your Website
For too long your customers have put up with broken links, stretched pictures, and confusing shopping carts. They’re here to say they simply won’t put up with it one more day. It’s time to take a look at your website and fix everything that’s broken!
Check every link. Readjust and reload every warped picture. In fact, just go ahead and find new pictures, or take some new ones yourself. Go over your shopping cart procedures and test how confusing it is. You’ll be surprised at all the errors you find, and hopefully discover ways to fix them.
2. Your Customer Service
You think your customer service is up to snuff, and maybe most of the time it is. But sometimes it utterly fails, and those are the times you really need to study what goes on. Because when the going gets tough, and everyone needs help at once, the agents won’t be able to keep up.
The best way to amend your customer service is to listen to the first word in the phrase – your customers! They know what’s wrong as they’ve been through the process. Open up your ears and listen to the complaints, as there will be some good advice contained in there.
3. Your Brand
You spent what you perceived as a long time developing a brand for your company. The problem, though, is you spent all that time on the WRONG brand for your company. Currently, your mascot is a roadrunner, as you think everything about your company is speedy. But that’s not entirely the case, and your brand really should reflect your dependability more than speed. A Labrador for the mascot, perhaps?
Really take your brand seriously. It’s not just some random stuff you come up with to design your color scheme around. Your brand is what people talk about when the industry you sell within comes up. If your brand is weak, you have no identity, no public face. A strong brand that’s properly associated with your company can stir conversation and inspire people to buy from you simply because of recognition.
Internet users have become accustomed to rudeness on the web. Everywhere you go someone has something snarky, callous, or just generally mean to say. The most innocent post about lovely sunflowers could be met with angry vitriol completely out of nowhere. It can hit like a ton of bricks and leave you breathless.
However, you don’t have to perpetuate this by being nasty and rude yourself. Even if the other person is being a huge meanie-butt you can counter it with some unexpected kindness. Often this can do wonders not only for you and the person you’re talking to but everyone else on the page.
Here are some pointers to really make an act of kindness stand out.
Someone Else’s Shoes
I listen to a lot of podcasts while I’m driving or doing other menial tasks, and one of my favorites is the Nerdist series with media mogul Chris Hardwicke. Not just because of the great interviews with celebrities, but because of Chris’ outlook on how to interact with the general public. One thing he said really struck me.
Chris gets a lot of abuse about his projects, even when the material is totally free and people can just ignore it. Despite all the positive remarks, he says the negative ones really stand out in his mind. At least they did until he realized something: what that other person is going through.
He says for someone to be that angry about something ultimately trivial as a podcast episode likely means they’re going through some pretty awful stuff. Many who have been truly mean have later apologized for their actions. Chris says you never know what someone else is going through.
With that in mind, try to imagine what the super mad troll on your Facebook page is so mad about in their personal life before lashing out. A little kindness to them may just be a bright point in an otherwise awful period in their lives.
Another thing that Internet users have gotten used to is companies doing what they have to do to get by. Of course it happens in the “real” world a lot too, but Internet companies can sometimes be extra lazy as they have that extra layer of anonymity.
So it’s extra special when customers and fans encounter a company that goes that extra step to make them feel special. It ensures loyalty from fans and can also lead to further business as they won’t hesitate to recommend you.
So, for example, if someone asks on Facebook or Twitter about a problem they’re having, check up on it to see if it’s a recurring issue. Or, check their history to see if they’ve had problems in the past and, if so, offer them a future discount for sticking with the company. Even a repost of something they care about (their own business, maybe, or a charity) can make their day.
Little things like that might not seem like a big deal at the time but you could truly make someone’s day. In turn, they’ll stick by you through thick and thin.
What does your company do to show your care about your customers?
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of 7 Cheap PR Tactics for Success in Any Economy here: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/cheap-pr-tactics/
Boring old email – like the press release, many pundits have declared it dead…I beg to differ! It is true that other modes of communication, like texting, instant messaging, Twitter, etc., have proliferated. And it’s true that email “open rates” have declined.
But here at eReleases, email remains our primary means of communication, and likely the most important in “converting” prospective customers into new customers. We have web chat available during office hours, and our phone is answered 24 x 7, but email communication is by far the most important way we serve many hundreds of customers each month.
I hope you enjoy the reviews below, where I cover email marketing, email customer service, and email pitching.
The old cliché is true; you only get one chance to make a good first impression. This is as equally true online as it is in real life. Whether you are posting on social media, writing a blog post, or commenting on another thread, the impression that people get of you and your business will stick. Probably the most important example of this is the welcome email. When people sign up or subscribe, they should receive a welcome email from your business. What the emails says and its design will set the tone for what the customer should expect from you and the company. It should go without saying to avoid spelling errors, mistakes in grammar, or typing in ALL CAPS. That’s basically shouting at someone through the computer and nobody will be fond of it.
If you are struggling to pen the perfect welcome email, this article can help. Without further ado, here are 7 tips to writing the best welcome email.
1. Personalize—Your business wants to connect with your customers and your customers want to feel connected. One of the easiest and best ways to do that is to personalize the emails to them. Having their name at the top in the greeting goes a long way in cementing a great relationship.
2. Please and Thank You—Reminder: Your customers didn’t have to sign up for your emails; they wanted too. Be sure to thank them for trusting and supporting your business.
3. Subject Line—The standard “Welcome to Studio 16 Salon” is ok, but it won’t be eye-catching among the hundreds of other emails they get in a day. Punch it up and write something like, “Studio 16 Insider Trading: It’s not Illegal, We Promise!”
4. Discounts & Giveaways—As a bonus for your customers, consider offering a 10% off coupon for signing up for emails or do a free (small) product giveaway. Everyone likes free stuff.
5. Make Sure You Aren’t Spam—Some of the email filters out there are pretty strict. To ensure that your email is reaching their inbox, ask them to add you to their address book.
6. Words, Words, Words—When you are writing your email, limit the amount of words you use. Thank them for signing up, tell them what to expect in regard to frequency and content of future emails and add a picture. This is not the time to give them your entire business history.
7. Preferences—As an added feature, you can ask recipients to tell you their preferences regarding email content. Use this information to tailor your future correspondence to their interests.
Lastly be sure to send the welcome email as soon as someone signs up or subscribes. Many emails programs will automate this service, so take full advantage of it. There isn’t any point in sending welcome email months after someone has joined.
Email marketing and social media go together like peanut butter and chocolate, like peas and carrots, like…a bunch of other stuff that goes well in pairs. At least, they can if you have the right strategy, as it’s sometimes hard to figure out how to incorporate the two.
It seems easy enough: just link your social media sites to your email marketing and send people who signed up to your email campaign links to your social media. But you can’t stop there or you’re doomed – eventually you’re going to just be “preaching to the choir” so to speak. And your audience is going to get pretty bored hearing the same messaging from you in their email accounts and on their social media sites.
To help you expand the reach of your dual campaign, here are a handful of pointers.
Call to Action
Getting people to do anything on the web is often extremely difficult. Unless you specifically tell them to “go do so and so” they won’t even consider it. Even then you may have noticed many users just don’t “have the time” to click a link or watch a video. This is why the call to action is so important.
It’s not just giving instructions. A call to action should give the public some incentive for doing what you say. For example, if you say “Sign up for my email newsletter through Twitter!” or “Share this email marketing list on Facebook!” you should also include a little bait for anyone who reads it. An online coupon, maybe, or a free sample of something is more likely to get people motivated to check it out.
Post Newsletters Elsewhere
After your emails have gone out to your subscribers (so they get the exclusive look first), post your newsletter around the web for extra coverage. Your blog is one example, but don’t just restrict it there – try pinning it on Pinterest, for example, or sharing snippets of it on Twitter.
You can even turn parts of the newsletter into guest blog posts to send out to your partner sites. Make sure to include a link back to your newsletter on your blog so they can read more and then sign up for even more wisdom.
Don’t make anyone go to your website to sign up for the email newsletter. If they’re already on Facebook, they most likely won’t take the time to truly check out your site (see above). The fewer steps it takes for them to do anything the more likely it is they’ll do it.
Facebook lets you build a page on your profile for an Email Signup, so take advantage of it. Try to make it as simple as possible like Crocs does – just enter an email address and you’re done, on to play Candy Crush or whatever. Also take note of the coupon code they offer for signing up!
Accentuate the Social Networks Through Email
If you’re just including links to your social media sites in your emails without drawing attention to them, you’re probably not getting the best conversion possible. People could read the email and totally skip over the Facebook link or even make a note of it only to forget about it and delete the email.
One way to point out your social media sites exist is to send an entirely separate email that highlights your social media presence. Don’t be spammy, of course, and make sure to give them a reason for bothering them. For example, you could say “You’re only getting half the story! Join us on Twitter at @SoandsoTwitterAccount.”
Nothing’s harder than getting motivated when you’ve got the blues. And I don’t just mean run of the mill, average day to day type of blues – I’m talking about the email marketing blues! When an email marketing campaign is the center of your attack and it’s just not working, them’s the pits.
But there are a few cures for the blues, and they don’t involve taking a pill or drinking orange juice. These cures can work for the run of the mill blues and they can also work for your email marketing blues, so pick up your six-string and let’s go to work.
Switch It Up
Once you get the blues, you feel like you’re constantly stuck in a rut. That’s why one of the most important things you can do is to switch things up. When you get stuck in that rut, step your way out of it by finding an alternative way of doing things.
If your email marketing isn’t catching on, one or more things are wrong with it. Don’t just bang your head on the desk until it either works or you get a dent in your forehead. Instead, sit back and think of what you could change.
For instance, all that could be wrong is your subject line. Your recipients take one look at that email, laugh, and delete it. Reword it, check your spelling (you possibly missed an editing error), and try again. Get some fresh eyes on your subject line, too. Something like “Red Hot Toy Sale!” may seem perfectly innocuous to you as you try to sell children’s toys at holiday time, but might set off a red flag in your subscribers’ minds – one totally unrelated to children and the holidays.
It could also be your email list – you’re emailing the wrong people! Though it’s illegal to email people who haven’t opted in to your list, that doesn’t mean you can’t more effectively build that list and manage the subscribers you already have. Segment your list by demographic and test different sale and promotions. Or split test two emails – send one email to half of your list and another slightly different email to the other half, and test which one gets the most opens and click throughs.
Find a Jamming Partner
Another cure for the blues is to find someone to share it with. Misery loves company, and little is more miserable than never getting any emails back, not even an angry “STOP SENDING ME EMAILS.” So share that misery with someone who cares.
More importantly, share it with someone who might be able to help you bounce ideas around! Plenty of marketing/PR pros have been in the same boat as you. So why take advantage of that collective database of knowledge to pull yourself out of the email gutter?
Also, call up a few really creative friends or colleagues to come to your aid. They may be able to think of a truly radical idea that totally rejuvenates your tired campaign, one that you never would’ve dreamt up in a million years. This fresh approach could even lead to bigger things down the road for your entire business.
Have you ever received a newsletter from a company and wondered who they were writing to? Many companies send them out willy nilly without regard for the audience, their knowledge level, or their interests. These useless newsletters then get put in the spam folder or the recipient will unsubscribe from your list. Neither one of these situations is desirable after you and your employees have spent time building up your company and your contact list.
How can you make your newsletter stand apart though? What is the best way to reach your audience and keep them engaged? Let’s go through these 5 tips to get you started.
1. The Topic—A great topic is crucial. Of course, you want to keep customers updated regarding your services and products, but you always want to give them information they can use. Choose a topic that will answer frequently asked questions or solves a problem. Or write about something that they can apply to their life. A key component of this is choosing a topic that won’t become outdated and irrelevant over time. Try to pick subjects where the information will (almost) always be useful.
2. Uniquely You—Newsletters have a tendency to look the same and feature the same content, but not yours. Choose a fresh design and write your own original content to stand out from the pack. Your customers will thank you for not cluttering their inbox with the same old stuff.
3. Proofread—Remember to proofread and then go back and proofread again. Better yet, have a fresh pair of eyes take a look at what you’ve written. It is surprising at how many mistakes are overlooked when you’ve been staring at the computer screen for hours.
4. Break It Up—Long blocks of text bore your customer just as much as they bore you. It’s reminiscent of studying textbooks and not a good look for a newsletter. Use bullet points, bold text, subheadings and textboxes to break up the words on the screen.
5. Regularity—One of the surest ways to build a loyal readership is to send out regular newsletters. Set a date on the calendar and give yourself enough time in your work week to get them done. The regularity will encourage new subscribers and keep your current subscribers eagerly awaiting the next release.
Another thing you might consider doing is surveying your audience. Find out what they’d like to know more about and tailor your newsletters to their interests. Remember that a newsletter is not just a time to advertise. You are building a relationship with your readers and you want to give them valuable information that they can use.
As a way to encourage participation, offer a discount or giveaway for signing up or as a prize for answering a question correctly. It could be something as simple as a 20% discount on a future service or a free product in the mail.
There’s nothing worse than spending a ton of hours on something and seeing all your hard work go down the drain. It’s especially disheartening when you have what you think is a brilliant email PR campaign only to get virtually no response to it at all. You may think you’ve completely failed, but often it’s actually just one or two things that didn’t quite go as planned.
Before you fix up your email campaign to try again, check out the following 4 gaffes you could have made in your previous attempt. Amending them for the future may just save all your woes.
1. Not Very Personalized
Email campaigns often fall into the problem of feeling “mass produced.” You’ve no doubt gotten some of these emails yourself – you can tell right off the bat it was a mass email but with your name stuck in there somewhere. It just doesn’t have the feeling it’s coming from a real human being, which is particularly problematic if you’re a small business who depends on that.
So make sure you personalize each email. Yes, it takes more time, but the results will be worth it. For example, if you’re emailing bloggers, include something in your email about a post of theirs you read. This way they’ll get the feeling you really know who they are which makes it more likely they’ll pay attention to your email.
2. It Looks Spammy
Unless the recipient signed up for your email (or even if they did) there’s a distinct chance they’ll think it’s spam. Put yourself in their shoes: you’re bebopping along doing your blogging or what have you and an email pops up that says “HUGE OPPORTUNITY FOR YOUR BLOG” in the headline. Would you open it?
Reduce the chance for deletion by making everything as reader friendly as possible. Pick a headline that doesn’t come off as creepy or too vague. Clean up your text so it’s not riddled with clichés or promises you can’t keep. Also, if anything at all is in all caps, get rid of it!
3. You Forgot About Smartphones
Woe is the PR pro who forgets about the smartphone users who will read their emails…or better yet, will not read them as the formatting is too weird! Checking email on your phone or tablet is quickly becoming the norm. These days over 60% of all emails are opened on a smartphone or mobile device like an iPad or tablet and that number continues to go up all the time.
Make sure your images, videos, and wacky text fonts all work on as many platforms as possible. If a picture is squashing everything too much on your smartphone it will most likely ruin the experience for others as well. Fix it or pay the consequences when the email is just ignored.
4. Not Being Clear Why It’s Important
Why should your recipients care about this email? You can’t just assume they’ll love it because it’s from you. Most of these people you’re emailing likely have no clue who you are. They don’t care if you have a “crazy amazing deal around the corner.” You have to prove to them what you’re saying is true or they’ll delete your email with a quickness.
Be up front with what you’re promising. If you’re looking for a blog exchange, don’t beat around the bush or promise ridiculous stuff like tens of millions of views. Just say you think it would be mutually beneficial and come out and ask. Give realistic expectations and numbers and they’ll give you the time of day.
So much care goes into writing an email campaign that you can sometimes get “stuck” on the exact wording of parts of it. It’s almost like a weird form of writer’s block that affects you finalizing your email rather than writing it in the first place.
Likely you realize that sometimes it’s just one word that can completely change your entire campaign. Knowing this fact can sometimes totally paralyze you into never sending the email even though you’ve gone over it two dozen times.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve drafted up an email only to change one word before I sent it and realize the whole thing was wrong. At these times you have to make a decision whether to push through or start from scratch.
One important aspect of an email campaign is tone and feeling – you want to convey a certain “air” about your company when sending emails (or any message). For example, if your company is a financial institution, you may not want to come off as jokey or silly in your email. Similarly, an email campaign from a toy company probably doesn’t want to be overly serious.
Can one word totally change that? Sometimes it can. For instance you could be editing your email and change “bank” to “institution.” This makes you look at the rest of the email – is the rest of the email that informal? Should you make it more formal by changing up the wording?
This could then make you look at past email campaigns – were they formal enough? Have your email campaigns made customers feel like you aren’t taking their money seriously enough? This is how one word can change everything; it makes you take a look at everything you’ve done in the past.
Sometimes we get stuck on a word and it just won’t go away. You’ve fallen in love with the word “institution” for your financial company’s email campaign and made sure to put it everywhere. You think it makes the emails that much more believable and consistent.
However, that’s only true to a point. Repeated words can make your campaigns boring and unimaginative, so much so that even your biggest fans will stop reading them. Even if your information is useful and creative, repeated language can make it all seem like yesterday’s breakfast!
Usually it’s a good idea to limit repetition of less common words to three, maybe four times per email depending on length. This goes for even your most important buzzwords.
Similar to connotation, sometimes one word can go completely against your message. If you’re not careful, you could completely undo everything you’ve accomplished up to that point.
Imagine you represent a company that prides itself on “family values.” One day you send out an email campaign that has a cussword in it, just sitting there in the middle like a festering boil. Everyone is going to see it and you know it’s going to turn your readers off, yet you hit “send” anyway.
It may not be that drastic, but one word can derail your entire PR campaign in no time flat. Try to approach all your writing like this – how does each individual word affect what I’m trying to say? Does it represent my brand as a whole? I guarantee it’ll increase the quality of your writing.
You want to turn your press releases into great news articles on sites that will get you plenty of attention. We know that crafting a great press release is the first step—but then what? You face some big challenges to even get those pitch emails opened up, much less have your press releases read.
The key is to recognize those challenges and overcome them. So let’s get started recognizing!
1. You Have Lots of Competition.
The biggest challenge you have is all the competition. Email boxes of normal people are already clogged with junk mail. Now imagine a reporter’s, with all the PR reps trying to get their stories covered. I guarantee you it’s overwhelming. That said, you have to find a way to get your message to pop out from the others. Which brings me to my next point…
2. Making Sure They Know Who You Are.
The old saying, “It’s all who you know,” holds a lot of truth. It’s really hard for someone without connections to get much traction out of their story, much less get a reporter or blogger to open their email. Sure you might be able to land your story in small local papers, but getting in with the big fish is harder than you might think.
So how do you get the edge? Well, you network. Luckily, with social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter this is easier than ever. Here are some steps that can get you linked up:
Have you become best friends? Probably not. In fact, maybe they still don’t know you at all. But at least your name will look familiar, which may increase the odds of them opening your pitch.
3. The ISPs May Regard Your Emails as Spam.
If your emails continually get ignored, your problems may snowball into something bigger than you ever imagined. There are many people that believe that the more your emails go ignored, the bigger the chance that ISPs will begin looking at you as a spammer. In other words, if you keep sending email pitches that don’t get opened, you may find certain ISPs will start delivering them straight to the junk mail box.
Once that happens, you’re essentially blackballed and will have to find a new avenue altogether for delivering your pitches.
4. Matching Your Pitch with the Right People.
Sometimes the problem has nothing to do with how you go about writing your pitch. And sometimes the ISPs aren’t the problem either. You see, sometimes you have lost the battle before you even click send. Why? Because you’re sending the pitch to the wrong person.
No, I don’t mean you typed their email address incorrectly (although that does happen…but I’m assuming you are more careful than that…I hope). What I mean is that sometimes figuring out the right people to send you pitch to can be tricky. If you don’t pick the correct targets, you’re wasting your time.
That said, you have to study up a bit and find the publications, reporters, and blogs that best fit your topic. The more highly specialized the better, as it will yield more targeted traffic in the end.
Remember, if you send your pitch to someone for whom it is not relevant, you’re wasting everyone’s time and getting on people’s nerves.
Email can be a great avenue for delivering pitches and getting coverage for your news and events. However, it has to be done correctly. Failing to do things right could cause your emails to end up in SPAM boxes everywhere. Which means you’re just wasting your time and hurting your brand. How can you fix it?
Spend More Time Building Relationships
The number one way you can make sure an email makes it through is by first building a relationship with the recipient. Talk to them on Twitter. Meet them in real person. Comment on their blog. That way, when they get your email, it won’t be completely unsolicited. This reduces the chance that they flag it, which could get more of your emails automatically sent to the SPAM box in the future.
And on a side note, such relationship building will make it more likely that you’ll receive coverage for your pitch in the end. In other words, an unsolicited pitch is much less likely to be accepted.
Skip the Fancy Images and Large Attachments
If you are worried about getting through to the inbox, go text only. When you’re pitching someone, there’s no need to get fancy. They don’t have time to wait for your images to load and they sure don’t have time to download large files. In fact, both will make your emails feel like SPAM even if they aren’t flagged. A better solution is to include a link to your online news room where these images may be.
Really Think Through Your Title
We all know that the idea of a title is to hook the reader so they’ll want to know more information and read the actual email. But you really have to be careful with the technique you employ to get them to open the message. There are far too many marketers out there who write headlines that are completely bogus just to get people to click. The results are:
How can you avoid this? Well, take some time figuring out how to craft a convincing subject that is legit. The best way is to focus on the news itself. No lies. No skating around the truth. Just like your press release needs to deliver the gist in the first line, so should your email’s title.
Also, you need to avoid SPAM trigger words in your titles. These are words that email services often see as SPAM indicators. Will they automatically get you flagged? No. But it definitely increases the chances. Here’s a great list of words and phrases to avoid sorted by category. Some of them you obviously won’t be using, like “dig up dirt on your friends” or “meet singles.” But if you look under employment or financial, you might run into some key terms you could possibly use in your pitch title.
I would think this would go without saying, but you might be looking for ways to cut corners. However, let me assure you that sending out a mass pitch is a terrible idea. Let’s look at some reasons why:
How are you using email in your business? Let me know in the replies!
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of 8 Shocking Secrets Press Release Distribution Firms Don’t Want You to Know here: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/secrets-pr-firms-dont-want-you-to-know/
In this modern world where change seems to be ever-accelerating, it is very easy to be distracted by some new PR technique or fad. While it’s vital to keep up with the times, don’t allow yourself to be overly distracted by any practice that is not backed up by common sense communication principles. Below is some timeless PR advice that meets that standard:
Trying to stay on top of changes and techniques in the world of public relations can be trying. When you stop and think about it, however, you probably learned everything you need to know even before you hit first grade.
This is a lesson that sometimes comes back to bite PR pros when they’re not paying attention. Remembering not to lie or even stretch the truth, even a little, can help maintain your reputation and career in the industry.
Consider what happened to the team over at BP during the Gulf Oil Spill crisis. Not only did practically everything they attempted fail, the entire company has become a laughingstock. Do you think attempting to mislead the public as to what was really going on gave them a better shot at their next job interview?
Say You’re Sorry
If you knocked a classmate over during recess, the teacher made you apologize. Not only that, she explained why it was important: you have to take others’ feelings into consideration when something bad happens, even if it doesn’t happen to you.
How much do we forget this when a crisis happens to our company or business? Every time a scandal breaks out concerning Facebook, there’s never any formal apology or explanation from Zuckerberg and team. Just excuses and misdirection.
Accept responsibility for your actions. Most issues are forgivable if approached quickly and directly. The public will forgive and forget.
Use Your Imagination
Don’t always just stick to what you’re used to. If it’s not working, get creative! When you were in Kindergarten, didn’t the teacher always tell you to figure out a problem to try and approach it from a different angle?
If your current campaign is slouching, then figure out what does work instead of attacking the same way repeatedly. Hold a powwow with your team and try and come up with the most ridiculous ideas you can. You never know which one might end up working!
Be Quiet and Listen
There was always that one kid in class who did nothing but blab constantly. They were always getting their little stars taken away due to their flapping lips. Eventually, they finally learned to be quiet once in a while and listen to what other people were saying instead of going on constantly about themselves.
Be a Friend to Others
Sharing is important. While crayons won’t cut it at this level, you can certain turn a journalist on to a trend you’ve noticed or a possible story idea. You can also praise him or her for something they’ve recently written. At its root, PR works because of connections and relationships. The more you foster these types of relationships, the more successful you will be when you pitch.
We need to remember these basic lessons in our industry. If public relations is all about the public (and, well, it is), part of our job is to shut up and revisit the basics once in a while. We think we know exactly what our customers want, but sometimes, we’re wrong. If we would shut our flapping lips and open our ears, we might learn something new!
Successful PR people know that pitching is a science. If you want reporters to give you the time of day, you have to know the best tactics for grabbing their attention and selling them on your story.
Here are 7 simple tips you can put to use today to improve your pitches.
1. Make it personal – If you want to capture the reporter’s attention, you need to go beyond simply copying and pasting your press release into an email. You need to personalize your pitch. Address the reporter by name, and show them you’ve read their past articles and admire their work. Even better, find a way to connect your story with their past work to show how perfect a fit it is for their publication.
2. Keep it brief – Reporters receive hundreds of pitches each week. Going through them all is time consuming, meaning you need to simplify your pitch as much as possible. Keep it short and to the point, and make sure the essence of your message comes across within just seconds. If possible, find a way to capture what your story is about in a single sentence.
3. Don’t send press releases as attachments – Sending your press release exclusively as an attachment is a bad idea for a few reasons. First, the file may not be compatible with the reporter’s word processor. Second, opening an attachment just takes too much time. And third, attachments could cause your email to get flagged as spam, leading to a low delivery rate. Instead, copy and paste the text of your press release into the body of the email.
4. Email at the right time of day – Knowing when to email is just as important as knowing what to email. Remember, reporters are constantly up against deadlines. That’s why it’s a good idea to send your email over early in the morning before the rush to meet the deadline hits. Of course, every reporter has his or her own preferences, so it’s always helpful to find out what their “best time” to be reached is.
5. Write an irresistible subject line – Your subject line is important for two main reasons: 1) It’s essential for grabbing the reporter’s attention and getting them to open your email and 2) It’s responsible for making certain your email doesn’t get flagged as spam. As it relates to the first point, you need to write compelling subject lines that don’t sound like advertisements or generic, boring stories. Write subject lines that you could see as headlines in the reporter’s publication.
To make sure your email doesn’t get flagged as spam, avoid excessive punctuation and USING ALL CAPS AS THIS LOOKS SPAMMY!!!
6. Link your pitch to a current event – Tying your story to a current event or an industry trend can make it much more appealing to reporters. This adds an extra newsworthy element to your story, increasing the odds it gets picked up.
7. Be prepared to answer questions – This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised just how many times PR people aren’t properly prepared to field questions. Make sure you’re confident in the material before you initiate contact. Think of questions reporters might ask, and be prepared to give clear, concise answers.
As a reporter, I had a recurring nightmare that I was on deadline and working on a huge story, frantically trying to find the public relations person for the company I was writing about. I looked high and low on the company’s web site and could only locate the company’s main office number. I dug up old press releases online, but there was no public relations contact listed. This nightmare has been reality more than once for me. These are some simple tips that can help companies not only utilize the web effectively, but also help garner some easy publicity.
1. Corporate Contact Information
It doesn’t matter if you’re Microsoft or if you’re Joe’s Lamp Emporium: Every company’s web site should have a public relations page that details corporate contact information. The page should include a mailing address, phone number, and email address. Retail outfits should always include directions, for both drivers and customers using mass transit, to locations. If you have more than one store or facility, include information for each location.
2. Background Information
Consumers and members of the media like to know who they are doing business with. Including a company history, whether it be a biography of your business or a timeline of important events, is useful. For small businesses, it’s always nice to know who started the company and why. Personalize your business by putting information about your founder or head honcho online. You’d be surprised at the publicity when word gets around that a University of Wisconsin graduate has opened a boutique in Atlanta. Give consumers and members of the media every reason to identify with your company and the personalities behind it.
3. The Public Relations Page
It is imperative that journalists have the contact information for your company’s public relations department. The public relations page should include names, phone numbers, and email addresses for all of your public relations contacts — even that happens to be you, the owner. Some companies have numerous public relations contacts who serve various purposes. Let it be known that if someone is seeking information on corporate issues they should contact Jane Doe. But if someone is seeking information about community issues they should contact John Doe (no relation to Jane, just a happy coincidence). This page should include links to any press releases your company has put out. Make sure to keep it updated. I’ve been to web sites that are wildly out-of-date and there is no excuse for that. Be sure to include recent press clippings and if you’re a small business, considering mentioning what media outlets have given you a little recent (and positive) publicity.
4. More on the Public Relations Page
Are you a member of your local Chamber of Commerce? A member of a regional tech organization or a lobbying group? Let the media know. If JunkTech’s web site tells me that the company is a member of the Greater Kenosha Regional Technological Society, I’m more likely to contact JunkTech and give them some publicity instead of waiting to make contacts with the Society itself. Promoting your alliances will pay off. Also be sure to include information about any charities that you work with or any events that you sponsor.
5. Be Clear
I am by no means a technology expert, but I do cover the technology sector. Sometimes I’ll be researching a company and after an hour I still don’t understand what they do. There’s nothing wrong with giving a layman’s explanation of what products or services your company offers. Someone may need your services but not understand how to tell someone what they’re looking for. Catchphrases, technical jargon, and buzz words went out with the dotcom bubble. Be simple, be clear. Tell the customer and the media what your company does.
The public relations information you provide online has two linked purposes when it comes to the media: Give journalists access to information they need and give them the information that may lead them to write about your company. The more information, the better. And the more information, the more likely it is you’ll get the good publicity you crave.
Improving your public relations strategy doesn’t have to be a time- or money-consuming affair. Taking on some easy tasks and implementing some simple ideas can lead directly to generating good publicity and improving your existing public relations efforts. Here are six tips to get the most out of your public relations budget.
1. Keep Your Press List Updated
Although I haven’t been a working journalist in several years, I still receive plenty of email pitches from public relations professionals. If I’m still on a press list, how accurate is the rest of that list? Various services offer access to continually updated media databases, and if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, interns will surely love updating a press list by hand.
2. Join a Professional Networking Site
I have a hard enough time managing my social relationships, so I’ve stayed away from professional networking services. Recently, however, I’ve found myself on LinkedIn.com— one of many professional networking services — reconnecting with old business contacts, as well as old high school classmates who have moved onto jobs in my industry. Interestingly, I’ve seen a number of journalists using the service to solicit interview subjects and sources, including a reporter who does tech stories for the local NBC affiliate in New York City and a freelancer working on an article for Entrepreneur. I love these type of “low-hanging fruit” opportunities.
3. Tap Your Co-Workers for Public Relations Ideas
Being the only member of my company’s public relations “department” often means that I’m left to formulate and implement all public relations strategies. This is not an easy task, especially considering that public relations is one of my peripheral duties. My company’s principals offer up public relations ideas on occasion, however, and they have some very good instincts. Recently, I asked all of my co-workers to help out with some public relations ideas and to offer up some of their own. I was pleased with the response, and I was gratified to learn that everyone, from the salespeople to the tech guys, had some understanding of public relations. Interestingly, the best new public relations idea came from our part-time customer service representative. We’re working on putting it into action now.
4. Collaborate With Your Customers
Many of my company’s clients are hedge funds, which means they are prohibited from marketing. This makes it difficult to attract investors, particularly for new hedge funds. Knowing this, I recently contacted some of our clients to see if they would be interested in extending their public relations opportunities. The pitch was that these hedge funds could get some publicity in exchange for publicly acknowledging that they use our product. I’ve received some positive responses and some disinterested responses. (Hedge funds are notoriously press-shy. ) But I’ve also yet to receive any negative responses. My business may not be the best to implement this strategy, but there are plenty of opportunities where companies can work with their customers to engineer good publicity for both sides.
5. Clean Up Your Online Press Area
I’m still constantly amazed at the poorly managed online press areas that seem to satisfy many companies. A poorly constructed online press area will turn off many journalists, especially if finding contact information is difficult. My company is in the process of overhauling its web properties, and we’re working on improving is our online press area. Remember to include background information on your company and key executives, so that lazy journalists can grab boilerplate copy.
6. Hire Interns
Students are always on the prowl for internships. Interns can help you with tasks such as building media lists, but they can also infuse fresh perspectives and ideas into your company and public relations campaigns. And a good intern can eventually turn into a good employee. Please, if you hire interns, make sure that the experience is worth their time as well as yours. Interns are there to learn and they should be treated with respect and encouraged to ask questions.
Ever call up one of the big PR firms and ask them to represent you only to back away slowly when the rate quote arrived? That’s because mega-giant PR firms are almost prohibitively expensive for the little guy. But guess what? They’re also almost always unnecessary. In this day and age, any small company, no matter what their industry, can take their PR into their own hands, and you can, too.
Here’s how you can conduct your company’s PR campaign for free or nearly free on the web and in the streets:
1.) Establish Your Expertise in Unexpected Places – Sign up for free accounts on social media, create an account at niche discussion forms, or post a blog. And when you get set up, don’t simply advertise your services. Interact with followers, find and answer questions about your area of expertise, share useful information you’ve found around the Internet, and hold passionate discussions with customers and potential customers. Your expertise will shine through, yours will become a familiar voice, and you will be remembered the next time someone needs a company like yours.
2.) Sign up to Help a Reporter Out – Peter Shankman’s mailing list arrives in your inbox three times daily filled with requests from hopeful reporter for sources just like you. Subscribe and answer every query that fits your area of expertise. Who knows? You just might end up in the New York Times.
3.) Explore Your Own Jungle – Or, in this case, head out into your own neighborhood. Just like charity, publicity begins at home. A story that wouldn’t have a chance on the national news just might be a perfect fit for the local paper. And don’t forget local promotions. Sponsor a local event, raffle or contest and watch your good name become a household name in your community.
4.) Team Up with Big Names – Does a magazine or blog dominate your field? Pitch a story or guest post. Your name linked with theirs gives you instant credibility. Hot new foodie boutique opening up down the street? Make sure they’re selling your locally produced hot sauce during the grand opening when reporters are sure to sniff around.
5.) Plan a Publicity Stunt – Because of misuse, publicity stunts get a bad name, with many people confusing straightforward publicity stunts with “hoaxes” designed to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. But it helps to remember that old-fashioned publicity stunts might have consisted of something as silly as the town mayor volunteering to sit in a dunking booth. The “stunt” attracted attention simply for the novelty of getting to soak the mayor in water, and proceeds usually went to charity or the town coffers. For your own publicity stunt, you might create a wacky commercial and post it on YouTube, or put together a local scavenger hunt through your town to prove to the public that your apartment locator service can find all the hidden gems.
These are just a few of the cheap or free guerrilla tactics you can apply to your own PR. The more creative and tenacious you are, the better your return. Don’t be a name in a mega-giant PR firm’s portfolio. Be a tenacious, creative guerrilla PR pro.
You spend a lot of time, energy, and maybe even money writing and distributing your press releases. It seems like kind of a shame (and a waste) to spend so many resources writing a press release only for you to send it out and forget all about it. Surely, you should be getting more from all your hard work, right?
Don’t let a good press release die a quick death. You can put your press releases to work for you and get more mileage out of them by repurposing them in a number of different ways.
Here are just a few of the simple things you can do to get more use from your press releases:
Are you ignoring your email marketing campaigns? It’s time to cut that out and fire your keyboards back up. To get you started, here are three emails you should be sending out on a regular basis. They will help you establish authority, show you care, and generally just wow all your customers so they can’t wait to come back for more.
1. Quick Tips
One way many PR and marketing people use email campaigns is to build authority. The more information and unique perspectives you offer to your customers, the more they’ll grow to trust what you say. When this happens, they’re more likely to not only listen to you but to recommend you to others.
Small tips that your customers can read quickly and move on with are a great way to build this authority. If you make them digestible enough it also gives them ample opportunity to share the tips with others on social media or through email.
Just make sure the tips make sense for your customers. Even need be you can tailor individual emails or even in groups – for example, if you have a group of suburban moms and a group of punk rock teenagers as customers, send one email full of tips for after-school activities and another on how to clean leather jackets.
You like to think everything was smooth sailing after your customer bought your item, but that’s of course not always the case. While you undoubtedly have gone over all your products with a fine-toothed comb (including the comb itself), it’s still a good idea to make sure everything came out ok.
For one, the customer may be having a problem you never expected. The longer they go not actually using your product and instead going insane while cursing your name, the more likely they’re not going to come back for more. Head this off at the pass.
Another reason to follow-up is you can send them to your social media sites for more info. Let them know that’s where they’ll get the most up-to-date news on product updates and other company news. This helps gear these profiles toward netting even more sales.
3. Build Relationship/Improve Service
Everybody likes a company that’s interested in maintaining a sense of pride when it comes to their level of service. So if you’re taking an active interest in how smoothly your business runs, customers will notice.
Send them an occasional note to see if there’s anything you can do for them. To really improve service, send out a survey and find out what area of your business you can fix for them. Make sure to also ask what the high points are so you know what areas to focus on.
This also builds a relationship between you and the customer. They know you’re there for them when they need you – and then some! This goes well with authority building as well, as you’ll appear to have total control of all aspects of your company.
I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve heard people say that press releases don’t work. They say that they gave it a try once and didn’t get any results. Once. They send out one press release, don’t get any bites, and write it off as an outdated, ineffective tactic.
I also have had my fair share of new clients and prospects who want to know what they can expect from their first press release. In their minds, they expect that a single press release will launch their company into the awareness of the mainstream and send profits through the roof. And when that doesn’t happen, they wonder why.
Chances are, a single press release isn’t going to do all that much for you. That’s just not how it usually works. Persistence is the key to success. You have to try multiple angles and hooks, and you have to continuously send out newsworthy press releases steadily over a period of time to get the attention of the media.
I call it the leaky faucet approach to PR. If you keep putting yourself out there by sending out newsworthy press releases, eventually, the media will take notice. Sooner or later, you’ll be in the right place at the right time. A reporter will be working on a story and need a person, product, or a company to use in a story. If you’re the right fit, they’ll remember you because you’ve made yourself known to them through a series of well-written, engaging press releases.
It’s not even about having breaking news to announce. From my experience, the types of press releases that have produced results are newsworthy press releases that test out different angles and approaches to engage the reporter and make them aware of who you are, what you do, etc.
My point is this — Don’t give up. Commit to a long-term press release distribution strategy in which you try new things and repeatedly engage reporters so that they stay aware of you and eventually think of you when you’re a good fit for a story they’re working on.
Which of these resonate most with you? Do you have any to add? Let me know in the comments!
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of the Beginner’s Guide to Writing Powerful Press Releases here: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/beginners-guide-writing-powerful-press-releases/
I’ve written about press release errors to avoid – below are more PR failures that are all too common:
Here on the PR Fuel blog, we spend a lot of time offering tips for press release writing, covering everything from how to hook editors with strong openings to fact checking your press release. Today, I want to go in a little bit of a different direction. I want to talk about not writing press releases. More specifically, I want to discuss the situations when you shouldn’t write a press release because it’s a waste of your time.
There are three times I can think of when publishing a press release is a bad idea. If you can think of other situations, leave a comment and add to this list.
1. You’re only concerned with SEO – I’m probably going to get some flak for this, but I don’t think your main reason for writing a press release should be to score some backlinks and increase your search engine presence. Yes, optimizing your press releases is important, and yes there are a lot of SEO benefits to be gained with press release distribution. But when you start publishing press releases just for SEO, you almost always end up sending out high volumes of low quality, poorly written press releases. And they almost always end up on “free” press release websites where they get no attention.
2. You have nothing to say – A while back, PR Fuel published a collection of press release topic ideas. If you ask me, there’s almost always a story to be told. But some businesses don’t know how to find those stories, and they don’t have anything important to say. As a result, they end up sending out a boring, lifeless press release that stands no chance of getting picked up. It’s a total waste of time.
3. You don’t have a plan – The main reason PR campaigns fail is because there isn’t a plan. You can’t haphazardly send out press releases every few months and expect to suddenly end up on a couch across from Oprah. You need to have a plan and goals. Every press release should serve a specific purpose, and you need to be committed to long-term press release distribution. That’s how you get results.
Press releases can be a great way to spread the word about your company’s exploits and news. However, they also have the potential to backfire horribly if you’re not careful! Most bad press releases get ignored or tossed in the trash, but occasionally one makes it through the gates. In this case, you may have gotten in over your head!
Why? Because not only was the press release bad, the information contained within is either misleading, TMI, or just plain wrong.
Your current promotion involves a big treasure hunt for your loyal customers. It sends them all across town in a fun game that also offers them free items and discounts on future purchases. So you set about writing up a great press release about it.
Unfortunately, you finish writing the press release before all the details have been finalized. As a result, it has several places mentioned that may or may not participate now.
This confusion will cause some major headaches down the road for everyone involved – especially those customers roaming around town looking for clues! While some are still able to solve the puzzles and get the promotion just fine, others are angry they were misled by the whole thing.
Always make sure the facts are backed up on your press release. Verify everything before it comes out or it will cause big problems!
Ah, the classic overshare. Now, TMI (or Too Much Information if you didn’t know) doesn’t have to be something degrading or awful you put out to the world. It can simply mean you’re just putting way to much info in the press release and it may damage the overall message.
For instance, your company just suffered a major economic downturn and is letting several members of the staff go. You don’t want to let your customers think the company is going to fold, however, so you try to come up with a good angle.
To take pressure off the company, you try to include as many good things that have happened over the years. But instead of giving confidence, it comes off as a cheap ploy or desperate grasping at straws. The customers leave anyway because you were giving out way too much information. Try to be more succinct in your press releases – if it seems extraneous, it probably is!
Giving out wrong information in a press release can not only damage the relationship you have with customers, it can land you in court!
Say you’re running a promotion soon that gives great discounts for certain items. Unbeknownst to you, those sales items have similar item numbers to other products. As a result, you accidentally print the wrong numbers.
Come sale time, quite a few people are going to be more than a little miffed when they come in to your store and can’t find the items listed. They may even report you for false advertising, which will really land you in hot water!
Again, always be sure your press release is accurate in every way, shape, and form. Otherwise, there could be some very real consequences.
There’s no glamour in writing press releases. It’s not sexy. It’s not terribly exciting, either. And there’s no fame and fortune waiting for a press release writer. But make no mistake, there absolutely is an art to writing great press releases. And when you’re competing against hundreds of other press releases trying to grab a reporter’s attention, you’d better hope you didn’t make any of these annoying mistakes when writing your release:
I’ve spent some time on here in the past discussing why I think proper grammar matters in press releases. It matters in all of your writing, in fact. It even matters in blogging, I’d argue. Sure, blogging is less formal, and it’s okay to bend some grammar rules here and there if it helps you communicate more effectively. Heck, I’ve certainly bent and broken my fair share of rules on this blog, intentionally and unintentionally.
However, there are certain grammatical mistakes that you simply can’t break. When you break them, it makes you look just plain stupid, to be quite honest. It causes you to lose credibility with your readers – whether that reader is a guest on your blog or a reporter you’ve just sent a press release to.
So, which grammatical mistakes do you have to avoid at all costs?
1. Using of instead of have
This one drives me a little bit insane whenever I see it. The phrase is could have, not could of. It’s should have, not should of. And it’s would have, not would of. I understand that when you hear it said aloud it sounds like the person is saying of, but they’re (hopefully) saying have.
2. Getting your yours, theres, and its mixed up
I’ve gone over these mistakes a few times in the past, so I’ve combined them all into the #2 spot on this list. Let me just repeat what I’ve said in the past to make this easier:
Their indicates possession, such as we are going to their house.
There refers to a place, such as place the bags over there or there is a bookstore on Main Street.
They’re is a contraction of the words they and are. For example, they’re coming over for dinner at 6 tonight.
Your indicates possession. For example, do your homework or clean your room.
You’re is a contraction of you and are. For example, you’re going to get in trouble if you don’t clean your room.
It’s (with an apostrophe) means it is, like it’s going to be a good day. Its (without an apostrophe) indicates ownership, like the dog chewed its bone.
3. Mixing up loose and lose
Loose and lose are two totally different words with completely different meanings. It’s not: Why did you loose my wallet? It’s: why did you lose my wallet?
And it’s not: My pants are lose because I lost weight. It’s: My pants are loose because I lost weight.
4. Using the word irregardless
Regardless of what you might see all over the internet, irregardless is a word used by ignorant people who should be simply saying regardless.
5. Using the word supposably
I have to wrap up this list before I throw my laptop across the room (by the way, it’s throw, not through). Supposably isn’t a word. That’s all there is to it. The correct word is supposedly.
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of 7 Cheap PR Tactics for Success in Any Economy here: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/cheap-pr-tactics/
I’ve maintained for years that most press releases simply go nowhere, but this fate is completely avoidable. Below you can review the main reasons press releases fail, some horror-show headlines, and a great example of a headline makeover!
Inject any reporter with truth serum, and they’ll tell you that 99% of press releases they receive don’t matter and get deleted. Most press releases suck, and they’re a waste of words and a waste of everyone’s time, from the person who wrote it to the reporters who get bombarded with it.
But the fact still remains that press releases can be your ticket to landing the media coverage you desire. So instead of abandoning the idea of press releases altogether, let’s focus on the mistakes you might be making that are causing your press releases to be ignored.
Stop Playing It Safe!
If you want your press release to matter, you have to do something different. You have to do something that gets you noticed. Sticking to the same old tired press release format and rehashing the same old storylines just isn’t going to cut it anymore. You have to start thinking outside of the box.
Instead of sending a regular press release, use an infographic to tell your story. Add some video or photos to get your message across. Instead of including a generic quote from a company executive, get a quote that actually adds to the story and makes the press release more interesting. Instead of trying to promote your product blatantly, tell a real story about real people.
Be creative. Be daring. Be unique. That’s how you’ll create a press release that matters.
Look, I’m not saying press releases that meet the criteria on the list below are GOING to fail. If you’ve written up one of the following press releases and you feel like taking a chance, go for it. The funny thing about press releases is they can be fairly unpredictable – just like the average day in a newsroom.
However, it’s all about increasing the odds. You don’t wear a seatbelt because you’re 100% sure you’re going to be safe in a wreck; you wear it because it increases your chances up towards that 100%.
What I’m trying to say is writing one of these press releases is like riding in a car without a seat belt. Just don’t do it!
Minor Staff Change
Did you just hire Bill Gates as your CEO? Has Warren Buffett signed on as a financial advisor? Is Christian Bale quitting acting and joining your team? Then you should definitely write up a press release, because those are big changes and each one is big news.
Did Bob from accounting move up the ladder to VP of Sales? Did Janet from tech support work her way up to CIO? While these stories are interesting to you, they are not going to be interesting to 99% of people who read newspapers or other media. The #1 rule of a press release is to make sure it’s interesting to the public. If it isn’t, it’s dead in the water.
Spinning Bad News
Two years ago Citigroup fired a significant portion of its staff. The ensuing press release was an absolute nightmare. It used the word “repositioning” over and over instead of discussing why it had to fire employees. It wasn’t until several paragraphs in that it was clear what they were actually saying.
Even worse, they tried to spin the news into a “new step forward” story. This was a terrible time for their former employees and Citigroup decided to focus on how great it was for the company instead.
Of course the story became about how bad the press release was rather than what Citigroup wanted. If you have bad news, be up front about it. Journalists will sniff out the real story if you don’t.
Shameless Plugs Hidden as Stories
Your company is about to release the Vacuumatic 5000, the most impressive vacuum cleaner ever. You’ve already sent a press release about the actual product, but you don’t think it got enough coverage. So you set out to write a brand new one that talks up the vacuum but is disguised as a story on how dust bunnies have exponentially increased in recent years.
Not only is this obviously a shameless attention grab, journalists will see through it immediately. It has very little to do with your product and you’re just trying to sneak your product into the public’s eye. It might work for a white paper, but press releases need to be direct and up front with their intentions. Wait for some actual news to come from your company and try again.
I lied. I’m not going to tell you how to become the richest person on earth. Sucks, doesn’t it?
But what I did is no different than what I’m unfortunately seeing on a regular basis with other press releases, blog posts, emails, and so on.
A great press release headline sucks the reader in. It grabs the attention of the reporter and makes him (or her) want to find out more about your story. And if the rest of your press release delivers on the promise of your headline, you’re golden. Of course, that’s a big if for some people. See, some of you reading this are headline liars.
That’s right, I called you a liar.
Look, we live in an age where our audiences are bombarded with more content and more distractions than ever before. We need any edge we can get to stand apart from all the noise, even if just for a moment. So, sometimes, some of us stretch the truth a little bit in our headlines with the hope that it will get the story noticed and earn some coverage. It’s just a little white lie, right?
The problem with making a promise in your headline that you don’t deliver on in your story is that it instantly kills your credibility. Fool a reporter once and you’re done forever. Anything you say going forward won’t be believed. So is it really worth trying to pull a fast one when you’re running the risk of ruining your reputation and burning bridges permanently?
The fact is that if you have to come up with a misleading headline, then your story isn’t that good to begin with. So instead of trying to put a pile of garbage in a nice, pretty package, try to come up with a story angle that’s so compelling your headline will practically write itself. That’s how you’ll get the kind of attention you really want.
And the candidate for Worst Press-Release-of-the-Week™ is actually a media alert:
The headline tells nothing about the importance of this media alert.
— Why does this video matter?
— What is Willis?
— Why is this announcement important?
— There is no company boilerplate in the alert.
— There is no mention of a specific industry.
I can’t help but think this was a true opportunity lost. Very few journalists are going to bother researching a company without a strong foundation.
After writing headlines for press releases for quite some time it can be difficult to come up with brand new ones. You increasingly need new ways to hook readers in, especially in this hyper-fast digital world. If your headline doesn’t hook the reader immediately it’s likely it will get lost in the shuffle of everyday life.
To help you out, here are a few cases where a “meh” headline turns into something more noticeable and enticing. These “makeovers” should help you get some ideas on how to rope readers in quickly.
“SuperCo Announces Their New Line of Edible Coffee Cups Called YumYumBeenz”
Headlines work best in press releases when they’re easily digested. Your initial reader, the reporter or editor at the newspaper or magazine, has to go through a ton of these things every day. If they glance at your press release and the title is super long it’s just one in a long list of things they can use to ignore you.
Short, concise, and informative as possible is best. Try to get your point across quickly while also giving readers something to grab onto. Try these instead:
“YumYumBeenz Lets You Eat Your Caffeine”
“Don’t Wash Your Coffee Cups – Eat Them!”
Readers likely don’t care about the company making an announcement, so there’s no reason that’s there. Just get to the point – you can now eat your coffee cups. That’s the story, and it’s a great one.
Find Some Relevant Data
People love numbers, whether they realize it or not. A good percentage or other relevant data can give the something to hold onto, something that gives them perspective on the story. They understand the “world” of your press release a little more.
If you don’t have any data, it might be worth gathering some. For instance you could run a poll on your Facebook feed to find out what people think about edible coffee cups. Then, you could use this in your press release headline.
“75% of Coffee Drinkers Want Edible Cups”
“Edible Coffee Cups Keep 10 tons of Waste Out of Town Landfills”
Right away readers not only have an idea what the announcement is about but also have some data to latch onto. You accomplished two things at once.
Bring in Some Emotion
But let’s take it a step further. More than just being informative you want your press release to inspire emotion in readers. Finding out new info is fun, but feeling something will make them remember the press release.
You figured something out with the 90,000 pounds example above – saving the Earth and being green is a big deal. Now it’s time to really take it to the next level with something that makes readers feel how important it is to buy these edible cups.
“Edible Cups Save the Earth One Coffee at a Time”
“Save the Planet of 90,000 LBs of Waste with Edible Cups”
These types of headlines don’t just inform, they instill a sense of urgency with readers. Anyone who cares about edible cups will likely already be concerned with saving the planet. They’ll immediately take notice of the headlines and at least check out what you have to offer. And that’s really all you can ask of your press releases.
How many times do you rewrite a press release headline? Let me know in the comments!
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download a free copy of the PR Checklist – a 24 point list of Press Release Dos and Don’ts here: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/pr-checklist/
Yes, you can greatly improve your press releases, it’s simple to get more media coverage and engagement. I didn’t say easy, it surely takes work and focus. But the basic principles of great PR are simple, because they’re based on common sense. Here are some great tips, thoughts about bosses and clients, and even the challenge of a one-sentence release:
Writing just might be the most important skill you can have. It doesn’t matter how many reporters you know or how unique your story angle is, if you can’t write a compelling press release that instantly sucks readers in, everything else is meaningless.
Unfortunately, too many press release writers never improve their writing skills. As a writer, it’s easy to fall into a trap of writing everything the exact same way, using the exact same layout and the exact same buzzwords time and time again. But like the saying goes, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.”
Simply put, if you’re tired of your press releases not getting results, you need to try something different. What you need to try is writing them differently.
Here are 5 ways to become a better press release writer.
1. Don’t fall into the template trap – Is it just me or do 9 out of 10 press releases read exactly the same? It’s always “ABC Company, the leader in the (insert name of industry), recently announced their (insert buzzword)…” It’s all the same , and it makes all the press releases blend together. Remember, reporters and buyers both have seen a lot of press releases. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you have to break free from this template, plug-and-play style of writing. Dare to be different and creative. Just make sure you still get to the point and answer all the main questions.
2. Get to know the product and company inside and out – Whether you’re writing press releases for your company or you’re a PR pro writing them for someone else, you need to spend time getting truly familiar with the subject you’re writing about. Try to steer clear of the common buzzwords and slogans that sometimes get attached to products and companies. Instead, focus on the problems it solves, the pain points it alleviates for customers, who the customers are, and other important details. This will allow you to create a more detail rich, less generic press release.
3. Know what your audience is looking for – Recently, we talked about how there are many different press release audiences today. Your press release could be for traditional media, new media, buyers, investors, affiliates, or search engines. Know your audience, and understand what type of information and style is important to them.
4. Cut the fluff – No matter who your audience is, they share one thing in common: They’re starved for time. They just want the most important information delivered to them as quickly and clearly as possible. In the past, we’ve talked about press release length, and the point is that there isn’t necessarily a specific word count you should be aiming for. But instead, you should be focusing on finding ways to deliver your message as succinctly as possible without losing clarity. Try printing out your press releases and slashing through fluff (unnecessary words and info) with a red pen.
5. Practice daily – The only way you can get better at writing press releases is to practice every single day. Even If you’re writing press releases you’ll never send out, it’s still important to get that practice in. When practicing, try out new writing techniques and work on your improving your weaknesses.
With so many press releases flying out there in the world, the smallest mistake can cause a huge problem. Reporters and interns have to look at thousands of press releases every week and they’re just BEGGING you to goof up so they can knock your press release out of contention for that particular edition.
So you have to perfect, and you probably already know that. What you don’t know is some of the mistakes you’re making right up front and didn’t even know it! Let’s look at some of the most common you can avoid to have a more perfect press release.
Pretending Your Announcement is the Biggest Ever
You’re not going to fool anyone pretending your new product will save the planet. Everyone who reads it in the paper will know your TurboWind 5000 vacuum isn’t going to create peace in the Middle East. So why are you writing your press release like it’s going to be the best thing since the wheel?
We all like to be excited about the news we’re writing about. We love our company and want everyone else to be as pumped about the news as we are. However, it’s important to keep it all in check. What’s huge news to you is likely going to be “that’s nice” worthy to others.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t be excited so it comes across in your writing. But don’t let it overtake you to where you’re throwing in forty exclamatory phrases to describe your new vacuum.
Simple, Simple, Simple
Think of the last time you pitched to somebody in person. They walked up to you, asked what your company/product was all about, and you started talking. How long did you go on? Did you ramble forever or did you say what you had to say and got out of there so the product could do the talking?
Your press release should be nice and succinct as well. Too much info will lead the person reading it to be overwhelmed and likely gloss over the story entirely, just like they would if you were blabbing in their ear for hours on end.
Make sure you get the who, what, where, why, when, and how in there, but if you want any extra information make very sure it adds to the narrative. If it’s extraneous, cut it.
Blow Them Away Right From the Start
99 times out of 100 writers will spend lots of time crafting a great press release only to stumble when it comes to the very beginning. Unfortunately for them, that’s arguably the most important portion of the press release.
If you don’t hook readers right away, they’re going to ignore you. The headline and opening sentence/paragraph is like a trailer for a movie. How often do you see a crappy trailer and think “boy, can’t wait to see that movie!” Once in a while you might go just to see the train wreck, but most of the time you just skip the film. It’s the same with your press release – don’t waste anyone’s time by having a poor opening.
After you’ve perfected the rest of your document, go over the title and opening paragraph a few more times. I promise there’s always a better way to approach both of them. Try a few ways you never would try otherwise to see if it works. You may be surprised.
There’s nothing wrong with it. After all, it’s natural. We all want to please our bosses. Doing so will often lead to raises and promotions. Not to mention, there’s just a deep down good feeling when praised for a job well done. In fact, one study cites that 78 percent of workers say being recognized motivates them to do a better job.
And like I said—inherently, there’s nothing wrong with it.
You’re waiting for the “but,” aren’t you? Here it comes…
BUT, such people pleasing behavior can become a problem when you lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Case in point: press releases.
What Are Press Releases For?
I know, we’re beating a dead horse here. But the reason we are writing press releases is to get media coverage. We want that spot on the local news. That article in the city paper. That post on the top trending blog. Hell, even just a tweet from someone with the right followers. That is why we write these press releases.
But when we’re trying to please a boss it’s easy to lose sight. Easy to lose purpose.
If You’re Writing a Press Release to Get a Pat on the Back—STOP
You aren’t writing a press release to make a quota. You’re writing to share a story reporters and their readers will care about. However, in an attempt to please the boss, often press releases get written exactly for the purpose of just filling a quota.
Does it matter that you meet quotas at work? Sure. Does it matter if your boss likes your press release? Sure. Does it matter that you’re doing a good job? Of course it does. But if you’re delivering a release just to deliver, you are ultimately doing more harm than good. The press release will not be relevant, and it will not get call backs.
Remember, a press release should never be self-promotional. Yes, it’s getting your news out there, but it’s not screaming “look how awesome we are!” A good press release sticks to the facts. Let the reporter build it up and add opinion. Your opinions shouldn’t be in there at all, save maybe for a quote or two from someone important to your story.
But What if That’s What Your Boss Wants?
Well, you’re in a bit of a dilemma, aren’t you? If your boss is hung up on producing endless press releases that scream “Look at me! Look at me!” you aren’t left with much choice. You have to deliver. Right? And if that’s the case, then you just have to do your best to get creative and uncover real news to write your press releases on.
Can’t do it? Maybe it’s time you stood up to your superior and let them know. Let them know that writing releases just for the sake of doing so is useless—a waste of time. Not only that, it can prove counterproductive, as people will begin to ignore the good ones along with the bad ones. And Google isn’t going to take too kindly to them either.
I have a new theory I want to share with you. We already know that most press releases suck, but I think that the reason they suck so bad is because of the pressure most clients put on their PR reps. PR guys are so busy caving to the demands and expectations of their clients, that by the time they get through tweaking the press release to fit their needs, they’re left with a steaming pile of garbage.
The simple truth is you shouldn’t be writing press releases to please your client. The client isn’t your target audience, and quite frankly, most clients wouldn’t know a good press release if they were staring right at it. That’s why they hired you to write it, because they don’t know how to do it themselves.
Look, I’m not saying that you need to ignore your clients. Their feedback is important, and at the end of the day, the press release isn’t going out without their stamp of approval. But there are times where you absolutely have to stand up to clients and educate them on what makes a good press release. Clients need to understand that putting a bunch of hype in the press release isn’t a good idea. They need to understand that reporters don’t really give a hoot about every trivial detail regarding their company and executives.
Here’s one thing you can do to help your clients “get it.” Show them a bad press release next to a typical story from a newspaper or magazine they’re targeting. Point out how different the stories that get picked up are from the type of press release they’re trying to get you to write for them. When they see just how big the differences are between the two, hopefully, they’ll begin to understand that press releases need to tell compelling stories, not be full of hype and self-congratulatory BS.
Of course, we PR people do share in the blame for the bad press releases that get sent out. We’re the ones who are supposed to be the experts, and it’s our job to educate clients on the process. We need to set realistic expectations, so that they understand things don’t magically happen overnight. They need to know that there is no magic bullet press release, and they need to understand the things journalists hate to see.
Now, if you’ve done your best to educate your client and they still insist upon turning your press releases into garbage, it might be time to set them free. Remember, your name is on the line too, and if you’re sending out low quality work, reporters will start to ignore you and potential clients won’t be impressed enough to work with you. So, you have to know when it’s time to fire a client.
A few years back, the popular rock band Stone Temple Pilots made a major splash in the news when they announced they were firing their lead singer Scott Weiland. The group announced this shocking news in a one-sentence press release that simply read, “Stone Temple Pilots have announced they have officially terminated Scott Weiland.”
Now, we’ve debated the topic of press release length on this blog in the past, and while I’ve always believed that short and sweet press releases work best, I’ve never tried to argue that press releases should be just one sentence long.
But the truth is this single-sentence press release was incredibly powerful, and there are a few valuable lessons we all can learn from it.
The Stone Temple Pilots certainly left reporters and fans wanting more. Everyone was speculating about why the band fired their singer, what it meant for their future, and a host of other questions. How many reporters do you think have tried to reach out to the band since this press release was issued? I’d say quite a lot.
Another interesting thing to note is that this story was announced just as the singer Scott Weiland was preparing to head out on a solo tour. Think this is getting fans interested and driving ticket sales? You know it is, and while that might just be a coincidence (conspiracy theorists would probably say otherwise), the timing certainly couldn’t have been better.
What tips would you give to press release writers trying to polish their skills? Leave them in the comments!
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of 7 Cheap PR Tactics for Success in Any Economy here: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/cheap-pr-tactics/
If you are worried about how Google’s latest search algorithm will affect your press release, and exactly how to change your writing technique(s) in the face of Google’s SEO changes, stop right now. Many people obsess about this and spend loads of time adjusting their practices to fit what they read is Google’s latest change. Most of this time is completely wasted. And Google is tweaking their search results constantly!
First, no one outside of Google really knows the details of their search algorithm.
Second, since Google is constantly adjusting their results, any sort of practice that you might follow in response to your supposed knowledge of Google’s search algorithm can only be considered a technique (as opposed to a principle), and as such will only work (if it works at all) for a short time.
I have long believed that instead of spending (wasting) effort chasing down the latest SEO techniques, you should instead concentrate on publishing press releases with great content. You will create higher quality content over time, and Google will figure that out.
Here are some of my thoughts from years past:
It seems that Google is doing more than just keeping us on our toes these days. Many of the changes they are making to the algorithm are making it seemingly impossible to climb search rankings (although, there’s still no substitute for good old fashioned hard work and content production). After all, article syndication is basically dead, guest blogging took a huge hit, and keyword usage and link building as we know them have changed forever. What next?
Well, with the recent Panda update, many people believe that Google has targeted press releases as their next “victim.” Post Panda, many well-known press release sites found themselves buried alive in the search rankings, seeing their good names essentially disappear.
So Are Press Releases Done For?
Does this mean press releases are no longer valid? Should you quit writing them altogether and remove them from your marketing plan? Well, not so fast there, Chicken Little. The end of press releases is not upon us. The fact is, they’ve been around for over a century and they aren’t about to go down without a fight.
And truthfully, they don’t need to. See, Google isn’t targeting press releases in and of themselves. What they’re targeting are press release distort sites that are responsible for producing a high amount of spam.
In other words, Google is fighting against crappy press releases, which represent another form of crappy, thin, spammy content.
Don’t believe me? Well just check out this link here. Google still puts out their own press releases on a regular basis. Why? Because they have their purpose.
It’s Time to Get Back to the Press Release Basics
I don’t think Google is the big bad dictator that some people think. I also don’t think that they are trying to penalize people who have legitimate businesses that wish to promote them in legitimate ways. They just want to make sure they are providing users with the best content possible.
Where does that leave press releases? Well, I think Google wants to make sure they are being used for their original purpose—to get REAL news in the hands of people that will share it with the general public. Reporters, bloggers—you know.
In order for that to happen, you need to make sure that you are only writing press releases when you have real news to share. You’d think that would go without saying, but I know for a fact that there are still people out there who have a plan to write a certain number of releases per week, regardless of if they are newsworthy, to try and use them solely for link building. If that’s you, stop it!
Here are some examples of when you might want to write a press release:
Remember, press releases have been around forever. They’re a tried and true method for sharing news. Don’t let Google scare you—but do let them make you a bit more cautious and thoughtful about your marketing and content efforts!
Unless you’ve just woken up from an incredibly long sleep…I’m talking a Rip Van Winkle sleep that’s lasted for years…you know that the face of SEO has changed greatly in recent times. Google is constantly making changes to improve its user experience.
For those of us who have to consider SEO in the work we do, we’ve had to stay on our toes to make sure we’re still doing the right things to maintain our search engine presence. Needless to say, a lot has changed over the years, and if you haven’t kept up, your search rankings probably aren’t so great. In fact, if you’re still using outdated SEO methods, you might actually be getting penalized for your tactics.
How SEO Used To Be
It wasn’t all that long ago that SEO was all about keywords. Whether you were creating content for your website or writing a press release, you always had keywords in mind. You’d include specific keywords in the title, subtitles, and throughout the content wherever it made sense to fit them in. By doing so, you’d hopefully turn up in the search results any time someone searched for that word or phrase.
But times have changed, and no longer does the old method of keyword targeting gets results. These days, if all you’re focused on is keywords, you’re wasting your time. Creating tons of keyword-stuffed content won’t do anything besides send a huge red flag to Google that you’re trying to manipulate your rankings, and that will do much more harm than good.
A New Approach To Keyword Targeting
After the Hummingbird update, Google made one thing clear: it’s not about keyword matching anymore. Instead of producing search results that only match the phrase the user entered, Google is now trying to produce results that focus on the user’s intent.
For example, if someone in Los Angeles enters the search query “Italian food” Google won’t just turn up websites that use the phrase “Italian food.” Instead, it will provide results that include local Italian restaurants in Los Angeles, because chances are, that would more likely be what the person is looking for.
What does all of this mean for keyword targeting, particularly in press releases? It means that rather than saying, “I need to create press releases that have these specific keywords in them,” you should be saying, “I need to create press releases that give my audience the information they’re searching for.”
This article at Search Engine Land really puts it best, “Instead of: How do I rank for this query? Think: How do I best answer the questions my users have?”
In other words, don’t obsess over keywords. If anything, obsess over creating interesting, unique content that meets your target audience’s needs.
Once upon a time, choosing anchor text was easy enough. You simply chose the keywords you were targeting, and linked them. How much easier could it get? However, it has become clear over the last few years that Google is penalizing link builders who use the same anchor text over and over.
With that in mind, it’s important that you vary anchor text in all of your link building endeavors. That includes press releases posted on the web.
What if You Aren’t Using Your Press Releases for Link Building Purposes?
Maybe you view press releases in a more traditional sense. You compose them and post them on the web in hopes of attracting a reporter or a blogger who will put your news out for the world to see. And that’s fine. However, whether you like it or not, the links you put in your press releases will affect your site.
Maybe you don’t care to try and raise your rankings. That’s fine. But do you really want to purposely hurt your rankings? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone openly admit to this. It would be foolish. But if you don’t diversify your anchor text, that’s what you’re doing. In other words, by using bad link building techniques with anchor text, you can actually drop in Google searches. So it makes sense for you to follow good anchor text practices, regardless of your purpose for posting press releases.
How Can You Vary Anchor Text in Your Press Releases
So you know you need to diversify the anchor text, but the question is how? Here are a few tips to help you out.
Keep Up with the Link Building Times
Bottom line, you need to keep up with all the changes that are being made with the search engines. And with just a little tweaking of your anchor text, you can get the most out of your press releases.
So the days of writing a press release for the sole purpose of SEO have come and gone. Easy come, easy go, as the saying goes. No longer is it advisable to craft a press release for the simple hopes of getting a little link juice out of it. For shame.
But I would argue that it was never advisable to do so.
The truth is that, even when Google may have been giving you something for those links, just churning out garbage releases to get a backlink always was a shortsighted plan. In my opinion, it did more harm than good. Not only did it help pollute the internet with so many crappy press releases that it’s gotten difficult to sift through the garbage, but it also watered down many companies’ messages and strained relationships with reporters (who would take a company seriously that posted weekly press releases dealing with the same non-news topics?).
But of course, that doesn’t mean the press release is dead. It just means we need to get back to the basics and write solid, newsworthy releases for their original intention—to get the media to pick up on the stories and share them with the world.
However, be careful to note—that doesn’t mean we throw all the SEO best practices we have learned out the window when we write press releases. We’ve acquired some tools and tricks over the last few years that still have merit. Tips and tools that can help us.
Case in point—keyword research.
If You Aren’t Researching Keywords Before Writing Your Release, You Should
I know, I know. It sounds…contradictory. In one breath I say you should not be writing press releases for SEO, but then I say you need to do your keyword research first, a fundamental step in writing for SEO. Understand this—just because SEO isn’t your goal for press release writing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be following best practices. And current best practices still dictate that keyword research is important.
However, keyword research, the way we should be going about it, has changed over the years. This Moz post does a great job of explaining that. In short, the days of finding an individual keyword and optimizing all around it are over. Google now targets concepts more, ideas surrounding keywords. So a keyword is simply a starting point. Google wants to try and figure out what sort of content a person might be looking for when searching for a particular keyword.
So for example, if you search “fix drainage issue in backyard” Google may think you are looking for a local company that can handle that for you, so they may send back a list of them. Or perhaps you are looking for info on installing French drain systems (a common fix), so they may send back info on those. They are trying to match search with intent.
What does that mean to you? Well, you really need to think about long tail keywords that make sense for the story you are providing. What phrases and terminology would someone use who is searching for information like your news event provides?
Once you figure that out, make sure you use those terms in your release.
Does that mean searchers will come across your release? Probably not. However, it will help focus your writing and in turn will help those writing about your news focus their keyword terminology. Then their articles about your news will get found, giving you the media attention you want.
Once upon a time, search engine optimization used to be all about keywords. Pretty much all you had to do to get something to rank was pepper it with the right keywords, and you were all set. This applied to press releases too. You’d simply put the keywords you were targeting in the headline, body, and backlinks, and you could fairly easily grow your search engine presence.
Back in those days, the term “keyword density” used to get thrown around quite a bit. The theory was that you should use the target keyword on a page a certain percentage of the time in order to get the best results. You wanted to make sure you included your keywords in your content, but you also had to be careful not to include them too much or else your page might be considered spammy. SEOs would claim there was a magical keyword density (usually around 3%) that would get you the best search engine rankings.
Of course, times have changed. The fine folks over at Google saw how easily people were gaming the search engine, and they took steps to improve their algorithm and thus improve the quality of their search results.
These days, SEO is about far more than just keywords. Keywords have taken a backseat to a range of metrics, including social cues, like trust and authority. That’s not to say that you should ignore keywords altogether, but the point is that there are a lot of other things to consider in your overall SEO efforts.
All that being said, it shouldn’t surprise you to read that keyword density doesn’t matter in your press releases. You shouldn’t give it a second thought. Yes, you can include keyword-rich anchor text in your links or even include a target keyword in your press release headline if it fits logically, but other than that, there’s no reason to fret over making sure to include a certain number of keyword mentions in your releases.
Instead, focus on what’s really important – telling good stories that people care about. If your press releases are newsworthy , feature interesting angles, and get sent to the right places, they will eventually get noticed. And as your stories get spread around naturally, your web presence will begin to grow in a way that’s more sustainable in the current search engine landscape.
For years, we’ve been talking about how press releases are a great tool for link building. By including a couple of backlinks with keyword-rich anchor text in your online press releases, you could easily build a nice link portfolio which would be very helpful in boosting your search engine rankings.
This was an effective tactic for years, but like every other SEO and internet marketing tactic, it got abused and ruined by spammers. The quality of most press releases declined drastically, and the internet was littered with crappy, unimportant press releases that were filled with links.
Of course, Google responded by updating its algorithm to crack down on websites using manipulative link building practices. As a result, many free press release directories went by the wayside and using press release distribution solely for link building purposes became futile.
That brings us to today. Are press releases still useful for link building? Should you even bother distributing press releases online anymore?
The answer to both questions is a resounding yes. That is, of course, if you go about it the right way.
The fact is that you have to change the way you think about link building with press releases. In the past, it was all about making sure each press releases included a few backlinks with keyword-rich anchor text to various landing pages on your website. Whether or not those links were actually relevant or added value to the press release didn’t matter. It was all about just getting those links.
These days, stuffing your press releases with links isn’t going to cut it. Now, you should only really put links in your press releases if they are relevant and useful. For example, if you mention a study in your press release, linking to that study would be useful and it would add value for the reader.
A good rule of thumb when placing links in your press releases is to ask yourself, “What’s my main reason for adding this link?” If your reason is strictly to drive traffic and to increase your search rankings, that’s not good enough. If the link doesn’t make the press release better, it probably doesn’t need to be there.
Now, you might think this means that press releases are no longer good link building tools. I wholeheartedly disagree. Keep in mind, the whole point of Google’s algorithm updates is to reward sites creating quality content. So, if you’re creating high quality press releases that naturally earn links because people find your stories useful, you will be rewarded with better search rankings. The key is to make your press releases worth sharing. It’s all about quality.
The days of taking shortcuts for link building with press releases are gone. But with the right approach, you can get better results than ever before.
Some people shy away from link building via press releases. Others don’t even realize the opportunity is there. But the truth is press releases offer a great opportunity for getting some decent links. Here are three reasons you need to use your releases to build links.
1. Other News Sites Often Pick Up Press Releases.
What’s the fundamental purpose of a press release? To get media attention. Quite frankly, this is easier than ever nowadays. Why? Because the internet has created so many news outlets with blogging networks and the like. Write a good release with real news and someone is bound to pick it up.
The result? More people hear about you and your news, and you earn a lot more links in the process. Makes sense, right?
And once these reporters and bloggers learn who you are, you have your foot in the door to contact them later about other interesting story. Your release could be the first step to a long, fruitful relationship.
2. Achieve Greater Link Diversity.
We have all heard the old saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” As trite as it may be, there’s no denying the validity of the statement. It applies to all walks of life. For example, you certainly don’t want to pour all your investments into a single stock. Sure you could make big money, but the risks far outweigh the benefits. Such is the case with link building.
SEO guys who put all their eggs in one basket typically did so with article marketing. They identified their keywords, composed thousands of articles around them, and spread them over scores of article syndication sites. And it used to work. But like most investments, it eventually took a turn for the worst. Google devalued the links and rankings plummeted. Those who put all their eggs in that one basket suffered—and some are still suffering.
That having been said, it’s crucial that you diversify your “link portfolio.” And one great way to do this is to use links from press releases. Now, there are some detractors that claim press release links no longer work. But it simply isn’t true. In fact, in one recent study, Jon Hogg proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that these links can have a very real and positive impact.
So don’t listen to the detractors. Press release links are still valuable. The key is to get your releases on reputable sites.
3. Press Release Links Can Drive Traffic.
Of course, links aren’t all about rankings. What you really want is traffic to your site. And anytime someone reads a press release by you that they deem interesting, they are compelled to click links to learn more about your company. But guess what? If you aren’t posting press releases, you lose a potential avenue for those interested in your company to find you. Worse yet, if you are posting releases but not taking advantage of the opportunities to link, then you have missed opportunities.
Let me know how you use SEO when writing your own press releases in the comments!
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Grab your free 160-page copy of the Big Press Release Book – Press Releases for Every Occasion and Industry here: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/big-press-release-samples-book/
Want to get journalists inquiries and responses with your press release? You should do the following:
I’m busy. You’re busy. We’re all busy. It’s a busy world we live in, right? We all have more tasks to accomplish each day than we actually have hours on the work clock. It’s stressful and frustrating. So what do we do to compensate?
All good things, right? But there’s something I left off the list that we all tend to do from time to time. We rush. And as you have probably experienced, when you rush you tend not to put out your best work.
When it comes to press release writing, it’s easy to see it as just another task filling up your to-do list. And it’s tempting to sit down at your computer and slop out whatever is on your mind and be done with it. But it’s not a wise decision. There’s a better way to streamline the process.
Take a Few Moments to Plan
Did you ever consider the possibility that rushing through a task can actually lengthen the time you spend on it? Let me give you an example. You sit down to rush through your press release. As you’re attempting to fly through it, you hit a roadblock. What should you write next? The problem is that your thoughts are all jumbled. The ideas are out of order in your busy mind and are getting clouded with all the other things you have to do.
In actuality, if you take a few moments to plan out your release before you actually write it, you’re going to save yourself time during the writing process. Why? Because an outline will tell you where to begin, where to go, and where you want to end up. You have a full road map, which lets you avoid all those pesky writing detours. The result? You’ll fly through the actual writing process and have a much more sound press release as an end product.
Tips on Planning Your Release
So how can you effectively plan out your release before you get going? First, I recommend you write out a main idea sentence. What is the main point you want to get across? If you’re unsure how to narrow this down, try this:
Now, once you have your main idea, you can start planning out your map. There are plenty of ways out there to do it. You just have to pick what works best for you.
I’ll admit it: I used to be firmly against outlining. I preferred the edge-of-your-seat thrill of winging a blog post, press release, or even a story I was writing. Why be restricted to an outline you’re probably going to break anyway, right?
My tune changed over the years, though. After a while I got tired of feeling like I was two words away from losing total control over the piece I was writing, and I embraced the outline. Now I spend almost as much time outlining as I do actually throwing words down on the paper.
If you don’t outline anything else, I highly suggest you use the process for writing a press release. This is because as opposed to a blog post or other more creative piece, a press release is highly dependent on form. Since breaking from that form will likely get your piece ignored, it’s important to plan ahead of time.
I suspect one reason why so many press releases fail to get placed is that their writers strive to make them something they aren’t. You want to be interesting and creative to keep readers’ interest, sure, but at the same time the press release form has been around for a long time for a reason.
The main purpose of a press release is to relay information. It’s not necessarily to entertain, or to amaze, or to expand someone’s horizon; it’s to get across that a thing is happening or has happened at a certain place, time, and who it concerns. If they don’t have this necessary info they’re not fulfilling the basic duty of a press release.
You have to keep in mind releases are for news outlets, and they primarily use the “top down” form. This is why you have to get all the necessary info ASAP – the who, what, where, etc. If you don’t, readers will have no idea why the story is important.
Keeping Eyes Moving
Your main job as a press release writer is to get eyeballs on the page and keep them moving. Once your reader gives up midway through the piece you’ve failed. Something about the story turned them off and they mentally checked out, which means nobody comes into your store and the whole company goes out of business.
Ok, while it’s not that dire (maybe), it’s still vital you figure out what went wrong. One likely source is the lack of format, which outlining can help you with. Is your title amazing? Do you have a killer one, maybe two sentence opening? Did you include the absolute most vital pieces of info up top?
Make sure to take a look at the rest of the piece. Again, you don’t want anyone to lose interest midway through – even if they get through all the important bits, you could still lose them for good if they get bored reading the rest. So is what you’ve included totally vital… or at least interesting enough to include?
If not, cut it out of the outline entirely. The more of these you do, the more ruthless you become at omitting extraneous details that don’t move the football forward. Soon enough your outlines will be razor sharp, which will make your press releases impossible to pass up.
You’ve written perhaps the best press release of all time. Your company, Teddy Bear Clothes Incorporated, is announcing the release of their brand new Harry Potter tie-in line of teddy shirts, and you were tasked with getting the word out to the papers and television stations. You pulled your hair and smacked your head and stayed up all the live long night and finally chiseled the thing down to perfection.
Bleary-eyed, you realize right before you turn it in that you’ve forgotten the headline! What to call it? Crap, you’ve only got five minutes left. You throw one together and quickly send it along before press time.
After a brief nap, you wake and read your press release again. You gasp in horror as you see the headline: “Harry Potter Teddies.” Images of confused women with Daniel Radcliffe’s face on their nightwear dances through your head as you try to correct things. But it’s too late. The papers and stations have all rejected the piece. Sales plummet, you lose your job, and the company folds within a year.
Is It Really That Important?
It may be a bit of an exaggeration, but only a little bit. The headline of your press release can and will make or break the entire page. It’s guaranteed to be the first thing anyone reading it sees. And when a tired, grumpy journalist at the Townsville Journal is looking at his 800th press release that day, if your headline is less than 110% awesome, he will skip over it without a thought.
The headline is your first impression, like a handshake with the journalist. If you have a great headline, it’s like a nice strong friendly handshake that makes them want to know more. If you have a “limp fish,” they are put off and fail to read any further. If you have a bad handshake, then you’ve basically just kicked the reporter in the shin and walked off.
The good news is, the art of the great headline can be learned! There are a couple good tips to follow if you want to make sure your hard work isn’t completely skipped over along with the thousands of other press releases that go unread each day.
Make it a Flashing Neon Sign
What is the absolute core story of your press release? Say you were in the situation of that writer in the opening paragraph. Should the focus of his press release have been that the company has started selling teddy bear shirts with Harry Potter on them? Or was it more important to your audience to note that the company was awarded official merchandise capabilities which might lead to further expansion for the business?
Another important point is to get across the most amount of information with the least amount of words. The less time an exhausted reporter has to spend reading your headline the better. Get in, wow them, get out. For the above example, the writer could maybe consider, “Teddy Bear Clothes Inc. Announces Partnership with Harry Potter.” Harry Potter merch is big news, and that’s sure to grab some attention.
If you’re still having trouble after tons of edits and redos, try seeking further help. Hire a freelance writer until you get the hang of it. There’s even a website you can try: ereleases offers a headline tune-up service for FREE as long as you limit it to one a month. There is simply no excuse for a bad headline anymore, so get out there and put your best handshake forward!
If you follow this blog at all, you know I spend a lot of time on here offering press release writing tips. Over the years, I’ve shared a number of tricks and tips that can help you improve the quality of your press releases so they get noticed and increase your chances of getting media coverage.
Today, I’m sharing another tip. It’s one tip that I’ve found to be more helpful than anything else. It’s the one tip I always follow, no matter what, when writing press releases…when writing anything, actually.
So, what is it?
Write first, edit later.
See, I used to have the nasty habit of trying to edit as I was writing. I’d write a sentence or two, go back over it, change things up, rewrite it, repeat the process, and eventually move forward. This approach killed my writing flow, and it made writing even the simplest thing take forever.
Then, I came to the realization that writing everything out first and editing it later just worked better for me. It allowed me to get my thoughts down on the paper more clearly and effectively, and it helped improve the flow of my writing.
That’s not to say that my first drafts are great. They’re not. They’re often riddled with mistakes. Like Ernest Hemingway once said, “The first draft of anything is s**t.”
But when I take the approach of writing first and editing later, it helps me avoid getting stuck. It prevents me from constantly second-guessing myself. It keeps my brain from being interrupted every few seconds. I just start writing, without too much worry, and I keep writing until I have a first draft. Then, I let that first draft sit for a while before I come back to edit.
I’ve heard someone compare trying to write and edit at the same time to trying to drive a car with one foot on the gas pedal and the other foot on the brake. It forces you to start and stop all the time, making for a long, jerky ride. It’s a beautiful comparison that I’ve taken to heart.
A good press release is tight, to the point, and doesn’t waste any words. If your press releases don’t meet this criteria, there’s a better than average chance that reporters will take one quick look at them and move on to the next one. Why? Because reporters are busier than ever before. Every day, even reporters working for the smallest publications get bombarded with press releases, and there’s simply not enough time to read them all. So, if your press release is too long, you’re out of luck. Even worse, if it just looks long, despite having an average word count, you’ll lose the reporter’s interest immediately.
The last point is one I want to focus on today. Sometimes, it’s not about the actual word count of your press release; it’s about how long it looks to the naked eye. In other words, sometimes a press release that’s only 300 words may look like it’s 500+ words because of the way it’s laid out and vice versa.
Presentation matters. Here are some common writing and formatting mistakes that make press releases look longer than they really are:
Time for some spring cleaning! Yeah, it’s the middle of winter, but it’s never too early to get your scrub brushes and dustrags to spruce the place up. I’m talking, of course, about your press releases! They need just as much of a sprucing up as the rest of your business, office, and home, and there’s no sense in waiting until it gets warm outside.
What’s wrong with them you ask? Nothing – until you take a closer look. There’s always a reason why your press releases haven’t been picked up, and it’s often from tiny mistakes that need to be cleaned up. Here are some of the more common problems you should get rid of as soon as you can.
Spelling, Grammar and Syntax
All it takes is for one tiny little spelling error or egregious grammar error to put your journalist contact off. Remember when that journalist or their intern goes over to the press release slush pile to find a good one to fill space, they aren’t necessarily looking for the best one. They’re simply eradicating possibilities until a winner emerges.
This means they’re actively looking for reasons not to print your press release. If they get to the first paragraph and you’ve majorly goofed, then you’ve just blown all of your credibility. Why go to the bother of editing your mistake when there are stacks of flawless press releases right behind yours?
Check your document thoroughly. Send it to someone who can look at it from an outside perspective. I guarantee you’re missing something.
Shorten It Up
Again the poor intern looking through all these press releases just needs one excuse to nix yours. If the press release is so long their eyes cross, they will move on without a second thought.
So it’s time to get out your proverbial scissors and snip away! Try trimming the document down to the bare necessities – the who, what, where, why, and how. Be brutal with your cuts – you can always go back and add stuff later. Once you’re down to the bare bones, think what actually makes it exciting and readable. If it doesn’t fulfill one of those two criteria, leave it out!
While you’re at it, shorten the title as well. Its job is to get the point across as quickly as possible. I guarantee there’s a way to make it even more succinct than it already is. Try taking another approach from a different angle – for example, instead of “Brand New Croissant Business Opens In Rising Toontown Financial District” try “Croissant Café is Latest Toontown Success.”
It’s true a good quote can really knock your readers’ socks off. It’s a quick way to make them see the world through your eyes. However, it is very important to keep it succinct as well. More importantly, though, is the quote serving a purpose?
I don’t know how many times I’ve done this in the past: I get a great quote and think, much like the Dude’s rug in the Big Lebowski, that it will totally tie my release together. Upon introspection, though, I was totally wrong – the quote had little to do with the message and it stuck out like a sore thumb. Make sure all your quotes actually fit in and you’re not trying to cram them in because they look cool!
Getting ready to send out your press release? Hold on a second. Don’t hit “Send” just yet. Before you send out your press release, you need to check these 5 important things:
Tell me if this sounds familiar—you write your press release, give it a quick read through, and then fire it off to your media list. For a lot of you reading this, I’m willing to bet that’s exactly how you go about it. You’re the only one to see your press release before it gets distributed. For you, press release writing is a one-person process.
Today, I want to encourage you to rethink that approach. While you might think that you have the hang of writing press releases, I propose that it’s best to involve your peers in the process. Before you send out your next press release, show it to a few other people to get their feedback.
Why should you get peer feedback before sending your press releases?
Let me know what you’ve done to get journalists’ attention in the comments!
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download a free copy of the PR Checklist – a 24 point list of Press Release Dos and Don’ts here: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/pr-checklist/
PR success is really pretty simple. I did not say “easy”… because most people don’t commit to the discipline. Below we quickly cover these elements which lead to PR success:
How many times have you clicked the “About” page on a website, only to read the few short paragraphs there and then promptly forget them? Most small business descriptions include information like who the founders were, when and where the business started, and perhaps a few sentences about the company’s mission and vision. Yawn. The real trick to small business public relations is to tell your business story just like well… a story. Here’s how:
1. Narrow it Down – You work in your business day to day, so chances are you don’t always see the forest for the trees. But take some time to look for that forest. What is the “theme” of your business story? Try to narrow it down to one sentence and then extrapolate from there.
2. Plot it Out – A paragraph detailing our business history has no plot, but a small business story does. Determine the chronology of your business story before writing it. Did your business start when you got laid off? Or maybe it really started when you opened that first lemonade stand at age six.
3. Use Tried and True Storytelling Techniques – Establish a clear beginning middle and end, use details to “show” your story and not “tell” it, and build suspense to keep the reader scrolling down or flipping pages. You want your business story to be an actual narrative, not just a list of dry facts.
4. Be the Protagonist – The best stories are built on conflict. Identify the challenges you had to overcome (i.e. the antagonists in your business story) and make sure the audience sees how you overcame those challenges.
5. Be Personable – Remember sitting on grandma’s knee listening to a story? You didn’t want her to sound like an encyclopedia, so don’t fall into the formality trap when telling your business story. Instead, communicate your story as if you were telling it to close friends.
6. Know Your Audience – But which close friends? This is why it helps to know your target audience. The language, idioms, and examples you use in your business story will likely vary depending on whether you’re writing for million dollar home buyers or Kindergarten teachers.
7. Add Images, Audio and Video – How many times have you read a story and wondered, “Hmm… I wonder what she looks like?” Satisfy your readers’ curiosity by adding images, audio, video or any other relevant multimedia to your business story.
Don’t throw a list of facts at your target customers. Instead, engage their imaginations with your small business story.
The average person doesn’t speak in sound bites. The average person doesn’t use annoying jargon like “over the wall”, “out of pocket”, and “synergize.” And the average person doesn’t constantly pepper in superlatives like “leading”, “best of breed”, “top of its class.”
Yet, these are all things we see in well over 90% of all press releases. It’s like the people writing the press releases suddenly forgot how to speak plain English, and instead decided to write a legal document so confusing nobody can understand it.
Press releases don’t have to be complicated. Yes, they need to be well-written, but well-written does not mean complicated and wordy. To me, a well-written press release (or anything else for that matter) is one that clearly communicates the message in a way the intended audience can easily understand. It’s all about making a connection with the reader. It’s that simple.
So why do people insist on making press releases so complicated?
My best guess is they think that adding jargon and unnecessary words makes their news sound more important. Let me just stop you right there. IT DOESN’T. In fact, it makes your story worse. It obscures and confuses your main message, and it makes your press release blend in with all the other garbage reporters are being bombarded with all day long. And what’s worse, it prevents you from making a good connection with the reader.
Remember, the average news story is written at about an 8th grade level. And since you’re pitching news, doesn’t it make sense to follow the pattern set by the publications you’re targeting?
What’s the solution? It’s pretty easy really. Just write like you speak. Pretend you’re talking to the reporter (or whoever the intended audience is) at a bar. Use everyday words and phrases, and focus on telling a story. That’s what regular people do. They tell stories. They don’t speak in this absurd language that’s so prevalent in today’s press releases.
Here’s a good exercise. Read your press release aloud or have someone else do it for you. Pay attention to words and phrases that just don’t sound natural. Focus on creating a press release that flows and has almost a conversational feel to it. There’s nothing wrong with having personality and a distinct voice in your press releases. I promise you a press release that sounds like an actual human being will get better results than one that reads like the fine print on your home loan papers.
As a general rule, you can easily eliminate 1/3 of the words in the typical press release. Start with the jargon, move on to the superlatives, and end with anything that just sounds unnatural. I bet that when you’re done you’ll have a clearer, tighter press release that sounds the way you speak.
With today’s journalist shouldering more responsibility than ever before, it’s essential that you master the art of pitching stories. Your pitches must immediately grab the attention of the targeted journalist if you want to get noticed and get coverage.
Of course, not every pitch is going to be successful. Truth is that a lot of your pitches are going to be met with radio silence. And that’s okay. It’s inevitable. However, that doesn’t mean you wasted your time crafting what you hoped was the perfect pitch. Even if you don’t get any bites, it’s important to remember that every pitch should be a learning experience.
Here’s what I mean. Over time, you’re going to be pitching dozens and dozens of stories to just as many reporters and bloggers. Some of those pitches will get responses; some won’t. The key is to analyze every pitch to try to identify what’s working and what’s not.
For example, if you send out a pitch and it gets a good response, take note of all the different characteristics of your pitch to try to pinpoint why it worked. For example:
Simply put, there are many different elements involved in every pitch. Over time, it should start to become clear what works and what doesn’t work. Study your pitches carefully so you can get better with every one you send.
The big difference between people who get media coverage and those who don’t is that those who do have something to say that others (their target audience) are interested in. There is a very common tendency – we all suffer from it – to assume that if we’re interested and excited about what we have to say, others will certainly be too. Well, sometimes they’re not.
For business people, consultants and entrepreneurs it can be very difficult to step outside what you have to offer, and know so well, to critically consider whether anybody else is likely to be interested. The key is to take an “outside in” perspective. If you were just Chris Consumer would you think what you have to say is interesting?
A couple quick – and common – examples may help illustrate:
As always, there are some exceptions and those exceptions can be important and fruitful for you. Suppose the award you received comes with a large grant of some sort that is going to allow you to add jobs to stimulate the local economy – or cut costs and consequently pricing for your product or service. Or, suppose that your new product really is the equivalent of a better mousetrap – something that will have a significant and widespread positive impact on the masses.
Having an outside, third-party perspective to help you critically consider whether you really have a newsworthy message, or just a self-serving advertisement, can be helpful.
But, you can take an outside in perspective yourself by simply being brutally honest and obsessively skeptical about the likelihood that anyone will be interested. You will be basically playing devil’s advocate with yourself and then trying to convince yourself why what you have to say is valuable from the outside in.
And then, putting yourself in the position of the audience you hope to interest/reach (not the reporter or the journalists, but the media consumer), keep asking and answering the question:
“Why should I care?”
As you go through this internal monologue, jot down the responses that seem most likely to resonate with “the outsiders.”
But, if you find this outside in approach simply too difficult to do (you are, after all, an insider), give us a call. We can help.
Tell me about your experiences with telling stories in you pitches in the comments!
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download a free copy of the PR Checklist – a 24 point list of Press Release Dos and Don’ts here: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/pr-checklist/
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