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 meaningful and fruitful for you.
Suppose the award you received comes with a broad grant of some sort that will allow you to add jobs to stimulate the local economy – or cut costs and, consequently, pricing for your product or service. This can be something a wider audience will be interested in, especially those that are in the job market or to help in competition with similar companies. Or suppose that your new product is the equivalent of a better mousetrap – something that will have a significant and widespread positive impact on the masses. Perhaps that product will change that industry and something that consumers will be interested in purchasing.
When emailing your press release to media outlets, the first step is writing an appealing subject line. Too generic, and a journalist may confuse it with junk mail and pass it by. However, too wordy and they may lose interest before even opening the email. The key is to write your subject line in a way that provides the most information in as few words as possible. You want them to want to click “open” to learn more.
Here are a couple of examples of good subject lines for a press release:
“WealthyTrades.com Helps Individual Investors Trade with the Trends”
“Whale Sharks Return to Cancun, Underwater Adventures Begin May 15”
“Diligence and Prevention Can Relieve Pet Allergies, Says Natural Health Products Company Amazing Solution”
Having an outside, third-party perspective to critically consider whether you have a newsworthy message or just a self-serving advertisement can help. Having a focus group to give you feedback can help learn what will and won’t work.
But you can take an outside-in perspective yourself by merely being brutally honest and obsessively skeptical about the likelihood that anyone will be interested. Not saying that you should be down on your success, but re realistic that failure is a possibility. Knowing the reasons why can help you to lessen those chances. You will be playing devil’s advocate with yourself and then trying to convince yourself why what you have to say is valuable from the outside-in.
“Why should I care?”
This is the question that most readers will have when reading your press release. That is the biggest question anyone has when consuming any piece of media. Why should they care about what you have to say? Asking and answering that question to yourself will help you to narrow down and hone your work to make it as near perfect as possible.
As you go through this internal monologue, jot down the responses that seem most likely to resonate with “the outsiders.” This practice will help you in your media pitch to hone your message in a way that people will want to hear.
But, if you find this outside-in approach only 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/