If you are an entrepreneur running a small business – or even a medium to verging-on-large business – sending out a conventional press release about your company may not be your first choice for a way to promote your product or service. That’s OK, because the “conventional” old press release probably isn’t the best way to promote these days. That does not mean that the whole concept of releasing information to the media, the public, and (thus) your customers is outdated. It just requires some reinvention.
P.R. Stands for “Personal Relationships”
In this 2-part series, I’d like to share some ideas with you about what the modern press release can look like in the Internet age. The goal is to get you thinking about ways to do more than send out stale news about your company; instead, you can create some positive buzz online and successfully build your brand in the marketplace.
In the past, a press release usually stuck to a tried and true print format, and was sent to members of the local or national media in order to announce something “newsworthy” about your company. Unfortunately, this resulted in documents known for their dry, third-person writing style, a boring quote from a company executive, and amazing ability to quickly line the interior of trash bins. The best you could hope for, in some cases, was that a media representative would at least jot down the phone number in order to call you for the “real” (more interesting) story.
Press releases got the job done fairly well since the first formal document was sent back in 1906. Today, however, press releases are just another name for “content” on your website, according to PRWeb.com. They are designed for the web, and thus not limited to distribution to specific media outlets. Press releases communicate with your entire customer base, the media, the general public, and search engines. They include interactive media elements such as photos, audio, video, and most importantly, links to key pages on your website. Including multimedia elements with your news item online has been shown to increase a users time on your web page by as much as 30 seconds. In fact, PRWeb says the modern name for press releases could be “news release” or “social media release” to more accurately reflect the modern use of the “document.”
I completely agree. You are no longer sending a letter to the media, begging them to cover something that’s happening at your company. You are communicating directly with the public online, sharing something fun, exciting, interesting or educational. Even better, you don’t need a marketing department or public relations firm to create a successful news release. You just need a little creativity and knowledge of your business and its customer base. Give the people what they want and/or need!
In an insightful article by Anthony Mora, he discussed how PR has changed with the advent of the Internet, so that “Savvy businesses and entrepreneurs no longer speak to or at their audience or target market, they speak with them.” He rightly says public relations has broadened to include building a personal relationship. This marketing effort offers:
- Credibility when you are featured in the media
- Reputation as an expert in your field
- Effective brand building
Sound like some things you’d like to have going for your business? Naturally! And you already have the perfect outlet to build these valuable personal relationships – your website. Use your blog or Company News or Articles page to post releases that boost your name (your brand) to the marketplace.
Brand recognition represents intellectual attraction and emotional appeal. According to Chad Barr and Alan Weiss, authors of Million Dollar Web Presence, logic makes people think but emotion leads them to act. The first step is to start talking about your business online.
“If you don’t blow your own horn, there is no music. At some point your horn can become a full orchestra, augmented by the web’s scalability and power to leverage. The key is to create this presence in a non-narcissistic way, and look like a valued asset and not a late-night infomercial,” Barr and Weiss noted in an article on Entrepreneur.com.
5 Good Excuses for a Press Release
You don’t have to wait for a big announcement such as expanding your service area or hiring a new employee to do a “news release.” And remember, you are not limited to posting news to your blog. You can still email to media contacts, current customers or include in a monthly or quarterly newsletter. The important thing is to provide news or information people can use, or at least talk about among friends (both online and in person). Here are a few ways to package news for maximum impact online.
- The People Magazine Profile: When you do make a new hire or promote a key employee, don’t stop at the typical “resume” style news blurb and static head-and-shoulders photo. Write a personal introduction or celebratory message about them. Share some fun facts and insights about their personality (with the employee’s permission, of course). Where are they from? What are their hobbies? What do they like most about their job and why? What’s on their iTunes playlist? Feature a warm, personal photo of the employee at work with other employees or with customers. Even better, film a cute “day in the life” video clip.
- ‘Tis the Season: Almost any type of business can be affected by seasonal events or weather. Weather is the most popular part of any news cast or news website. Capitalize on public interest by tying in your products or services to recent weather patterns or seasonal forecasts. Whether you are a plumber, an air conditioning and heating company, a roofer, a chiropractor, or a veterinarian, certain things interest your customers more during certain times of the year. Provide tips on dealing with heat waves, ice storms, high winds, insect infestations, common Springtime sports injuries, etc. Don’t forget to link to pages on your site that specifically relate to these issues, and always include any photos, videos, or time-sensitive promotions or coupons.
- Number Crunching: You don’t have to be a math whiz to love numbers. Statistics make news, even when you don’t understand arithmetic like former President Bill Clinton. The media and the public in general love to read statistics. It makes them feel like they are on the cutting edge of some developing trend. For news outlets, statistics make great sound bites. “But I’m a plumber, not a research analyst,” you protest. Never fear; you are a business professional and that means you have all sorts of numbers at your disposal. You probably know of a professional association that reports on trends in your industry. You keep track of sales trends, customer demographics, demand for product, and even call frequency over time, don’t you? Take the knowledge you have about your own business and spin it into a few interesting “did you know?” tidbits for your blog post/news release. Reporting trends, such as the most popular products you sold in the past month, is a great way to plant an idea in a potential customer’s mind. Is the call for new garbage disposals up 50% from this time last year? Maybe it’s time for everyone to think about updating their disposal!
- Growing Strong: As Barr and Weiss said, you have to toot your own horn to make music. So if your company is expanding, don’t assume you are the only one who cares. Let the public know how you’ve grown and why. This may be one reason to post a news release that follows conventional guidelines for a professional look and feel. For example, Advice Interactive Group has been growing a lot lately, and we choose not to hide our light under a bushel. Tell the world about your success to improve your image as a reputable, authoritative part of your industry. Building your business is one of the best ways to build your brand.
- Show and Tell. Whether you sell products or provide a service, you have something to show for your work. Invest in a digital camera and find someone who knows how to use it. Then, document your work in living color for the web. Your web team can easily create a project gallery or product slide show, either on your blog or on a separate web page on your site. Don’t forget to feature these images via any social media sites you use, such as Facebook or Twitter. Also, take the initiative to show off your photos on Pinterest, one of the hottest new social media outlets going today. It’s especially great for businesses related to interior design or home improvement. According to Modea, the majority of Pinterest users are female and 28 percent have a household income of over $100,000. Pinterest is very visual, so keep words in the background here to encourage sharing your product/service ideas. Modea calls Pinterest “the new digital doorway to your brand.”
Those are just a few quick ideas to get you thinking about news releases to build your company’s PR (personal relationships). The next step is writing those releases for maximum online impact with users and with search engines. I’ll give you some easy-to-follow press release pointers in part 2 of this series.
Press Releases Need SEO Love, Too
In the meantime, check out some excellent reasons to employ SEO (search engine optimization) on your press releases in this infographic found on PRWeb.com.