Without a background in media and communications, tackling something like a press release can be one of the most challenging aspects of operating your small business.
The challenge is certainly worth overcoming, as a good press release can gain your business free publicity and take it to the next level in terms of exposure.
Thanks to one of our board members, Amanda Sherring of Fresh Take PR, she’s run down a few tips on what to do, and not do when writing a press release.
1.Keep it simple
One of the biggest mistakes in approaching the creation of a press release is overcomplicating what should be a simple process. As soon as a press release exceeds more than around one page (or 450 words) it can instantly lose its appeal to journalists and editors. These days they simply don’t have the time to read a “novel”.
Instead, opt for a one-page press release, covering the need-to-know details of what you’re trying to promote. Think to yourself, have you answered the 5 Ws and H? Who, what, where, when, why and how? These elements are a journalists’ bread and butter for writing a well-formed article and all you really need to include in your press release.
Add in a great picture, a quote from someone noteworthy and contact information if the journalists should need any further details and you’re done.
2. Apply the seven newsworthy elements
One of the first things taught to journalists and that sticks with them for life, is the seven newsworthy elements of a story. Whether it’s a conscious thought process or not, any good journalist will be able to analyse a story pitch and either accept or deny it based on these seven principles.
Familiarise yourself with them as they will help you shape the content and angle of your press release. If you can incorporate multiple, even better!
Impact – People want to know whether this will affect them. Can it change the lives of Geelong locals?
Timeliness – It’s called news for a reason—because it’s new information.
Proximity – Is it happening in the town of the publication? Perhaps there’s someone involved in the project who came from where the magazine originates? Try to find a local link where possible to the publication.
Human Interest – Perhaps there’s a passionate or interesting story of how the business came to be. A complete career flip? Or maybe a sixth generation taking over the business?
Conflict – Hopefully this won’t apply to your business, but perhaps there has been conflict around its creation.
The Bizarre – Is your business a bit unusual, maybe you’re a luxury cat hotel or you make coffee mugs out of terracotta pots. Work to your strengths and know what will pique a journalists’ interest.
Celebrity – Do you have a celebrity edorsement? Or perhaps a business partner with a public profile?
3. Make it easy to action
With less and less journalists helping to shape newspapers and magazines than ever before, their time is precious. Occasionally, great stories are missed because publications don’t have the man-power or budget to chase up professional photography, an interview or finer details to a story.
Increasing your likelihood of getting picked up by journalist can be done by wrapping it all up into one neat little package. More often than not, the easiest way to do that is to set up a Dropbox folder with all the press assets a journalist may need to complete the story. Set up a document with a Q&A on someone relevant to the business, include any hi-res images, a logo and any other media content relevant to what you do. In the press release itself, include any links, dates and contacts that may be needed. A handy tip is not to include these as attachments, as some email accounts have thorough junk mail filters and emails with large attachments simply won’t make it through.
A little extra time on your end can make all the difference when it comes to success after sending out the release.
4. Google is your best friend
With the ease of everything online, if you get stuck at this point there’s easily room for help. A great piece of advice on actually writing the press release, is to approach it like writing a news story. Pick up your local paper and have a look at the structure of a general story, and try to replicate it with your press release.
Google can be of equal help simply by looking up press release examples – but be wary as there are good and bad examples out there.
A simple tip at the writing stage is try to keep paragraphs to no more than 30 words. Include a quote and generally the press release should be around 4-7 paragraphs long to fit nicely onto a page with an image.
5. Personalise it
While you can’t personalise a press release per say, it’s important to make sure the press release is written to suit the right publications. Does the language and content suit who you’re pitching it to? Make sure you’ve familiarised yourself with the publication before hitting send.
When you get to the final stage of hitting send, make sure you’ve included a lovely, polite email addressing the editor or journalist direct with a personal touch on what you’re hoping to get from sending them the press release. Where possible avoid ever sending to a generic email address, as more often than not it gets lots in the inbox and all your hard-work will only have ever been seen by you.
Stay tuned for more handy editorials on advice for small businesses.
Find out more about our board members here.
We’re so excited to have CEO and co-founder of PETstock, Shane Young, join us for our next In Conversation Breakfast instalment.
Over the year we’ve had Dr James Campbell from the biotechnology sector right through to businessman and past mayor Darryn Lyons, and with this event we’ll be adding the pet industry to the diverse topics we’ve covered.
Having founded the business in 2002 as PETstock, 11 years after the family purchased Ballarat Produce, the business now has more than 100 stores nationally and around a dozen locations in New Zealand.
Working alongside co-founder and brother David Young, PETstock has won numerous awards, most recently at the 2017 Australian Retailer Awards for best retail store fit-out of the year and retail employer of the year.
Find out all the challenges, rewards and concepts that came with creating one of Australia’s leaders in pet supplies and support at our event on Friday, December 1.
It all goes down 7.15am to 9.00am at the Australia Post Small Business Hive in Geelong.
Purchase tickets via the website here.
Find out more about PETstock here.
See a few of the other speakers we’ve had here.
James Campbell would like to see a better nexus between business and science in Australia to help the country commercialise the research achievements of its small but innovative biotechnology sector.
He told the audience at Entrepreneurs Geelong’s most recent In Conversation breakfast “that in the US universities value scientists with real world experience.”
In Australia, Dr Campbell says while that real world may be seen as the place of ‘the devil’s money,’ the country is a leading research centre, despite being almost insignificant as a market.
“Our politicians might say otherwise, but we don’t punch above our weight in commercialising our research, ” he said, drawing on more than 20 years’ experience in the creation and/or transformation of several Australian and international biotechnology companies.
The result of this experience is Dr Campbell’s passion to determine if an idea can be commercialised, while addressing the major challenge of identifying and managing risk.
He defines entrepreneurship as a mindset of seeing opportunities and determining where you can go with them. In his case that opportunity pointed to the goal of improving people’s health.
With a smile he summarises his career as “doing what has interested him, not working with a—holes and doing something which changes the world.
“Quite simply I like helping to build things and sell them for a lot of money,” Dr Campbell said.
That aspiration has most recently seen him appointed CEO and managing director of the ASX listed company Patrys, which is focused on the development of antibody therapies for major market opportunities in the oncology area.
Prior to that the Geelong-born scientist was CFO and COO of ChemGenex Pharmaceuticals Limited where, as a member of the executive team, he helped transform a research-based company with a market capitalisation of $10M to a company which was sold to Cephalon for $230M after completion of clinical trials and regulatory dossiers in the US and Europe.
James Campbell earned his Bachelor of Science from Melbourne University before gaining his PhD at Deakin University. He returned later to Melbourne University to secure an MBA to hone his management skills. He retains his connection with Deakin sitting on the board of its Centre for Innovation in Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Treatment (IMPACT) among many other appointments.
There are three intellectual components to the decision-making that underpins his role as a senior executive assessing opportunities in the biotechnology sector says Dr Campbell.
“First is it should be a good innovation with commercial potential, second the intellectual property (IP) should be safe and third there should be a good economic structure to underpin it,” he explains.
But a rider to this response is “the need to look for an honest and intelligent founder.”
Looked at from the other direction, his advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, regardless of industry, is to “record what you have done and employ good management.”
While biotech companies are more likely to be headquartered in Boston or San Francisco and the much closer relationship between universities and business in the USA would make it easier to work there, Dr Campbell remains “passionately a Geelong person.”
Asked about the city’s potential for hi tech ventures, he says when it comes to managing such a business, hi tech is location-agnostic.
He acknowledges however an element of serendipity owing to the presence of some scientists in the area, which has seen San Diego grow into 3rd place for the headquarters of US biotech companies.
“Success breeds success. If people like Geelong it may well become a hi tech centre,” Dr Campbell surmises.
There’s a similar “point of commitment” between catching a wave and starting a business. Anyone who has ever surfed would understand this analogy that Alistair Lawson endorses.
In the water it’s the time when you start paddling hard until you feel the pull of the wave take over. In business it comes when you realise your idea has momentum, so you must go with it.
While a passion for surfing was to be the catalyst for Alistair relocating to Australia, the idea for his award winning business Great Ocean Road Surf Tours started much earlier when, as a youngster without a car, no one could take him to England’s surfing beaches on the Cornish coast.
Surfing however was not his first love. As a six year old he was captivated by martial arts. It was for his business Elite Taekwondo that he won his first business award in Australia.
But the emotional pull of the waves continued and neither living in an outer eastern suburb of Melbourne or a seven month old daughter would prevent him and his family moving to Torquay and launching a surf school more than a decade ago.
With several awards behind him Alistair recommends submitting to awards as a means of refining his businesses and looking for new ideas.
“The processes you go through give you a much greater return than just an award. You understand your business a lot better. Submitting to an award acts as a health check on a business.”
The underlying philosophy of Great Ocean Road Surf Tours provides an insight into why the business has garnered a variety of awards since it was set up in 2006.
“We want our customers to become as good as they can be when they are on one of our courses, whether they are with us for a few hours or several days,” Alistair says.
Staffing is pivotal to achieving that outcome.
“Great surfers may not necessarily be great teachers and vice versa. They are there to teach surfing all day,” Alistair says.
It is important to live the culture and staff must show a passion, something which is encouraged in staff competitions for photography or videos.
Choosing staff with the right qualifications such as OH&S, working with children and surf coaching is important, as well as ensuring these qualifications are updated regularly, as required.
Alistair acknowledges that “finding a point of difference has helped make us successful even though the business is founded on how I wanted to teach surfing, rather than what a competitor might offer.”
With customers coming from around the word, from a marketing point of view it is essential to understand what is important to each person, including images on brochures, telephone interaction and photographs.
“Honesty in marketing is essential,” Alistair says. He is very much “hands on” with using tools like Facebook and Instagram but cautions that not all marketing tools work. A 1800 telephone number for example proved unsuccessful for his business.
Equally, he advises not to try and hit back at critics on TripAdvisor. The likelihood of such criticism is minimised he says by having comprehensive and explicit terms of business on the company’s website.
With customer satisfaction remaining his highest priority, Alistair does a regular analysis of the business and asks himself how it might be run more successfully even though some services have been trialled and discarded when they adversely affected profitability.
Being an entrepreneur means that taking risks is mandatory but so too is having a backup plan Alistair says.
“Understand your business model and be willing to take advice. But be careful to avoid the sort of statutory warnings that say ‘this advice is general in nature’. Rather choose advice that takes your actual business into account,” he adds.
And while progressively bigger waves might strike fear into the L-plate surfer, Alistair’s experience suggests the successful entrepreneur like a big wave rider, has the knack of translating fear into excitement.
If a close family member described it as an “awful idea” for a new business, would you continue?
What about if you were a 20-something year old and it was your Father using those words?
Fortunately, Georgia Beattie persisted with her idea for a single serve package of ready-to-drink wine, even dragging her Father along to meetings to help overcome some of the cultural hurdles that presented themselves when doing business in Asia.
Addressing Entrepreneurs Geelong’s most recent seminar, Georgia exuded the energy and animation that saw her turn a simple idea into a business which she sold last year to international interests.
Now, barely five years after she launched that business, she is bringing the same sort of motivation and enthusiasm to her role as CEO of StartUp Victoria, the organisation whose mandate is to establish Victoria as the number one tech start-up destination in the Asia Pacific region.
Growing up in a wine-producing family Georgia discovered that no wine was being served at a local festival because there weren’t single serve, ready-to-drink solutions. At the time she was studying entrepreneurship, so she decided to create her own brand in a single serve package, as well as manufacture and pitch the packaging concept to a cross section of major Australian wine producers.
While beer and spirits had been the subject of packaging innovation over time, wine hadn’t, remaining “very traditional” she said. A conceptually simple package- a peel off foil lid on a rigid plastic glass-Georgia’s first manufacturing efforts at ironing a foil top onto a glass were not successful and in fact ruined a friend’s iron.
Citing Steve Jobs oft-quoted comment about the background to the iPhone, Georgia could see no point in researching a product that didn’t yet exist.
But she said you should subject your ideas to feedback from others even if her Father’s initial negative response reflected his identity “as a serious wine person”.
“By doing so you don’t risk others stealing your ideas because no one can actually see your vision of what you are aiming for. They may not see its potential and how you are able to realise it,” she says.
In the journey to create a viable business on the foundation of her idea, Georgia says her biggest and it turns out most expensive mistake was to accept a small amount of seed capital from an organisation in the injection moulding sector.
Georgia’s business quickly began to outgrow that organisation which could not see beyond Australia. When its pricing became uncompetitive she had to buy them out.
“So look for the sort of business partners who share your vision and can offer the capability to scale up over a five to 10 year period,” she advises.
Having secured a commitment from catering outlets of major event venues in Australia to carry her single serve wine package Georgia found the multi-brand wine company Treasury Wine Estates receptive to the concept.
In Australia it was a case of aiming for the volume sales typically made at events such as concerts. In Japan it was the need to get the product onto retail shelves. Those who championed the one glass cause in new markets typically shared a similar entrepreneurial mindset to Georgia’s. She also notes that in Asia, Japan and Korea are “influencer countries in which you have to establish a track record of 12 months or more.
Cultural differences can be critical in some markets, especially for young females, so on occasions “when I needed some grey hair in the room, I would borrow someone or drag my Father (by then a convert) into the negotiations,” Georgia said.
She notes that different countries and cultures dictated different approaches to marketing. Entering overseas markets she was actively in trade shows, ahead of which she chased media coverage, even writing stories for reporters.
“I did all the media relations which for a fun product made it easy,” Georgia recalls.
Last year she exited the business and was appointed CEO of Startup Victoria. Its mandate is to encourage more people to make the jump into entrepreneurship and support the development of a sophisticated high growth start-up culture. She is responsible for the launch of the new digital platform for the community and Australia’s first in-depth start-up data collection.
It may come as a surprise to people unfamiliar with traditional print journalism that the culture of daily newspapers is one of fierce competition. Both journalists and photographers alike vie to showcase their achievements in what all would agree are too few pages.
As a young photographer, Darryn Lyons’ ambition was to get his images published on the front and back pages of the Geelong News, every day.
He acknowledges that this fierce work ethic played a big part in his ongoing career success “but I also took risks,” he told a recent Entrepreneurs Geelong’s In Conversation Breakfast audience.
Like the time he became the front page news when a work colleague photographed him getting too close and personal as he was trying to capture an image of a rhinoceros at the newly opened Werribee Zoo. And later, when he was thought to be the first Australian photographer working on London’s Fleet Street, he said “if there was the potential to be killed, the editor would send me.”
So it was he built his reputation behind the Iron Curtain, over the Berlin Wall and in various war zones, thereby paving the way for his initial business success as a paparazzi and founder of a global business which specialised in photographing the rich and famous.
Years earlier it was selling signed photographs of his cricketing hero, Dennis Lillee, to school mates which pointed to the entrepreneur that the youngster from Herne Hill was becoming by the time he returned to live in Geelong. Business interests in nightclubs, property development and hospitality were balanced by a wish to serve the public which saw him directly elected as Mayor of Geelong.
Of his early career he says “working in the press was an incredible drug. It was exciting to get up and go to work.”
Admitting to “no negatives in his DNA”, Darryn Lyons took his camera and flak jacket on three tours of the Bosnian uprising which he describes as “a bit like World War 1 being fought with .303 rifles and the occasional AK47.”
“War is exciting and a sense of mortality didn’t come into it,” he said, even though he acknowledges that accepting the smell of death is bizarre.
If Uber and Airbnb are labelled disruptive to the traditional travel and accommodation sectors, then the label might equally have been applied to the unfulfilled niche market that Mr Lyons saw in the print media industry-namely photographing the rich and famous.
“It was a case of being in the right place at the right time with a roll of film costing £2 and I might capture images that with worldwide syndication would garner £50,000 in sales.”
If this was the big picture of an emerging market, Darryn Lyons also knew that to sell them, editors would want to see more than miniscule images on a 35mm colour proof sheet. He became a very early adopter of the technology to print 8 inch by 10 inch images which left editors in no doubt about what they could buy.
So, at its height Mr Lyons photographic syndication business would draw on the skills of more than 1000 photographers scattered around the world’s celebrity hot spots.
Almost forty years into a busy life, and having returned the mayoral robes to the coat hanger, he admits to having worked as hard as ever but not without learning it was a mistake to try and do too much.
Delegation is very important as is the need for an entrepreneur to have good financial advice as well as the opinions of someone opposite him to keep him grounded.
“And, don’t be greedy. Share your dream with like-minded people.”