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.