You know, those beautiful grayed logos for the Huffington Post, Mashable, New York Times, local TV stations, and well-known blogs?
Ever catch your eyes turning green at the sight of it? The truth is you can get that kind of recognition too; it's not far from your grasp at all.
Stick around to learn how to make it happen for yourself on a shoestring budget.
(Relax, this is not an article on writing guest posts - although you'll definitely need to do that, too.)
When was the last time you used a press release to promote your project or company? Come to think of it, have you ever produced one at all?
Perhaps you've viewed press releases as unneeded (or excessive) work on top of your current juggling act of Internet and social media marketing. Don't feel bad. You're not the only one in that boat.
However, I'm sure you understand its marketing importance. A press (or media) release is the most effective way to promote yourself, business, or latest project in the media outside of the Internet: local or national newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio (interviews). Furthermore, press releases have adapted to the Internet age and are now a great SEO tool as well.
What is a press release, anyway?
In short, a press release is basically your announcement in the form of a brief eye-catching news story. Companies use them all the time to announce product launches, awards won, and big projects; record labels use them to formally promote album releases, authors use them to announce their latest book release, and so on.
PRWeb's Learning Center gives an even more in-depth description that might help.
PR and Your Wallet
If you're a new entrepreneur and want to promote your project, the best bet is to start local and build traction from there. Smaller markets helps you save money as well, since most professional PR services such as PRWeb, PR Newswire, and eReleases are fee-based. Conversely, some professional PR distribution services actually offer to write the release for you.
PRWeb offers services starting from $89 and maxing out at $499, depending on your press needs. PR Newswire offers a distribution service called iReach, which starts at $129 and tops at $399. PR distribution services like eReleases and Business Wire are more expensive - the former ranges from $299 to $499, but it also offers to write the release for you.
However, if you don't care for using a PR company, many freelance writers write press releases, and you'll need to pay them (though working with a freelance press writer may be more cost effective than using a fee-based service).
If you're really cash-strapped, here's how you can get it done yourself.
How to Produce and Distribute a Press Release on a Budget
Producing the Release
Not surprisingly, writing a press release is much like writing a blog post. You'll see what I mean below.
Be sure to include these elements:
Your contact information and company logo (if you have one). Anyone reading the release will want to know who it's coming from. In fact, many news outlets won't even accept anonymous releases. Also, if you have a press contact within your company, list that person at the top. If you wear all of the hats in your business, then your name goes there.
An eye-catching headline. Like blogging, you need a headline that will make someone curious to read more. Writing is a constant struggle to pull a reader's eye all the way to the end of your document.
First paragraph: Start with the event location and the date of the press release, then break the news, answering the five W's and H (who, what, when, where, why, and how). Your readers are time-strapped editors running on too much caffeine and too little sleep, so get right to the point before you lose them.
Spend the next few paragraphs explaining why your announcement matters. Provide details and background information about your event. Show your reader why he should run it in his newspaper, magazine, or on his show.
Be sure to include a brief overview of yourself or company. A great event won't stand on its own without the editor knowing a little about you.
Final paragraph: close with "for more information", and provide your contact information again. Why? Because if the busy editor made it this far, you've gotten her interest and therefore her time.
You don't want to give her the extra work of having to look back up at the top of the release. Keep her eyes right there at the bottom.
If your release ends on that one page, make sure you center a "#" or "###" at the bottom. That's basically your way of saying, "The End." If your release doesn't end on that first page, put "--more--" so the editor knows there's more coming. If you don't do that, your release will get File 13'd.
As I stated above, you should start locally, so do a search of local publications, especially niche publications. Most media outlets provide contact information, but if they don't provide a specific contact name (the name of an editor or associate editor, etc.), use Manta.com or LinkedIn to do a deeper company search to find a name. You don't want to use "To Whom It May Concern:" as your salutation in an email or letter.
Pay close attention to each pub's specifications for submitting news and follow them to the letter. If they want you to do submit it online, so be it. If they prefer an email with an attachment, sure. If they don't want an attachment, you'll have to put the text in the message body.
However, for those that provide an online form, paste the release text into the box. The form will also include boxes for your contact information (of course), so be sure to include it.
Of course, tailor your release as necessary depending on the news outlet in order to make it newsworthy and relevant to the outlet's audience.
Take special care to do some recon on the reporter or news outlet first, and include your recon in the email or letter (compliment a recent story, or slant the relevance of your announcement to the recent story, etc.).
And just like that, your press release is out in the world. Send out enough, and you're bound to get responses (as long as you made it interesting).
All that without breaking the bank.
You're an entrepreneur, so you pinch every penny until your fingers bleed. I totally understand, which is why I provided this to help you knock it out yourself.
However, if writing is not your strong suit, hop on LinkedIn, Elance, Guru, or oDesk to find a freelance writer that can do your dirty work for a reasonable price. Make sure you ask for writing samples, and confirm that the writer is a trained PR writer.
While social media and Internet marketing gets eyes on you, always remember that there's life outside the Internet.
The beauty of the press release is it opens the door to thousands more people who will know who you are and benefit from what you're doing. With enough appearances, you'll finally be able to have your own "Featured In" page, which increases your credibility.
And you can always use more of that. ;)
For More Information...
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Flickr image by Keith Ramsey.