My first ever freelance job was writing press releases. It sucked. Press releases are usually boring, often ignored and always more noteworthy to the businesses issuing them than anyone else.
If you’re not Clarence House revealing the engagement of a favourite prince to a ravishingly attractive actress…I’m tempted to tell you it’s not worth it. But sometimes, just sometimes, when you’ve got something you really think is great and you don’t have to spend thousands on it, it’s the right thing to do.
Getting your press release out into the world
At the mega-bucks end of the scale, businesses spend millions of pounds making sure their PR agent knows the right people, so their press release POSSIBLY gets picked up. It’s a constant game.
Press for a small business is different. It’s more organic.
If you’re just a local name, that means you can be a big fish in a small pond. Your local paper is going to be a hell of a lot more interested in you building a new nursery school than in Pepsi’s latest celebrity ambassador. It’s just a case of picking your audience.
4 places to get your press release seen
1. Local news
Most local news outlets will have submission forms on their websites. That doesn’t mean it’ll get picked up but for local and regional publications, approaching on your own behalf (no flashy London agency in sight) is a normal thing. You can even call your local paper if they still exist in real life and you think your story’s interesting enough.
And you don’t have to rely on the crazy old medium of paper, either. Lots of local publications are also doing TONNES of social media, which gets very high engagement from busybodies. As well as emailing your press release in, send a link by Facebook message with a bit of background.
If your area has a lifestyle magazine, send a pitch email to them too. They’re likely to publish less often, so will gather content for future issues further ahead of time.
2. Specific journalists
This is how most agencies do things. They have their list of journalists, each of whom have specialisms and pet subjects. They then tailor the story to that knowledge and pitch it directly, emailing and perhaps calling.
Press lists take money and time to build, and any email address you find for a big national journalist probably goes through someone else first – or they don’t even bother reading releases they get sent.
SO. Focus on regional journalists again (unless you’re literally revealing a Russian spy ring running out of your local Spar) and look for their email addresses on their publications’ websites. If you don’t hear back after sending your release, find them on Twitter and send a very polite ‘just following up in case you have any stories we can contribute to’-type DM.
Your special, wonderful story may not be a standalone piece to a journalist because guess what – they don’t exist to promote your business. However, you may appeal to their laziness if you can offer them content that supports something else they’ve been working on, like a local business feature.
3. Your own blog
If you’ve gone to the effort of doing something cool and writing about it, the least you can do is show it off. You should always repurpose a press release yourself because your website is the first place anyone wanting to feature you will go.
That means you can’t just paste the release into a blog and move; it has to be rewritten in your tone of voice and with your point of view. Press releases are intentionally quite blank so the journalist can do what they want with the story; your blog is where all your bias and pride can come out!
You get the benefit of people seeing the more personal side of the story, you get traffic to your site and your blog is freshened up. Win.
4. Seed it out on social
As well as the nice organic search value you get from that press-release-turned-blog-post, make the most of it on social media. Link it on all your platforms, particularly LinkedIn, tailoring the tone of the accompanying post to match the audience.
On Snapchat or Instagram Stories, tag your area so it gets featured in the big local stories round-up. Ask local Facebook group admins if they’d be happy to post about it. Encourage your colleagues and friends to share it – just a few shares widens your reach exponentially.
The idea with all of these distribution channels is to keep it local and organic. If it’s an interesting and relevant story, why wouldn’t they take free content?