Press releases can be an effective form of marketing for a small business. If done correctly, they can help build a business brand, create goodwill in the local marketplace, and bring in additional business.
For instance, when Green River Adventures issued a press release announcing its launch of The Gorge, a high-speed zip line, a number of regional publications and TV stations picked up the story, along with The Associated Press and Costco Connection, which reaches more than 8 million people. All the press resulted in a sold-out first year of business for the company. But there is a right way and a wrong way to create and distribute press releases. We spoke to Charles Gaudet, author of The Predictable Profits Playbook and founder of Predictable Profits, and Michael Guy, CEO of SEO Coffee, to get their advice about how to best use press releases in your marketing efforts.
Small Business Center: Can small-business owners effectively use press releases in their marketing efforts?
Charles Gaudet: Absolutely. In fact, our research shows that the company with the most media attention has the upper hand and the competitive advantage. Media mentions instantly position you as an expert in the minds of consumers. This is the most important benefit because it separates you from the pack. Press releases can also result in media mentions worth thousands of dollars, if not millions, in free publicity. Finally, online media mentions are a great source of backlinks (which is great for SEO) and social sharing — and they are often used to create content on other marketing channels.
Michael Guy: Yes — but only if you have news that is truly newsworthy.
What has changed in the way companies should approach creating press releases for marketing purposes?
Gaudet: Unless you’re Apple, nobody cares about you, your company, or your product. Press releases are not a pitch fest, and the media is not interested in promoting you for the sake of you selling more products. That’s the fastest way to be ignored. On the other hand, a strong press release is a platform for you to share expert advice, opinions, or information on a topic relevant to the journalist and their readers. Today’s most helpful press releases include proof in the form of references and statistics.
What if there is no big news in the company? Can small-business owner still make use of press releases in their marketing efforts?
Gaudet: Sure, there are many ways you can still use press releases. For instance, you can use them to bring attention to yourself and your business when you receive a significant award. This works best for local media. You can also develop an interesting solution to a popular consumer problem, offer a controversial opinion on a popular topic, or piggyback off the news by offering an opinion, solution, or other information relative to the topic at hand. In addition, you can use recent statistics or research to tie in to a hot topic of conversation, tie your story to seasons and popular holidays, or educate consumers with free product research.
Can you provide an example of tying a press release in to an existing, hot story?
Gaudet: Daily deal sites have often been an interesting topic of debate among small-business owners, so we put out a press release titled, “Are Daily Deal Sites Good for Small Businesses?” The press release resulted in thousands of visitors to my website, is referenced among bloggers and other media professionals, and has resulted in many telephone interviews, including one with a writer from Fox Business.
Would issuing a press release to promote a giveaway on a site, such as a white paper or e-book, be an effective tactic?
Guy: That depends on the content value. Any commercial interest will flatten out the release. Remember, this is news, not Groupon. So avoid special offers as news because they will be devalued as spam.
How important are headlines, and what’s the best way to write them?
Gaudet: When you send a press release to the media, the first question they ask is, “Who cares?” The headline should pique their curiosity and tell the media why it’s timely, relevant, and important to their readers.
Guy: You should use a headline that catches a wide yet relevant target market segment.
How do business owners get their press releases in front of the journalists or bloggers who could write articles about them?
Gaudet: First, you have to know where you want to get publicity, and then study what kind of releases make it to air or print there. Look at editorial calendars and write a specific press release that ties in to a topic that journalists are already working on.
For distribution, the common methods are fax, email, or direct mail. For maximum results, Cision offers a large media database that shares each journalist’s communication preference and the most accurate contact information. It’s critically important that you do not spam journalists or bloggers. Make sure your press release is relevant to them and their audience.
Online press release services like PRWeb, Business Wire, and PR Newswire are other great sources. There are free press release distribution services, but paid services get wider distribution and provide in-depth analytics so you can tell what’s working and what’s not.
Guy: If a release is good, it will be picked up by TV and news agencies and pick up steam. Also, other sites in the target market segment will write about it.
How much does it cost to have a press release written?
Gaudet: Depending on the writer’s experience, a small-business owner can find a writer to do a press release for as low as $250 if they use a directory like Elance, Guru, or Scripted. If they hire a freelance copywriter, they can pay as much as $1,000. You can often get them cheaper, but be wary, as you may get what you pay for. When considering the price, keep in mind that many press releases, such as those tied to a season or holiday, can be reused with updates year after year.
What kind of return should business owners expect?
Gaudet: The challenge is there is no magic wand or guarantee that any press release will get traction with the media. Press releases are like drilling for oil. You never know when you’re going to write one that will earn you a fortune of free publicity.
What would you say to small-business owners who want to use press releases in their marketing efforts?
Gaudet: Be consistent, and commit to sending at least two press releases per month. Then make the press releases timely, relevant, and important to the reader.
Guy: Monday is the best day to issue a press release.