By Robyn Levin, President
R. Levin Marketing Group
Have you ever wondered how some companies get featured in the major media and you know they didn’t pay for advertising? In this article, I will take you through a five-step process of creating and optimizing press releases to increase your online visibility — instantly. You will also learn some creative ways to get the press to call you and include your company in an article or feature story, which helps elevate your image and strengthen your position in the industry.
About 17 years ago, I discovered the power of PR when I generated more than 30 published stories for my company and customers — both locally and nationally. As an entrepreneur, I kept asking myself, what’s the fastest way to grow my business while spend the least amount of money? (And isn’t that what most of us want?) I realized there was an alternative to advertising (which can be very costly and difficult to measure). I would feed the press with story ideas, catchy headlines and photos of my customers; all wrapped up in a one page, professionally written press release. It worked and I was hooked. I started doing the same for clients and also speak passionately on this subject.
In my marketing seminars, I often begin with this quick quiz: What’s the difference between PR and advertising? Some of you may know the answer. With advertising, you pay and with PR, you pray. In other words, PR is hoping an editor will find your press release so interesting that they will want to feature your company in their publication or TV show.
If your goal were to create and maintain a positive image for your company, I would highly recommend using a PR campaign as part of your overall marketing program. This five-step process will help you achieve success with your PR campaign.
Five steps to creating a successful online PR campaign
Your objectives may simply be to keep the media abreast of company news and events. Or, you may want to share client success stories and get a feature story published about your company and expertise.
Step 1 — Decide what you want the media to know.
Nowadays, the Internet is the fastest way to get your company to instantly appear on Google and Yahoo news. It’s one thing to simply announce a new product, service or a new hire — it’s a valuable bonus to have an editor or writer call to interview you for a story they’re writing. And, they quite often get their story ideas from press releases and blogs that mention newsworthy, timely information. So, just what are editors looking for?
They’re interested in truly newsworthy information such as trends, emerging markets, new products or services and human-interest stories. Remember, editors immediately notice when a company is simply trying to promote itself in hopes of getting a little “free advertising”. Avoid this temptation, as editors can spot these attempts easily, and will probably disregard your press release.
So, how do you capture their attention? Here are four things to consider for your press release:
1. New seminar/event launched
2. New product/service
3. Industry news/trends
4. Client success stories
One of my favorite proven methods is to write a press release about client success stories. Tell the story using “picture words” as well as photos to help illustrate your point.
The headline of your press release is very important and will affect your results. It should be short and captivating, as this is the hook that should grab their attention. I spend a great deal of time crafting the headline, as my goal is to write something compelling enough to trigger a telephone call requesting an interview for my clients and their clients.
Keep these important points in mind when you interview your client for a potential story. Get their permission first and let them know there’s a chance they may be featured in the media. Be sure you find out what your clients might not want to reveal — and this is very important. The media can easily spin a story, so you want to do everything possible to ensure they convey the right slant.
I once spent a few hours interviewing a client, to get the details of his unusual investment story. I learned that his wife surprised him with a red Dodge Viper for turning their failing retirement account into a huge success. I requested photos of him and the car and included them in the press release. This triggered phone calls from a few editors who liked the story, and the newspaper actually used our prepared photo. We made it easy for them, which is a key point to pitching your story.
Step 2 — Create your press release
There are seven basic elements every press release should include:
1. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE should be placed at the top of the page
2. Your contact information (always return the phone call or e-mail ASAP when a writer contacts you — they rarely call twice.)
3. Headline: you should use boldface type, and it should be between five and eight words. Be creative; not salesey
4. City and Date
5. Lead paragraph with the five Ws: What, Where, Whom, When and Why
6. Main body copy
7. ### to signal the end
I wrote a press release to promote an inaugural national event. Entitled “Boomers Flock to Self-Directed IRAs — and Clamor for Help Investing Retirement Funds in Real Estate,” it was sent out six weeks before the event, which is approximately the time needed for an editor to write and publish a print story. It led to three major interviews for the CEO — in the Wall Street Journal , San Jose Mercury News and a leading online financial publication with 400,000 subscribers.
To read the complete press release, send me a message via the article forum and include “Boomers Flock to Self-Directed IRAs.”
You’ll notice that the headline addressed boomers, self-directed IRAs and investing retirement funds in real estate. This was timely information and a new topic for many editors. And remember to include facts and statistics in your release.
Ongoing press release campaigns are also a great way to become known as the thought leader and expert in your field. If you would like to receive a copy of a press release template, send me a message via the article forum. A tip to remember: Have a professional copywriter review your news release to make sure it is grammatically perfect.
Step 3 — Optimize your keywords
One of the biggest benefits of the Internet is the ability to optimize your keywords within the body of your press release. What does this do for you? It helps you get founder faster on Google, Yahoo and many other directories. “Keywords” are the words people type into a search engine to help find your company and your products and services. When you link your keywords and phrases, it helps improve your online visibility. And, when you get a published story featured online, you may get a link back from the publication you can post on your Web site, which is extremely helpful for search engine optimization. If you want to learn more about search engine optimization (SEO), you can learn about an upcoming Webinar by sending me a message indicating “webinar” via the article forum.
Step 4 — Distribute your press release over the internet
Some of the online distribution services I use include Business Wire and PR Web. You can also use free services, but it’s worth paying a little more so you avoid your competitors showing up in your news release.
When you use Business Wire’s services, for example, you will get a tracking report so you can see who has read your release by industry and geographic region. I use most of the optional services too, especially those that optimize your release online. You can even easily create a podcast from your press release. Ask me for a sample, using the article forum and include “podcast” in the subject line.
Step 5 — Follow up
Last but not least is the importance of following up on your press releases. This can really be the difference between getting your story published or not. I send press releases directly to editors of specific publications if I think the information would be interesting to their readers. Why not submit your news to ProducersWEB.com, for example? Contact the editor three to four days after you send the release and let them know you’re calling about your press release on (refer to your headline). Frequently, they will ask you to send it again, which is always fine.
What do you do with published stories and articles? Share them with your e-mail database, post them on your Web site under “news,” post them on your blog and offer them to your colleagues, as they may simply forward them in their next e-mail campaign.
When you amass a collection of feature stories, turn them into framed art for your office so your clients and employees can see them too. Create your own “Wall of Fame.”
In summary, PR is all about getting positive news coverage for you and your business for free , or at a fraction of the cost of advertising. And, it helps you build credibility. There’s a great quote in the book “Differentiate or Die,” in which a CEO said that whenever his company gets a positive mention in the media, it adds $1 million to his brand equity. Imagine what it can do for your business.