Well-crafted press releases, relationships key to effective public relations

Amy Weirick

Anyone wanting to use public relations to market their business will do well to focus on the “R” in PR: relations. And the most crucial part of public relations is building and maintaining relationships with members of the media− traditional print and broadcast, as well as bloggers and social media.

Start by really getting to know the media you want to cover your business. Watch newscasts. Listen to radio shows. Read that newspaper, magazine or blog. Know what time a broadcast starts and ends, if it’s live or taped, and if they host guest interviews. Then, follow journalists you’re targeting on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Pay attention to what they cover and why. Carefully consider their audience and what’s important to them. Then hone your pitch to fit both the writer’s needs and their audience’s perspective.

Amy Weirick, president of Weirick Communications

Take time to build personal relationships with individual editors, writers, and reporters. Take them to lunch. Meet for coffee or a beer. Ask for a quick desk-side or lobby meeting. Work to become a trusted source, and you’ll enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship that pays off for both of you for years to come. Be sure that you always spell their name, and the name of their outlet, correctly.

Understand that our media friends are overworked, underpaid, and more stressed by the changing economy than just about any other industry.  Be someone who makes their job easier. Get your facts right. Deliver great interviews and images. Offer strong story ideas about your business or industry in general− and not just stories that benefit you.

Once you’ve built those relationships, sending a press release is a great way to alert your media contacts to what’s happening with your business. If there’s really no news to announce, instead consider sending a pitch email offering a story idea.

If you do have news to announce, make your press release stand out by following a few simple tips:

1. Follow the age-old formula: answer the questions who, where, what, why and when.

2. Write a short headline that’s a complete thought and spells out the news of your announcement.

3. Never bury the lead. Be sure the first sentence holds the meat of the story. Most readers won’t read further if the news isn’t obvious.

4. Become familiar with news writing style and write in the third person. You’re not really talking to the reporter or blogger; you’re talking to their readers. Instead of “you,” say “consumers,” “guests,” “business people,” or whatever term best describes your target consumer.

5. Avoid fluff.  The media are trained to ask questions and see through spin, so use factual language, skip puffery and cuteness, and use adjectives sparingly.

6. Only use insider lingo when needed. If the average Joe won’t understand them, briefly explain terms and spell out industry acronyms.

7. Include details on where both the reader and the journalist or blogger can go for images and more info.

8. Invest in strong professional photography. Offering great images makes the story more powerful and a few good photos can bump your story from a small buried brief to a big front-page spread.

Public relations is a great, cost-effective tool for promoting your small business. By getting to know the media and sending pitches and ideas that fit their needs, you’ll enjoy no-cost promotion that promotes you well to target audiences.