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One of the most important elements to building a PR strategy is feeling empathy for reporters. Once you grasp how the average publication finds ideas for articles, you can more effectively connect with the media. Although reporters do find story ideas through research, personal connections, and niche websites, a high percentage of story ideas come from press releases.
1. Press Release Overview
With Press Releases, it is important to:
– Define the story: Why is this story relevant and worthy of discussion?
– Create a press release and press kit, both of which follow a structure.
– Distribute the press release to reporters (Chapter 3) and PR submission websites (Chapter 4)
2. Defining The Story
If you decide to write a press release, the first step is to determine what your story will be. Your story can be summarized in one sentence and explains why the article should be read. Typically the story will be the first sentence in an article. An example of this is:
Online ad network Rocket Fuel announced today that it has raised $6.6 million in funding.
When crafting a story for your announcement, remember that the story has to be worthy of discussion. What makes the story interesting right now? The press releases that get the greatest traction are either explicitly tied to a current trend or timed so they are part of a larger conversation that is taking place.
When I began writing for VentureBeat, Owen Thomas was the celeb-Executive Editor of VentureBeat and was infamous for his bold articles. He had been involved in a very public feud with Elon Musk (of Paypal, Tesla, and SpaceX), and was known for ruffling the feathers of billionaires. When I was auditioning, he wrote me this regarding stories:
The “NYC tech scene” is a topic for a story, not a story. A story is about something that happened; it’s got a beginning, a middle, an end; it’s got a protagonist, it’s got action, and, if we’re lucky, a moral. What happened and why?
3. Examples of Stories
In general, businesses will have the following stories:
A. Company launch: Example HERE
B. Fundraising from angel investors or Venture Capital firms: Example HERE
C. Milestone reached: Example HERE
D. Launch of new product: Example HERE
E. Company acquired: Example HERE
This list is not all-inclusive, however it includes the most common announcements.
4. The Approach
Because there are only so many press worthy stories that a company will have, it is important to plan for each appropriately, starting with the company launch.
With company launches, entrepreneurs often avoid reporters, first launching the product and making improvements for several months. Although this is understandable, by the time the entrepreneurs contact journalists, the company is not “new” – it has been around for several months. Therefore there is no story, because the launch has already occurred.
In this company launch scenario the appropriate step is to have a soft launch of the business, making the announcement to select individuals. The company and website would then be privately tested and refined. When comfortable with the product, a strong launch would occur, with the creation and distribution of a press release. A launch event would potentially be held to commemorate the occasion.
By approaching the launch in this manner, the product is tested and the company optimizes its chances for press.
5. How To Write A Press Release
After you identify your story for the announcement, a press release will be crafted.
Press releases are different from articles because their goal is to provide information that reporters can draw upon and rewrite. Press releases are not meant to be read by the general public, and in fact to many they are uncomfortable to read. Reporters know that the press release they receive is also sent to dozens of other reporters.
At larger media publications, reporters can get into trouble for writing articles that are too similar to the press releases they receive.
6. Example Of A Press Release
The following URL includes an example press release. The founder and company name have been changed, and the numbers in parenthesis correspond with the directly following Press Release Format section.
7. Press Release Format
All press releases follow a structure. The numbers below, which correspond to the above example of a press release, outline standards that should be adhered to.
1. Include a one line title to catch the reader’s attention. This line should be your story.
2. In the line directly following the title, include one line to explain why the announcement is meaningful.
3. State where the company is headquartered and the date of the press release.
4. The first line in your beginning paragraph should repeat what your story is.
5. Following paragraphs should go in-depth into the particular announcement. This should explain why the announcement is important and, if it is a company launch, how the business is different from its competition.
6. Before the conclusion, provide background information.
7. The second to last section should be an About portion, providing a background of the company.
8. The last section should include the contact information, including name, email, and phone number.
9. In general two quotations are used in a press release, one from the founder/CEO and one from an industry insider.
8. How To Create A Press Kit
Press kits are important and are not only for high-profile businesses.
What Is A Press Kit?
A press kit is a package of materials that introduces the media to your company. A press kit should include:
1. Company background, including company history and biography of key members of the company.
2. Copies of recent press coverage.
3. Images that the media can use in articles.
At VentureBeat, the editors did not like to include standard company logos in articles, and it often took time to find images that would work with the article. For this reason, I recommend companies include several images in their press kits, and to not only include an image of a standard logo, but also of an alternative logo. As an example, here is traditional logo (Ex: Facebook Logo), vs. an untraditional logo (Ex: Facebook logo with Mark Zuckerberg). Your goal is to make it as easy for a journalist to write an article as possible.
An example of a Press Kit is on the website HERE.