7 Steps to Creating a Press Release Message for the Media

Friends reading newspaperHow would you like a journalist to write an article about your business, or a radio show host to interview you, or a TV producer to invite you onto their show?

All these things are possible – and the secret lies in the message they receive from you. Get that right, and you’re on your way to getting publicity. This article is your 7-step guide to creating an effective press release message for the media.

1. Think of publicity as giving

The benefits of publicity – editorial columns or broadcast airspace – for a small business are hard to dispute. As one TV producer said to me recently:

Editorial inches/minutes are always more valuable than advertising because it’s what the consumer has paid or switched on for, so they’ll take the effort to read or listen to it and you’ll probably get people discussing it…

But I’m going to ask you first of all to set aside the benefits to your business, and focus on the benefits to your audience – your potential customers. Because unless your message is useful or interesting to them, the media won’t touch it.

So think of your publicity as another service that you provide – an investment in your potential customers that brings attention from quality leads while building credibility and trust in your business.

2. The million-dollar marketing questions

Now I want you to step outside your services or products for a minute, and look from the outside in. Imagine you are face to face with a prospective client or customer, and they ask you the following questions:

  • Why should I listen to you? (Offer me a benefit, and make it snappy)
  • Why should I trust you? (Show me the evidence)
  • Why should I do anything about it? (Suggest something worth doing, and worth doing now)

Notice that your prospects aren’t asking for a rundown of your services and how unique or speccy they are. They’re asking what’s in it for them. Why should they care enough to even read or listen to what you have to say? Let’s take those questions one at a time.

3. Why should I listen to you?

First you need to be confident about the demographics of the audience you’re talking to, and most businesses will already know who their customers are. Then write and expand upon one of the following statements:

My audience will listen because my service or product:

  • answers a ‘want’ among this particular group that isn’t yet being met …
  • addresses an issue that hasn’t yet been tackled effectively …
  • taps into a hot new trend or event that can be used as the main focus …
  • rides on a surprising statistic or scenario that is likely to grab attention.

Now you’re getting somewhere.

4. Creating a message

Before we move on to the second question your audience wants answered, let’s look more closely at how you can turn these benefits into a message. Here are some examples:

Answers a ‘want’
The most obvious is a new product or service that hasn’t been thought of before. If you do have something new, it’s important to obtain endorsements from relevant professionals, practitioners or businesses. Then carefully position and target your message to reach your niche audience.

You may have formed an affiliation with a complementary business that means your prospects can now book a more fully rounded, packaged service, without having to go to two separate suppliers. This kind of affiliation is common in tourism, where a tour operator and accommodation provider might package a holiday. If you have come up with an innovative way to link your business with another, you can publicise yourselves jointly as a new solution for your busy customers.

Perhaps you have taken your business online, enabling prospects in the regions to access services that were previously only available in metro areas. This story might interest newspaper sections or magazines relevant to your business.

Taps into a hot new trend or event
Businesses at the forefront of trends in social media, communications, music and fashion will always be able to drum up publicity. The trick is to explain how your service or product adds value. So for instance, a video conferencing service enables businesses to work smarter and faster in an age of globalisation.

Events have currency too – either new events you are organising or sponsoring, or new products or services that link to a popular event, such as Christmas, or Mardi Gras. Get the timing right and you could be just what the press are looking for. You can also create an event to launch a new product or service, and make it attractive enough to bring photographers from the local press. Get your own photos taken too, and use them in your follow-up publicity campaign.

Addresses an issue
The services you supply or the products you sell may link to an underlying issue that isn’t being sufficiently addressed. For example, there are many people with disabilities who have the same desire as everyone else to experience adventure sports. A business that creates equipment enabling them to do just that can work on the issue of how society marginalises the disabled. Or maybe your business produces eco-friendly products – an ongoing issue that appeals to a wide audience.

Rides on a surprising statistic or scenario
A new report or article revealing surprising statistics that support the need for your service or product is like gold dust. Make the most of this by producing a message that rides on the stats: 80% of over-50s prefer to work with a personal trainer … is a gift for a personal training business tailored for this age group. The stats might not be quite so specific though: 90% of teenage boys are falling behind in maths … would support innovative new software for this age range. (These are fictional statistics by the way.)

An unusual scenario can also attract attention to your business. An image of someone doing something you wouldn’t expect them to do – such as an 80-year-old running a marathon – can be quite compelling, challenging taboos about old age and fitness. So if you’re the personal trainer who works with over-50s, and this is one of your clients, how much more likely are others to trust your expertise?

5. Why should I trust you?

You need both the media and your target audience to view you as a trusted source. So make sure you include the following in your press release:

  • Endorsements by accredited sources, testimonials from satisfied customers, or client success stories.
  • Contact details for customers who are willing to talk about how your product or service benefited them or their business.
  • Information about you and your business at the end of the release, with links for further background. This will help the journalist or producer to view you as a trusted source, so they are more likely to present you this way to their audience.

Offering yourself as an expert on a particular issue or industry is an ideal way to build trust via the media. Offer column or feature ideas containing useful information and advice (how to …, 7 ways to …, did you know …, secrets of success in …). Then talk with editors about supplying regular content, and offer to be available for comments on relevant issues. This can take a while to establish, so be patient and respectful of the editors’ and producers’ time while regularly feeding messages to them.

Once you are seen as an expert, your audience will begin to trust you and turn to you when they need your services or products.

6. Why should I do anything about it?

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is a useful book that helps to explain how certain messages can influence people to take action. Here are three useful examples:

Social Proof
When we believe that an increasing number of others are using a particular product or service, we are more likely to look at it seriously. Others are doing it, so I should too. If you can link this to a new trend, so much the better.

This is where creating a story about successful clients or celebrities who have used your product or service and benefited can help to persuade others to give it a go – and it can make for a great photo opportunity. We love reading about other people’s experiences, and if the story is presented in an accessible way, allowing the reader or listener to imagine themselves doing the same thing, then you are on the way to persuading more customers to sign up or buy.

Give something to your prospective customer, and they are more inclined to reciprocate by buying something from you. And this is exactly the approach you’re taking with your publicity – give something useful or interesting, such as information, stories, entertainment, or even a good laugh, and your readers or listeners will be more likely to give something back.

Get them to sign up to receive an e-book or a step-by-step guide by email, and you can also capture their details for further direct messages. Getting help and advice for free helps to build trust and bring prospects back to you when they need your services.

This is like producing a limited edition book – when there are only a few, they become more valuable and more sought-after. And it’s one answer to the question: Why should I act now?

You can create scarcity by producing a special offer that’s open to the first x number who respond. Or have an offer open until a deadline. This kind of publicity works best when it is organised in conjunction with specific media outlets who are interested in running special offers linked to a theme or event, such as Christmas. You supply the products and the media places the offer in the publication for free.

This is a clear example of how publicity can allow everyone to win – you, the media, and the audience.

7. Tailor your message to the media

How you present your message will depend on the media you choose.

Make sure you familiarise yourself with your chosen publications or programmes so that you can tailor your message to suit their editorial policies, preferences, themes etc. Doing this can also give you lots of ideas for further stories. And showing the media that you are familiar with their content goes a long way to getting their attention.

Bear in mind that some stories are better suited to print, and others to broadcast channels. For example:

  • For print media, you need top quality, compelling images, as described in Glenn’s blog post.
  • For TV, you need to create a visually vibrant message that can be told in the studio unless you want to cover the cost of a live feed, which can be as much as $6000. Alternatively, your story needs to be one that can be recorded well ahead of broadcast – travel stories fit into this category. Here are 7 Tips for Getting Your Small Business on TV.
  • Radio clearly relies more on discussion and not at all on visuals, so your message needs to raise an issue or arise from a new report or statistics – it needs substance that can be drawn out in an interview and you need to be prepared to be the interviewee.
  • Online media offers opportunities for viral marketing (your message finding its way across the web through a multitude of channels by being forwarded and found through search), so you need lots of keywords that are relevant to your readers, and images are important again.

Here’s an example of a press release that achieves all these steps. Australia’s first ever gay cruise was a huge success, and attracted lots of media attention. It offers an appealing holiday for gays and lesbians; links to a trend towards gay travel, an event (Mardi Gras) and covertly raises the issue of gay segregation; it establishes trust through endorsements; and it creates a sense of urgency (scarcity) because cabins are selling fast. It also makes good use of imagery, managing to tell the story with spirit and glamour.

For more guidance on running your own press release campaign, sign up for our free e-course – How to Get Publicity – in the sidebar.

And for further information on our services, call me on 1800 468 416 or contact me via email using the form below.