By Nancy Butler
Getting your name in the news can be worth its weight in gold to your business. A story in your local newspaper or on the radio adds credibility because it’s editorial, not advertising. And the cost can be almost nothing because you don’t pay a dime for the space or airtime.
How do you make news? Chances are you already have a story or two with editorial value. On the next four pages are some examples of topics that can make the headlines in the daily news or in trade publications like BEDtimes.
- New product or marketing program. Are you introducing a new line or making significant changes to an existing one? Maybe you’re planning to launch a new advertising program or special promotion for your customers? New training programs or P.O.P. materials for retailers? Write up a press release. You could wind up with a great piece of free publicity.
- New employee or job promotion. If you’ve just hired a new sales manager or promoted your bookkeeper, write it up. Summarize the employee’s professional background, outline new job responsibilities and include a quote from you. A photo is a good idea, but make it a formal headshot, not a candid. And always add a paragraph briefly profiling your company.
- Plant opening or major expansion: These are great photo opportunities and are especially popular with the local media. Give them two to three weeks advance notice on any ribbon–cutting or grand opening party. Bring in the clowns, choir or local celebrity. Be sure to take pictures, preferably professional ones. Even if the local press doesn’t show up, send them some pictures with a press release after the opening. And don’t forget to send it to BEDtimes.
- Milestone anniversary: Coming up on your 20th year in business? That’s news. Offer a bit of history – especially if you’ve been in the community for a long time – some personal interest and a quote or two from you. Don’t be afraid to include brief information on your product, but be careful not to turn the release into advertising – an instant turn–off with editors.
- Community involvement. Announce your support of community services, events and organizations. It can be company involvement, your personal involvement or the participation of another employee. Don’t be modest. These are sure–fire news opportunities, especially in smaller cities. Community outreach makes people feel good, and that’s good for your business.
Editors judge the news value of a press release from several angles – its human–interest value, current events importance, public service aspects, financial effects, potential impact on readers, or unusual subject matter. Often, all you need to get that valuable free coverage is a simple press release. You can even write it yourself.
One thing you can count on: If your release hasn’t got a news slant or if it reads like advertising copy, it’ll wind up in the wastebasket. It’s important to remember that a press release is NOT advertising. In advertising, you buy space; in publicity, you supply information.
How to put it in writing
Now that you’ve identified a story, get it on paper. If your budget can handle professional help – a public relations agency, consultant or freelancer – that can be a very sound investment. But if not, don’t be afraid to test your own writing skills, or those of talented people in your company. A simple, 1– or 2– page press release is all you need. Keep it short. One page is ideal, no more than two.
Stick with the facts – lots of flowery adjectives don’t help and can even hurt your chances of being read as real news
Type it on your store letterhead. If you don’t have a computer with word processing software, the old–fashioned typewriter is fine, but handwritten isn’t.
Double space between lines. It’s easier to read, and it’s standard for professional releases.
Put your name and phone number in the upper right–hand corner. This is important!
Include the date and indicate that it’s for immediate release. If there’s a reason the story can’t be made public until later, use that date and FOR RELEASE.
Put your most exciting news, your best attention–grabber, right in the headline.
Include the “who, when and where” in the first paragraph.
Include a quote from you or another key person.
Play up the “photo opps” – the more visual an event, the more likely the press will send someone to cover it.
Close the release with three pound signs. If there’s a second page, type “–more–” at the bottom of the first.
Proof it. Proof it. Proof it. Be sure to proofread carefully and double–check spelling. If you’re not good at it, find someone who is.
Where to send your finished press release
Daily and weekly papers.
Be sure to send your release to the editors of all the local papers, including weekly shoppers – they’re always hungry for news. Check the papers to see if there are specific sections that would best suit your story – Lifestyle? Home section? Maybe there’s a local columnist you think would be interested? It won’t hurt to send several copies to the same paper.
Radio and TV stations.
Send copies to program directors at your local stations. If possible, find out the names of the assignment editors who review releases. If there are specific shows that might be interested in your story, get the names of the producers of those shows.
Ad people don’t make editorial decisions, but your ad reps can be helpful in directing you to the right people, giving you names and even following up to see if a release got noticed.
The trade press is your best partner when it comes to company news. Don’t forget to put BEDtimes at the top of your mailing list. Even if your story has a distinctly local slant, make sure that every home furnishings trade publication gets a copy. You never know when an editor might be looking for an item to fill a last–minute space opening.
’Soft’ news works, too
In addition to “hard” news stories, your company may also be a good candidate for general–interest or feature stories. Consider these examples:
- Profile of a local business:Has your business shown outstanding growth over the years? Is it family–owned and –operated with roots in the community? Is there an interesting story behind how the business was founded or built?
- Expert advice on shopping: Consumer advice features are hot. Offer yourself or someone in your company as an expert on how to shop for the right mattress. What’s new in sleep products? Reporters for the lifestyle or home sections really go for this kind of story idea. You might even find yourself on TV.
- Surveys and statistics: There’s nothing like a set of new survey results or little–known statistics to get an editor’s attention. You can do your own man–on–the–street interviews or borrow from industry sources (trade press, associations – with credit, of course) to create a little drama around your business.
Getting feature coverage may take a little more thought, time and personal effort on your part – a quick press release or letter may not be enough.
This is also a particularly good time to take advantage of any media connections you may have. But once you’ve got an editor or reporter interesting in pursuing your story, they’ll typically take it from there.