Press releases are a form of publicity you can use to turn company news into marketing opportunities. And it’s not limited to the big players.

If you want to generate some buzz, getting local news media interested in stories about your business is an effective strategy.

How Press Releases Work

Also called news releases, press releases provide topical information to news media about industry innovations, changes or just about anything news editors consider of interest to their readers.

And that last part is critical. Your press releases may provide you with marketing mileage, but they have to appeal to a media outlet’s intended audience. If they don’t, then they won’t get much play.

Press releases are appropriate if you’re launching a product, have added an important new hire, opened a new facility, received a prize or hit a milestone.

Remember, every day local media outlets — including bloggers — have space or air time to fill, so don’t underestimate the value of your release.

When crafting a news release, consider the type of outlet you’re sending it to. You can draft one release for wide distribution, but it’s better to create a set of releases covering the same topic but for different media venues.

With a little rework, the same information can be tailored to appeal to industry publications, a local newspaper or your own blog.

While larger corporations usually use professional news wire services to distribute their press releases, small businesses likely don’t have those budgets. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.

Review websites for the media outlets you’re targeting; they likely have a general email inbox used exclusively for receiving press releases.

Press releases can also be sent via fax, snail mail or hand delivered, if you want to create some extra attention. Just be aware that some outlets may only accept releases in a certain way (e.g., only via email).

How to Draft a Press Release

News outlets receive dozens of press releases every day, so make yours count. Formatting and clarity are important. The material should be presented in the following order and include certain basic information beyond your news story.

  1. Contact — Provide the name, phone number and email address for the person at your company authorized to answer media questions.
  2. Timing — Provide a release date. Most press releases will say “For Immediate Release.” If you want your information kept quiet until a certain date, you can cite an “embargo date;” that means no one should publicize your news until that date. There’s no guarantee they’ll honor it, but more often than not, they do.
  3. Headline — Create a compelling headline and keep it under two lines. Use all caps and bold it.
  4. Dateline —Start your story with a dateline that includes your city and state in caps followed by the date. (e.g., DETROIT, MI, March, 3, 2022)
  5. Body —Keep your release’s body copy straightforward. Lead with the most important information; you want to create interest and keep it. Don’t expect anyone to use the entire text of your release. The first sentence should be a killer and not a sleeper. Include the “who”, “what”, “when”, “why”, “where” and “how” in descending order of importance.
  6. Boilerplate — Finish your release with a short paragraph about your company. Consider it an introduction to readers not familiar with who you are or what you do. You can use the “boilerplate” in all your press releases to provide a consistent summary of your business.

Press Release Tips and Tricks

  • Be sure to post your press release on your website. If you have a “News” section, make sure to include it there.
  • Keep the entire release under two pages.
  • If you have supporting information, like reports, bios, product sheets or price lists, include them as subsequent pages to the release.
  • If you have good visuals, like photos, maps or graphs, include them too.
  • Focus on what’s important to your reader — not necessarily what’s important to you. Editors know that publicizing the info will help you; you don’t need to tell them that. The trick is to make it so interesting the editors will want to share with their readers. (This is probably the most important press release tip you’ll ever hear.)
  • Although not strictly necessary, adding quotes from customers, expert sources, or industry leaders lends your release credibility.
  • Do some recon to get good contact names and addresses. There’s no law against calling your wish list of media outlets to get the contact info you need.

Press releases are time-sensitive. So think about what will make your company and products newsworthy today, next week, next month and onward.

Press releases are only one tool in your marketing toolkit, but they’re powerful. And they’re free.