A small investment can garner excellent results from a professional PR program, but if you don’t have the budget for that, you can do most of the work yourself and still get good results.

Most people are under the mistaken impression that the news will come looking for you, but things have never been further from the truth. In today’s economic climate, newspapers are struggling to survive. And although there’s more news on the Web, it’s difficult for most media outlets to make money with so much free information around. People have gotten used to free information and are reluctant to pay for it.

Add to this, a bad economy and shrinking advertising revenue, and the result is a cut-back on editorial expenditures. In an effort to provide news for less, the media is looking to it’s audience to develop content and stories for them.

Have you noticed the news stations are asking people to send videos and photos? That’s because it saves them money. They don’t have the budget to send editors on the prowl for news. They wait for it to come to them.

Take advantage of this opportunity by offering news items that are well written and appeal to their audiences. Here are the basic steps involved in starting a PR campaign for your company.

Step 1 – Think of opportunities for press releases
What’s new at your company? New products? Are you moving or expanding? How can your product or service help readers?

Step 2 – Develop a list of media outlets to distribute your release to
Research magazines, newspapers and websites that your customers and prospects frequent. This is fairly easy to do these days with most of this information readily available on the Web. Find out which editor is the appropriate one to receive your news. Sometimes it best to call and ask if this isn’t apparent from the website. Develop a database of editors with contact information including phone number and email address.

Step 3 – Write a press release
This is probably the most difficult part of this process, and if you can afford it, you should try to hire a professional writer to do this for you. However, if you’d like to do it yourself, here are some tips on how to write a press release.

Step 4 – Distribute your release
If your news warrants it and you have the budget, you can distribute your press release for a few hundred dollars on the web via one the newswire services. Editors check these websites everyday for news and subscribe to RSS feeds on topics of interest to them. Whether or not you distribute through one of these sites, you should email your release to the editors on your PR list. Include photos, your web address and contact information in your email and use a compelling subject line to get their attention. Attach your release as a Word document and give a short description of the release and why it’s relevant to their readers in you email.

Step 4 – Follow-up
This part is kind of tricky. Editors are busy and they don’t like to be bothered. If you write a compelling press release that is relevant to their publication or website, they will generally respond right away, but often times, they will file it away for an upcoming story.

Your follow-up strategy depends on the nature of the release, but in general, it doesn’t hurt to follow up with an email or voicemail. You may get lucky and get them on the phone, and if you do be brief and to the point. If they say they will use your release, ask them when you can expect to see it and offer them more information. Otherwise, just leave a short voicemail to remind them you sent them something and how it’s relevant.

In some cases you may want to be more assertive, but if you’ve done your job right and they have all the information, that’s all you can do. You don’t want to waste their time or bug them. Remember, your job is to make their life easier by offering information that’s well-written, of interest to their readers, and ready for publication. If you do, they’ll appreciate it.

How to Write a Press Release

A well-written press release is often the key to whether your release gets picked up. Editors are busy and if you send them a press release that’s ready to print, they’re much more likely to print it. After all, they are pressed for time and the less work they have to do the better.

Press releases should be clearly and concisely written. If you re a good writer and follow a few simple rules, you can write your own press release:
Stick to the facts.

  • Answer the important questions “Who, What, When, Where, Why and How?”
  • Press releases should be factual. If you want to make marketing claims, put them in the form of a quote.
  • Avoid using technical jargon. If there’s a simpler way to say something, do it.
  • Answer the “so what?” question as early as possible.
  • Explain the significance of your news high up in the press release so editors will be interested enough to keep on reading.
  • Releases should be short and to the point, generally between one and two pages.
  • Your press release should be in a certain format and sent as a Word attachment.

Example of press release.