Writing the Perfect Press Release Part 3: How press releases help your business

The fact that you’ve just started a new business is probably desperately interesting to you. If you’re like most new business owners, you’ll be thinking about your business 24/7 (which is pretty much the hours you’ll be working on it, too!). If you’re very lucky, your new business will be just as fascinating to your friends and family (not to mention your lawyer and accountant) as it is to you. That’s great. But the rest of us? Well, unless you’re giving something away free, or offering a service we desperately need and can’t get anywhere else, here’s an unpleasant truth for you:

No one else cares about your business.

Not yet, anyway. The fact is that people start new businesses every day. There are thousands of new businesses incorporated every year. While each of those businesses is obsessively interesting to the people who own and run them, to the rest of us they’re just another new business. They don’t exactly set our worlds on fire – or most of them don’t, anyway.

Don’t believe me? Well, think about it. What would you think if I told you that a new accountant had started doing business in your town? Unless you happened to be in the market for a new accountant, probably not much.

Similarly, imagine walking into the newsagents to buy your morning newspaper. You scan the headlines in front of you: one talks about important developments in the war on terror, one has a new celebrity scandal… and one carries the front-page news that a telemarketing agency has just won a new contract. Which one will you buy? (Assuming, of course, that you’re not the telemarketer, in which case feel free to buy as many copies as you like.)

The fact is that the new business openings don’t sell newspapers because they’re not really “news”.

No one else cares about your new business. Yet.

It’s the “yet” part that you need to pay attention to. Just because no one’s interested right now doesn’t mean that no one ever will be. The fact is that you have to make them care. Press releases help you do that: they persuade people to care about your business by creating a bit of a “buzz” about it – by making it newsworthy.

So how do you do it? How do you find an angle that will persuade people that your business is worth caring about – and persuade journalists and editors that it’s worth taking up space in their newspaper or magazine for?

Time for another story…

The day after Christmas, 2003, Terry was diagnosed with end stage renal failure and told that he’d need a kidney transplant. In the meantime, he started attending five-hour dialysis sessions three times a week, at a hospital on the other side of the city.

Of course, we were devastated. We had bought a house (and a dog) together the year before. Both of us were working, and doing pretty well in our respective careers. Now, although, Terry was forced to give up his job, we struggled to get by on my salary alone, and there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

This state of affairs lasted for four months. By the end of that time, we had made a decision: Terry and I had always wanted to run our own business. Neither of us enjoyed the monotony of the 9-5, and we were both attracted to the idea of working for ourselves, being our own bosses, and generally taking back control of our lives. so we did.

Terry is a website designer. Every morning he headed off to dialysis with his laptop under his arm, and rather than spending the five hours of treatment sleeping, or watching TV, he spent the time designing websites. He sold the first site he designed to a local estate agent. A few months later, I quit my job and joined him, writing website copy and press releases for our clients. Hot Igloo Productions Ltd., was incorporated in June 2004, and is still going strong.

I love telling people this story. I particularly love telling it to people who find themselves diagnosed with kidney failure, like Terry, and think that their lives are over. I like to think that they love the story too – and I know that the press did.

Not long after we launched Hot Igloo, I sent a press release out to our local papers. The headline was “Running a business from a hospital bed” and it focused on Terry – his illness, and how he’d turned his bad luck around to start-up his own business.

The press release appeared on our local news website on a Wednesday morning. Within minutes of it going live, our phone was ringing off the hook with calls from other newspapers. That day, Terry was joined at dialysis by a photographer working for the largest news agency in the country. The next morning, our story, complete with pictures, appeared in both of the local newspapers for our area, countless news websites and one or two national newspapers. It even appeared in a clutch of specialist kidney publications, including the Journal of Nephrology.

The effect of all of this publicity is difficult to measure. We didn’t experience an instant rise in sales, but nor did we expect to: the fact is that we sell websites and press release services, and those aren’t services you’d rush out and buy unless you really needed them.

If you were to ask me, then, whether the press coverage gave an instant boost to our business, I’d have to say no. If you were to ask whether it had helped us in the long term, though, the answer would be a resounding “yes”!

To go back to what we were saying earlier: people remember the stories they enjoy. If they don’t have any immediate use for them, they tuck them away for later – and there always is a “later”. In our case, that one press release is still working for us now, years later. We’ve lost count of the number of clients who’ve contacted us months after the story was published and said, “I’ve just started a business and need a website. I remembered reading about you in the paper, so I thought I’d give you a call….”

The press release also works for us when we tender for a new contract, competing with other businesses from our area. “I remember you!” people say. “You’re the company that was in the paper!”

Finally, around a year after writing the release, it was picked up by a US website developer looking for content for 50 websites (yes, one for every state.) He published it on all 50 sites – not only did it give us some unexpected publicity, it also dramatically boosted the traffic to our own website, when we were least expecting it.

This is how PR works:
It may not work immediately.
It may not give you instant results
.

But if you find the right angle for your story, the fact is that PR doesn’t just work – it keeps on working, in ways that you hadn’t even expected.

In order for this to happen, though, you have to first of all find the right story….

 


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