For the majority of businesses, press releases are an underutilised form of marketing. On the other hand, mega corporations are real masters at using press releases to make people love them. In fact, press releases are so beneficial to this goal, mega corporations usually have at least one person, often a team of people, devoted exclusively to writing press releases or overseeing their production.
Humanise Your Business
Non-retail businesses are often seen as a nebulous entity, an “it,” not a he, she, or they! Press releases can be very effective tools at humanising your business and making “it” seem more people friendly. People like to deal with people, not a robot. There’s a reason self-checkout lines have been so slow to catch on in most places. People like dealing with a cashier, a real human being. This is just basic human nature.
Online businesses, and historically mail order businesses, have always found ways to put human faces on their business… at least the successful ones did! If you pull up the customer service page of most online businesses, you will often see a picture of a smiling friendly person wearing a telephone headset and talking with a customer. You may also see a picture of a person happily communicating with a customer through a keyboard.
One great way to utilise press releases to humanise your business is to organise completely free events where you “give back” in some significant way to your customers or to an audience your customers would care about. You can then submit press releases about these events. For this to work really well and actually be picked up by the press and social media channels, your events really do need to be FREE (don’t use a donation box) and they need to provide something that is perceived as you giving away something of great value. Here are a few good examples:
Suppose you run a website design company. In this case, you could organise a one day workshop to teach non-profits how to create an attractive website. You could limit the event to non-profits with less than a certain annual revenue and then talk about in your press release how you are helping non-profits who cannot afford to hire a web designer. For added human interest, you could have them pre-register and highlight what some of the non-profits you are helping do and this will link you to the causes that people love. You may even want to limit your class to a certain number of spots and then select from a pool of candidates which ones you will help. While this type of event would not give back directly to your paying clients, it will certainly appeal to many of them and humanise your business in their eyes.
Suppose you run an ecotour company. You can volunteer to give free slide presentations for many different groups: nature clubs, senior clubs, home association clubs, public libraries, rotary clubs, etc. Each time you do so, send out a full press release and give a quote that shows unique perspective about the people, places, or wildlife you will be speaking about. Make it something that will really draw people in. These presentations will appeal to your current customers, your potential customers, and others who could recommend your services to friends and family!
Suppose you run a financial business. You could set up special free workshops for seniors only. Define what you mean by “senior” in your press release. Even people who are too young and don’t qualify will appreciate what you are doing to help seniors. You could teach them about tax deductions, how to trade stocks, how to refinance their home, or anything related to your area(s) of expertise. Be sure to provide a link to your website as these will often end up on the websites of the publications who pick up your press releases or extract information from them.
Highlight Your Volunteer Work
Press releases are wonderful at highlighting the volunteer work you and your partners or employees do and this can in turn earn you a great deal of love from people. Do you coach sports for kids or volunteer at an organization that helps kids? Do you help out at a animal shelter or help find homes for abandoned pets? Do you work at a food bank? Do you help seniors in some way? Do you serve on the board of any non-profits. Perhaps you donate your time and expertise in a museum, interpretive center, or zoo? Any of these activities should present multiple opportunities to submit press releases.
Be Proud Of the Money You Donate
If you donate money to certain charitable causes, be proud of this fact and send out a press release to mark the occasion each time you do so. Be sure to include a quote or two from someone at your company explaining why you chose to donate money to the causes you chose. Some businesses worry too much about alienating certain people if they disclose what causes they donate to. However, you’ll usually get far more love than any negativity for donating to charitable causes so highlight this effort with press releases.
Overcome Negative Publicity
If used wisely, press releases can go a long way toward overcoming any negative publicity you receive. In fact, this is a strategy that almost every mega corporation on the planet utilises. Basically, this strategy involves sending out positive press releases anytime you notice negative publicity about your business, your products, or key people associated with your business. In effect, you “change the subject” to something more positive about your business. Information in press releases will also rise to the top of search engine results, pushing the negative stuff further down, and hopefully, out of sight! If you watch the news carefully, you’ll notice that cruise ship companies use this strategy all the time!
The first step in using press releases in this way is to monitor in real time, or as close to real time as you can, any negative publicity you receive. An easy way to do this is to set up Google news alerts using your business name as the keyword in the alert. Depending on your business, you may also want to set up additional Google news alerts using the names of key employees and key products. Once you have these alerts set, you will receive emails any time these keywords are used in news stories and published online (most are). The email alerts will also conveniently provide a link to the news stories (or blog posts).
The longer you let negative publicity linger in the media or online, the less love you will receive. Therefore, you want to have a few positive press releases already written and waiting to go so as soon as you see any negative publicity. As you submit these positive press releases, you will “change the subject” and push the negative stuff further down the search engine results. If you see that the publicity is really bad and/or a lot of media outlets pick up a smaller bad story about your business or product(s), you can match that intensity by releasing even more positive press releases! This is a very powerful technique if you jump on it quickly so use those Google news alerts effectively! You can set up dozens of them and even use variations of names to make sure you do not miss any negative publicity.
Accentuate the Positive
Sometimes you may be surprised at the positive publicity that pops up on those news alerts. When this happens, you can magnify this good will by submitting press releases that complement the positive publicity that is already out there. For example, if your business gets mentioned for donating to an animal shelter, you can quickly submit a press release that talks about the volunteer work that someone at your business does at the shelter (or a related example). People love their pets and they tend to like businesses who also love pets because it is something that touches a tender spot in their heart. The same is true for kids and the elderly.
A Few Tips On Writing Press Releases
Even if you write it yourself, press releases should always be written in third person. This is to avoid sounding like you are “tooting your own horn.” You want your press release to sound like an independent third party report on your business, your product, or a special event associated with your business.
Many businesses focus on keywords when writing press releases. While this may give you a bump in the search engines, it will not likely get your press release picked up by actual publishers or make it go viral on social media channels. In other words, you probably will not get the love you want by focusing on keywords (not to say you can’t throw certain keywords into a well written press release). Instead of worrying about keywords, make sure you write an attention grabbing headline that will intrigue people enough to want to actually read the rest of the press release.
Make the first paragraph super compelling! If a publisher actually open your press release, he or she will likely make a decision about whether or not to keep reading within the first minute of reading. This is why you need to make sure that the first paragraph is super compelling. Spend some time on this paragraph and wordsmith it many times. If you cannot write compelling copy, hire someone who can write it, or re-write it, for you in a compelling way.