Business is a right-brain activity, Four Corners Business Journal, Aug. 7-13, 2006

Tell your story. Make it a good one with a beginning that draws the reader or listener in, weave in some characters overcoming challenges and give us a splashy or simple ending. Now put it all down on paper and call it a press release.

Getting your story in the paper is easy. Make it compelling. Make it newsworthy. Tell the editor why your business is unique and send out press releases. I’m amazed at how many businesses do not take the time to create a press release. To inform the media of what is happening at their company. We spend so much time creating our business and keeping the doors open that we forget what a valuable friend the media can be to our success.

Here are some simple tips for public relations success. First and foremost, it is called public relations. Build a relationship with the editor of your newspaper, a magazine, the radio announcer or programmer. Find out what they consider newsworthy and what sort of needs they have. Small newspapers are always looking for material to fill their daily or weekly pages.

Tell the who, what, where, when and how of an event. Use a catchy headline. Put all the contact information at the top including phone numbers, email, websites, etc. Most word-processing software offer a template to help you create a press release. The first paragraph includes the location and date of an event and one or two sentences about it. Paragraph two is more information. Include some quotes from clients. Paragraph three includes the contact information. Actually write the press release like a newspaper article in third person as if you are the reporter asking questions. Put those comments in quotations. Many newspapers want material they can cut and paste into their empty spaces. Make their job easier and you are likely to get your story in the paper—especially if you include one or two high quality images to go along with the story.

Creative tip: Sometimes, an image says more than a press release. If you had an event at your business—say the local boy scouts washed cars in your parking lot. Take some photos, pick out the best one and send them to the newspaper with just a short sentence telling what happened.

Include your business name. Just be sure your digital images are high quality. Most newspapers require a minimum of 300 dpi (dots per inch) and an image size of 5”x7”. This means, they have to be able to print a 5”x7” photograph with at least 300 dots of ink per inch.

Also, before you send off a digital image to the newspaper, let them know it is coming. Photos are often very large file attachments and will get sent to span folders in many email programs. Return to the first tip I mentioned above. Build a relationship with the newspaper. Make sure they have your email address on record before you send off a press release and images.

Now, you have a press release. You have your photos. What do you do with them? If you followed my first and foremost tip, you have been in contact with newspapers around the region or magazine editors. You have started to build a database of contacts. You know whether they want to receive your press release digitally via email with or without an attachment. You know that their deadline is Monday at noon. You’ve talked to the business editor and the calendar editor. You have created a separate fact file for the calendar editor and can send the information off to her about your upcoming event. You know that it is the managing editor and not editor-in-chief at the magazine who peruses press releases. You’ve done your homework and you send out the material and you start over trying to find something newsworthy to submit to the media next week.

When do I send a press release? You are asking. I’m not having an event. Well, there are plenty of opportunities to send out press releases. Events are often key because they are unique to the day-to-day operations of your business. Other times it is appropriate to send out press releases include: new hires, a lot of business publications have a special section devoted to people and their new jobs, and often they will include a photo of the new employee; any remodeling, expansion, additions to the menu, changes that happen at your business; any special training or education programs completed by employees; anything unique and compelling about the people who work for you and with you—did you recently learn that the senior citizen you hired to work one day a week was a nuclear physicist at Los Alamos and is now selling cookies at your bakery? Human-interest stories are the most intriguing for readers and magazines and newspapers love them. Consider the unique stories of your employees as an emerald mine of opportunity for your business.

Press releases and public relations are key ways to get your business mentioned in the media. Build relationships with the people who can help you and don’t forget to send your press releases to key clients and customers. Keep them apprised of what your business is all about and your name foremost in their mind.

Leanne Goebel was the marketing and public relations director for a mid-size publishing firm in Denver for seven years. She has been a published writer for twenty-four years.

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