What is a press release ?
As newsrooms continue to shrink, fewer reporters are available to cover the small local stories. Finding a reporter who will cover your local fundraising event or free seminar is becoming less and less likely. However, there is a way to get the media coverage you want. Write and distribute a press release.
A press release is not an advertisement. With an ad, you pay for space to promote your business and it is grouped on the page with other ads. A press release, on the other hand, requires no fee and appears in the editorial section, alongside other news.
When you write a press release, you are the reporter. You provide all the essential information in a particular format. (Learn how to write a press release.) If the media you’ve submitted it to thinks it’s newsworthy enough, they’ll run the story at no charge to you.
The more different ways someone learns about your organization, the more likely they are to make note of it and potentially act on it. This added attention can drive more organic traffic to your website, generate buzz and build brand awareness.
How can a press release drive web traffic?
Those who read the press release may visit your website to learn more about the event, to learn more about the host, the emcee, the venue. They may even go to the website to buy tickets. That’s why it’s critical to include within the text of your story the URL of your website and/or a link to the event.
Where and how to send the press release
Begin by building a press list
- Make a list of all the local media you can think of.
- Ask friends and family for the local media they engage with.
- Google “[Your County – State] Media.” For example, “Columbia County NY Media”or “Austin Texas Media.”
- Whenever you visit a local business, look around for copies of local print media. They’re often in racks at the entrance, on window sills, on a table. Become familiar with all that is available.
- This should go without saying, but only send your release to outlets that match your target audience. For example, if you’re hosting a Lamaze educational seminar, you probably don’t need to send the announcement to the local fish and game publication. Be smart.
Build out the list using a spreadsheet or database
- Once you have the list of media outlets compiled, visit the website of each one. Most likely there is a page on the site that describes how and to whom to send the release. If you send the release to the right person, in the form they request, you are much more likely to have it printed than if you send it to the wrong person or in a format they cannot use.
- Update your list regularly.
When to send a press release
Consider the publication dates of each individual media outlet. Be sure to send the press release early enough so they have time to process the information. Send it too early and it might get lost. Send it too late and it might not make it into the publication at all.
For example, if you know that crunch day at your weekly newspaper is Wednesday, don’t send the release on Wednesday. Send it earlier and give the staff enough time to find the right place in their publication for your information. Additionally, if everyone is busy they are less likely to give it the attention it needs.
Monthly magazines, on the other hand, often go to press months before the distribution date. Find out how far ahead they need your material. And if your event falls at the end of the month, you still need to get the information to them for publication at the beginning of the month. Generally we send press releases to monthly publications two to three months before the planned event.
Utilize press releases to build website traffic
An effective but underutilized method of increasing website traffic is press release distribution. This involves writing a press release and distributing it to local media channels. Press releases are highly visible and often more trusted than an ad, because they appear in the body of the newspaper.