A press release, also called a news release, is one of PR's basic tools. Press releases are a cost-effective, efficient way of delivering your business's news to the media—news that, if relevant and compelling enough, the media will then deliver to the masses. If you want the media to tell your story, consider the following information.
Just as a business plan is composed of several essential elements (executive summary, market analysis, financial plan, just to name a few), so, too, is a press release. A press release must address the "5 W's"—the who, what, when, where, and why of your story. No release should exceed two pages. Hyperbole and jargon have no place in a press release, nor do they have a place in your business plan. Your prose must be clear and to the point, and your headline should pack a punch. Proofread meticulously to ensure that no errors appear either in body of the release or in the contact information.
When it comes to distributing press releases, compose a media distribution list (TV including cable outlets, radio, newspaper, web), and keep it current. (Editors and reporters come and go!) Additionally, consider subscribing to a wire service such as PR Newswire or Business Wire. The cost of this subscription is an expense that should appear on your business plan. While compiling your list, don't forget to identify and include special interest publications, business journals, and trade newsletters.
Understand your recipients and the circumstances in which your release is received. Consider the hefty volume of releases any media outlet may receive each day. A busy journalist dealing with deadlines and receiving perhaps hundreds of releases per day needs a reason to stop and read. How will you stand out? How will you avoid ending up in the trash, whether physical or virtual? If you work to develop a rapport with key media members, the name recognition can work to your advantage—especially when paired with a knockout release. Be sure to ask questions to these key media members regarding how they prefer press releases to be submitted. For example, is a fax or an e-mail preferred? For electronic images, what are the file size and resolution requirements? What are the submission deadlines?
If yours is a major story, consider your follow-up strategy. Might you conduct a press conference, for example?
The PR strategy outlined in your business plan should include whether you will handle public relations duties in-house or if you plan to hire a PR consultant or firm. The expenses associated with either scenario will appear in your business plan.