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Are press releases still a relevant marketing tool?

August 9, 2017
press release 2

I started my personal training business back in 2004. I had been working part time as a trainer in a gym from 1999 and was ready to take the step into running my own business.I was still working in finance and managing a portfolio of companies for prominent businessmen, sports stars and a handful of people in the music business so I understood a little about business but not how to run or market my own business.Social media was still in its infancy - at this stage Facebook was just starting out in the UK and Friends Reunited was the big player (who remembers them now??)Ok, now I am starting to feel my age;-)I studied old school approaches (and as with most sound principles a number of these are still extremely relevant today).One of the tactics I used was building a list of media contacts (local newspaper, magazine, radio) and I then would send out press releases on a monthly basis.Did these ever get used? I probably sent out over a 100 press releases and out of that number 4 were picked up. But because I was consistent and because the content was pretty good, I was approached by editors from time to time to see if I could help them with a health and fitness topic.I became one of their go-to "experts".Did it have an impact on my business?You bet it did!Each time I appeared in print, I had a surge of leads and these leads were strong because of the positioning I received via the media source.SO ARE PRESS RELEASES STILL RELEVANT TODAY?I believe they are as they are essential to effective public relations, but they’re no longer written for the press alone.Instead they are emerging as a critical component of content marketing, social media marketing, and search marketing strategies.To be able to successfully use such a tactic, we need to know what to write about, understand formatting, and have a strategic distribution plan.I will address these elements here...**Press Release Topic Selection**The first step to writing a press release is simple:Select a newsworthy topic.Newsworthy topics go beyond content that warrants being reported in the news; they can be a report of recent events, previously unknown information, or educational content.I am sure you blog about or send emails to your database (if not, you should!) about the many interesting things going on in the life of your business.These subjects get totally overlooked as potential press release content.Open your mind to what can be re-purposed into a press release, such as content that can educate the media as well as current or prospective customers.What do they need to know to understand why you are worth working with?Nick Nanton, a successful author and branding expert covers this in his book "Story Selling" (good book by the way). He encourages you to connect with the media and public through stories; he says "story telling is story selling".The more you get your story out there—with press releases and other marketing materials—the more you build awareness, make connections, and serve customers.**Press Release Format**After you select a topic, you must address the Who, What, When, Where, Why, How, and Who Cares points as they relate to your topic.The modern press release format should include...TitleSubheadBodyQuoteBoilerplateThe title summarizes the whole release. It needs to be short (fitting on one line, often in text larger than the rest of the release) and capture reader interest. The title can make or break a press release. It needs to be powerful, and to the point.The subhead is two lines of italicized text supporting the title. It plays off the title, offering more description.The body of the release is the text that further covers the Who, What, When, Where, Why, How, and Who Cares points.It starts with the location of the organization and the date, then continues to share information that expands on the title and subhead.It’s a best practice to include a quote from an authorized spokesperson. This can be from you, a willing client, or someone else willing to give a pre-approved statement on behalf of your business and in line with the press release topic.The quote serves as an authentic voice for the release, giving the facts-based text a human touch; it’s also a statement that the media knows they have permission to copy and use if they decide to run a story about your release topic.The last piece of the press release format is the boilerplate.This is the “About the Company or Person” part. Think of the boilerplate as an elevator pitch; it’s usually no more than five sentences that explain what your organization is, putting your best foot forward.Most boilerplates are used and re-used in press releases, so while it may not be easy to write one the first time, know that the effort will pay you back on future releases.Press Release DistributionA press release does you no good if it’s not being read, right?Having a game plan for how you will distribute your press release is a must.Do you have an email list you plan to send it to? Or a media contact list?Many organizations use press release distribution companies like PRWeb and PR Newswire to get their releases out to the wires.This week I have been testing out a site for UK-based businesses called free to sign up (note: they offer you a 14 day free trial to their premier paid service) and you can select "health and fitness" (there are other industry themes as well) and then you get requests sent to your email address from journalists looking for health related matters.TIP: You might wish to sign up using a Gmail account because you will get inundated with emails from them.Here's a couple of examples I received this morning...HEALTH & FITNESSNATIONALHealth workshops/away days who would be interested in a mag review - get in touch Meyerowitz (@anyameyerowitz)andHEALTH & FITNESSurgently seeking medic to explain difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (for sponsored piece) #journorequestHelena Pozniak (@helenapozniak)