My husband and I opened our studio more than five years ago, and throughout the years, one comment we've heard over and over is that we are "everywhere." Clients and other business owners love to list the places they've seen our logo, seen Michael working, or read an article about us.
One of the tools we've consistently used to maintain this awareness of our brand and studio is through the creation and distribution of press releases. While I enjoyed more than a dozen years of public-relations experience before we started our business, press releases are a fairly basic PR tool that can be utilized by non-PR pros with ease.
To develop a press release, one must first have real news to share. This might be the opening of a new studio, launching of a website, winning of an award, introduction of a charitable campaign, hiring a new photographer, or offering a new product. The information must be factual, clear, timely, and concise.
The recipients of the press release should be specifically targeted media professionals at the media outlets--newspapers, magazines, TV news shows, websites, or radio shows--that reach the same audience you seek as clients. If your story is about your new website, you want to make sure the press release gets into the hands of the editor or reporter that covers technology or small business. If you have a human-interest story about a charity or an interesting client, for example, you want the release to go to a features editor.
A very basic layout for a press release includes the following:
• A release date: When are you ready for the media to share this information with their audience?
• Today's date
• Contact information: Who should the media call when seeking more information about the news offered in the press release?
• First paragraph with clear, concise, factual, and newsworthy information
• Two to three body paragraphs with interesting and useful information supporting your introductory paragraph
• Final paragraph or "tagline" offering the basic information about you and your business, along with contact information for the general public.
It is very important that you read and reread, write and rewrite, and edit, edit, edit your press release! All the facts should be carefully checked and rechecked, and your spelling and grammar should be impeccable. Most important, never make up information (i.e., lie).
Once you have a press release in place and are sure the information is interesting to your audience, correct, and well presented, you can distribute it to your target media outlets either via email or regular mail. If you choose to email your release, do not attach large digital files or allow the recipients to see that you have sent the same information to a dozen other media outlets in your area. When mailing press materials, make sure you print them on clean, professional letterhead with envelopes addressed to reporters and editors by name ("John Smith, Business Editor" rather than "Editor").
Finally, remember that there are no guarantees in public-relations practices. You aren't buying an ad--you're providing information in hopes that media professionals will share it with their audiences. However, the creation and distribution of press releases is fairly easy and free and creates awareness and credibility for you and your business.
Jennifer Spengler and her husband, Michael, own studio m / michael spengler photography in La Jolla, CA (www.studiomlajolla.com). Jennifer is a PR specialist with two new ventures on the horizon: a new baby girl, their third, born earlier this summer, and the launch of PR in a Flash, a press-release writing service for small businesses launched in late June.