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How to write a press release – 5 tips from a PR expert

7-minute read

Typing at a laptop in a coffee shop
Zach Hayward-Jones

Zach Hayward-Jones

8 February 2023

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For small business owners, it’s sometimes difficult to reach people outside of your usual customer base. This is why a press release can be an important part of how a small business markets itself.

But what makes a great press release? And how can a small business cut through the noise and connect with more people? From your opening pitch to avoiding common mistakes – read on to find out how to nail your next press release.

What is a press release?

A press release is something you send to journalists, like an email or document, to share something newsworthy. For small business owners, this could be an interesting story that relates to your business, for example:

  • the launch of a new product
  • an award your business has won
  • an act of charity
  • a new trend in your industry
  • an accreditation you've been awarded, such as B Corp

When a journalist receives a press release, they’ll decide whether the story is worth covering in their news outlet. So, it’s important to make sure your story is interesting, attention-grabbing, helpful, or engaging as it gives it the best chance of being covered.

Why should you write a press release?

There are many ways of communicating as a small business – social media, email, and word-of-mouth marketing are common and effective.

But it can be difficult to grow your customers quickly with these types of communication because they connect with a small group of people, or people that have already heard of your business.

With a press release, you’re trying to reach a wider group of people who probably know nothing about your business.

And if your story featured in a newspaper or on TV, it could give your business a boost that may not be possible in other ways.

It’s also a free form of advertising, which means a successful press release can be really valuable for small business owners too. All you need to do is create a compelling story.

You can include your plan for media and press releases as part of an overarching marketing plan for your business.

What makes a great press release?

An interesting story is at the centre of a great press release. Journalists are looking for stories that people want to read, so making sure your news is interesting or entertaining is crucial.

If you’re not sure where to start with your story, here are a few things to consider:

  • how is your business unique and what do you contribute to your customers' lives?
  • are there current social or political trends that link to your business?
  • can you offer any unique data and insight about your business or industry?

How to write a press release – 5 tips from a PR expert

Alice Hooper, our PR manager at Simply Business, shares her top tips for writing a press release that has the best chance of being seen.

1. Know who you’re contacting

Before you start writing your press release, make sure you know who you’re sending it to. Do some research and make a list of news outlets and journalists you think would be interested in your story.

If your story has niche appeal, local papers and industry publications are good places to start. Just make sure you explain why you're sending it to them.

For example, if you’re opening a new café and send the story to a local journalist, explain why it’s good for the community and interesting to their audience.

Or if you think your story is relevant to a wider audience, don't be afraid to send your press release to a national news outlet.

Perhaps your industry is being disproportionately affected by the energy crisis and you want to bring attention to it. Or you’ve found a unique way to make a positive impact in your community and want to encourage others to do the same.

2. Start with a great pitch

The pitch is the opening email you send to a journalist or news outlet. You need to make the purpose of your email clear while making it interesting enough for them to read on.

Make sure the subject line grabs their attention. Take the main point of your press release and write it as the subject line. Try to keep it under 60 characters, otherwise they might not see the whole message in their inbox.

Here are a few things to consider when writing your opening email:

  • nail your subject line – think of the subject line as the headline of the article – ‘small business wins ‘Britain’s best business name’ award’, for example
  • introduce yourself – tell them your name and your role in the business. Then explain that you have a story that might be of interest to them
  • summarise the story – give them a brief overview of the story and why you thought they’d be interested
  • show its value – explain why you think it’s newsworthy and worth covering
  • call to action – let them know you’d be happy to talk more about the story if they’re interested

3. Keep it short and simple

Communicating the value of your story is an important part of your press release. Writing clearly and using language that’s simple to understand will help you here.

Try to keep the paragraphs short and related to the story – too much information might make it harder to understand and less interesting to read.

Just include the key points. You can attach a document or include a link that goes into more detail, and tell them it’s there if they want to read more.

4. Get your story in early

There are two different meanings to ‘getting your press release in early’.

The first is sending your email early in the day, while the other is about making sure you respond to trends quickly.

Usually, a journalist will look through their potential stories before 9am and pitch them to their editor. They’ll then make a decision about which stories are worth covering.

So, making sure your press release is in the journalist’s mind (and inbox) by the time they make this decision is important.

But it’s also crucial to be fast in responding to current trends. If you’ve seen something in the news that relates to your business, try to share your story as soon as possible.

For example, a tax change is being introduced that will unfairly affect businesses in your industry. You could then send a press release that explains how this change will affect your businesses profits, personal life, and the rest of the sector.

Including data that illustrates your point will help too. How much more will you pay in tax a year because of this change? What will you need to do to cover the costs? They will make your story more engaging to the reader and news outlets.

Journalists need to quickly decide how they want to cover a breaking story and are always looking for case studies and quotes to include in their articles.

So, by sending a press release early, you’re making the journalist’s life easier and could increase your chance of featuring.

5. Tell stories about people

News outlets are looking for stories that people can relate to. The simplest way to make your story relatable is to make it centred around people.

Focus on the human element of your story. What does your business mean to your customers? How does the community benefit from your work? This all helps put people at the heart of your press release.

Sending pictures along with your press release is vital. Showing what you and your business look like makes the story more personal and relatable.

Journalists know that articles with images get more attention, so make sure you send some with your story. Try to make them high-quality if you can, most smartphones cameras will do.

Common press release mistakes – and how to avoid them

It can be easy to make mistakes in a press release, especially when it’s just one of many tasks you have to do as a small business owner.

Before you hit send, double-check these things:

  • mass emails – if you’re sending one email to many journalists, make sure you’re using the blind carbon copy (BCC) feature. This is so you’re not revealing everyone’s email addresses to the recipients and are protecting their data.

  • individual emails – if you’re sending individual emails that are personalised, double-check that you’re sending them to the correct person. It can be easy to mix up journalists and news outlets

  • technical language – using too much technical or industry-specific language can make your press release difficult to follow for someone without your knowledge. Make sure you’ve written it simply with a clear tone of voice so that anyone can understand

  • newsworthiness – is this story unique enough to be featured? Sending a press release that isn’t interesting can work against you. Think about the value of the story from a reader’s point of view and consider whether it’s worth sending

  • links to your business – it’s easy to focus on the story so much that the link to your business becomes less clear. Check that there’s a clear connection between the story and your business

How to distribute a press release

It can be difficult to know where to start when trying to share your story, and news outlets can seem inaccessible. But there are ways of finding the right people to connect with.

Usually, a news outlet will have their contact information in the ‘contact us’ section on their website. But it’s important to choose the editorial team or press office – otherwise it’ll get lost in the wrong inbox.

The outlet might have a generic editorial email address like '[email protected]'. Or have specific people listed as the editorial team like editor, correspondent, or head of news. Either way, these email addresses should get your story to the right people.

You can also use a PR distribution agency to send your press release, but this would be more expensive and there’s no guarantee it’ll be successful.

More useful articles for small business owners

Have you written a press release for your business before? Let us know in the comments below.

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Zach Hayward-Jones

Written by

Zach Hayward-Jones

<span style='font-size: undefined;'>Zach Hayward-Jones is a Copywriter at Simply Business, with seven years of writing experience across entertainment, insurance, and financial services. With a keen interest in issues affecting the hospitality and construction sector, Zach focuses on news relevant to small business owners. Covering industry updates, regulatory changes, and practical guides. </span>

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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