Press releases: One bullet left in the proverbial rifle

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I was given a challenge the other day. My CEO said to me, in the context of doing a press release and PR around a major partnership: “If we have one bullet left in the rifle, how do we use it?”

The question is important as major, partner-sanctioned PR opportunities usually only come around once in a blue moon when you are a small startup. And when they do, you don’t want that bullet to be a dud.

I’m talking about the kind of partnership that can change your year, nay, the future of the company. The kind of partnership that will put your brand on the map once and for all.

What do we as a company say in order to get the biggest splash and news coverage? What’s our message to the world, our angle, our headline? What big challenge are we solving? One thing is for sure: Whatever the message is, make it count.

I’ve crafted my fair share of press releases through the years and let me tell you, it’s not something you just whip up between two meetings and hope for the best. It requires thought, time and tweaking.

And, as a marketer doing PR, it also requires something else: Restraint. I’ll get back to that one.

My thought process for maximizing a press release opportunity:

  • Background information: First I collect all the information I need to get my press release factually correct. Understanding what the partnership, product, event or whatever is important.
  • Desired output: Once I’ve got all that, I speak to stakeholders to try and figure out what the ‘dream article’ would be, what would the headline be and what would we say?
  • Wordsmithing-time: Time to get crackin’. Pen on paper. Fingers on keyboard. For me, the best way to get the writing process going is to – guess what – just start writing but with the knowledge that the first draft will definitely not be the final. I write down my headline title ideas and tinker with mock-up quotes from representatives from both camps.
  • Practice restraint: Next I’d read through it a few more times to make sure that it is no more than five percent salesy (ish). Zero is almost impossible to achieve. This part of the process has proven both important and effective for me. I mean, let’s face it, of course, us marketers want to take advantage of a great sales-opportunity like this. If you can refrain from boasting about your brand and how amazing your product is, your press release will be received better and be seen as more credible/newsworthy and the chances of it getting picked up increases exponentially.
  • Review and approval: I normally let my press release rest for a day before I put the final touches on it. By doing so, I come back with a fresh mind and new eyes. I also always make sure to get approval from everyone quoted in the release, especially if I’ve ‘ghost-written’ their quote, just so they’re clear on what they’ve ‘said’ in case a journalist would call.
  • Reach: When I’m done and the release is published, I get to work on spreading it faster than chickenpox at a daycare. Social, email blast, direct outreach to journalists, newsroom.

So, in the immortal words of Eminem: You’ve got one shot, one opportunity, would you capture it, or let it slip?

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