Writing press releases was not a huge part of my job when I was the only writer for a Christian nonprofit in Chicago’s south suburbs, but every now and then I had to do it. I still remember the special “News Release” letterhead we used—thick, ivory stock, our company logo at the top, and “News Release” emblazoned down the side in Cooper Black. Any release I wrote would be typed on this paper, folded into a #10 envelope, and mailed to the list of local papers I kept at my desk. If we wanted to include photos with the story, the process was even more cumbersome—we were mailing actual prints, so I had to make sure I ordered enough copies so that each paper could receive its own set!
Ah, the good ol’ days.
The more things change…
Email, digital photos, and internet searches make the process of distributing news much easier today than it was two decades ago. With an account at AmericanTowns.com, it takes only a few minutes to submit a story and photos to hundreds of newspapers serving any given zip code. And every story can contain active links to a client’s website or social media pages, so it’s very efficient today to make media aware of what you’re up to.
But efficiency is the not the same as effectiveness. I still get better results when I personally select the editors or journalists I believe will be interested in my story, and then individually email each one. It takes a little longer, of course, but it’s worth it.
…the more they stay the same
And some things about the process haven’t changed at all. Editors still want well-written stories that are news and not marketing collateral. In fact, they may have even greater appreciation today for a well-written news release because many papers are short-staffed now.
Your online media kit
If you are a small business owner, you probably don’t have time to write your own news releases and develop relationships with the papers in your town. But there are still things you can do to make it easier for a reporter to get the information he needs to write about you, or your business, or your industry. Creating an online media kit is a great place to start.
Your online media kit should include some basic resources:
- Company overview: Write just a paragraph or two about what your company does and when it was founded. Include your mission statement if you have one. List key staff and their titles. Add your own bio. Make your contact information obvious.
- Products and services: Give an overview or listing of your products and services. (Remember, these will become keywords that can help your Search Engine Optimization.) Include links to sales pages wherever possible.
- Current press releases: If you have written news releases about your company, archive them here. And if local media have done stories about you, include links to the online versions of those stories.
- Photos: For each news release you post, include high-resolution photos. Also think of other photos media might appreciate for more general stories—head shots of key staff and professional shots of products, for example. If a reporter is working on a tight deadline, he’ll appreciate the convenience of being able to download images to go with his story.
- Quotable quotes: Journalists understand the power of a good quote. Depending on your industry, you might be able to supply a few quotable comments that a reporter who is short on time could easily access.
(If you don’t feel comfortable creating these resources, please—hire a professional!)
What your media kit is for
Business, of course, is all about relationships. That is true of your interactions with media as well. If you understand that your local newspaper is a business, and if your media kit can help that newspaper achieve its goals (not just yours), you will already be far ahead of business who treat journalists like their personal marketing department!
My online media kit
In preparation for this post, I created an online media kit for LifeLines. It’s a work in progress, so I appreciate any feedback you might have!