Should you use a Press Release for your small business?

Should you use a Press Release for your small business?

Can press releases help or hurt your shopping cart website?

Press Releases are written news communications dispatched to media outlets to announce key news about a brand or event. Releases have been a staple part of media relations for many years, and with the growth of web services businesses offering to dispatch news releases to a number of journalist’s lists and archive releases on the web, search engine marketing (SEO) companies have marketed news releases as a way of building links back to your website and therefore improving your search engine rankings. If you’re looking to grow your online shopping website, is this approach a good idea for your business?
The answer? Whether your release will help or hurt you depends on the quality of the news that you have to announce and how they are announced to journalists and other media outlets like bloggers.

Google and Press Releases

If your intentions for publishing a news release are merely to make a bland announcement like your company is opening, then press releases will be a waste of time for you as a marketing tool. Google’s ranking software has long ago closed any loopholes in providing extra ranking benefit from news release archives in spite of what Search Engine Marketing (SEO) companies may tell you.
(For those who do not believe, here’s the proof where Google makes it clear that “Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites” are considered ‘link schemes’
Does this mean you should never use press releases as a marketing tool for your online shop? No, it does not, but you will now have to work much harder to make them work for you. The first step is understanding who you are targeting.

News angles and audiences for a press release

Having something newsworthy to say for your target audience is at the heart of a successful news release. And who is the target audience for a news release? The answer it is that it is ultimately the readers of the target publications that the release is distributed to, not the journalists themselves. It’s the journalists job to know the interests of their readers, so if you appeal to their readership, you will appeal to them.
Newspapers and online media exist to communicate information to their readers that their readers will find interesting to read and relevant to them so that they want to read more from that publication. Media is a competitive business and if a publication produces poor quality material they will not retain their readers for long. Quality, relevant information is an essential component for success.
It’s important not to under-estimate the importance of bloggers. For an online shop, these may be every bit as important to you as traditional journalists – especially respected high traffic bloggers who provide unpaid, indpendent product reviews for products in your industry. Don’t forget this group and assume that only journalists are your target audience.

What makes a newsworthy angle for an online store?

If you are new online business, then nobody knows who you are, and it’s a reality that everyone claims to be the next Facebook or the next company to change the world – journalists get tired reading this in every release, every day. So how can you create a news release that gets cut through with the news media?
To work out a shortlist of possible news angles, ask yourself the following questions:
  • What is it that is new? Why is your shop or are your products different from all the other online stores out there?
  • Is there a human interest angle? Perhaps a new use for your products or services, a way in which the products or services can help people? What are specific examples of this? Even in dry topics like finance and industrial engineering, journalists like crunchy information with a usage theme
  • Who are the key people who benefit from your product or service? If your website or business is not already well known, is there a relationship between your company and someone else making the news already?
  • Do you have any useful industry facts or information that you can announce as part of your release that other companies have not?
  • Is the timing of your launch, product or event relevant? Can this be tied to any other relevant events/lives in the news of your target audience? For example, if you’re launching a new type of pet fashion, is this in conjunction with a major fair or event? With Christmas coming up, is there a link to Christmas? Or Easter? Or a new government policy? Or the end of the financial year? Be creative and think about what might interest the readers of the online or offline publications you are targeting.
Even if you are well known company, the fact that your business is launching an online shop is not news by itself. But if you are launching a new production and sales process that has never been used before, or a product that has never been sold in Australia before then there’s more chance of your release gaining coverage. It’s Christmas coming up – is there a Christmas angle that’s relevant to your business or product?

Picking the best angle – you must know your journalist’s readers

If you cannot convince the journalist that your news is in fact interesting and relevant to their readers, then you will not gain coverage.
The best way to do this is to read some of the publications you are targeting and understand what have those journalists written about before and what might they be interested in telling their readers? Are they doing a series of articles that your business can make a relevant comment about? Association with a positive story can help drive your business’ image growth – even if it doesn’t translate into direct sales. Many shoppers will research a shop before they buy, looking for reviews on the products they sell and the firm, so if you can establish trust through association in a positive news story, it can only help your overall marketing efforts.

Writing your news release

When you’re writing a news release you must prioritise every point that you make, with your most important points at the top of the release and your detail at the bottom.
Can you tweet it? Try to write everything you have to say in 50 words or less, and then summarise this down to a Tweet (maximum of 140 characters including room for a shortened link to the article). If you can do that, you have a great starting point.
Writing a good press release is not like writing an essay, web page or magazine article – think of it like this: the journalist, news editor or a reader could stop reading your release at any point, so the reader must be able to get all of the information with what’s been communicated in that release so far. The 50 word rule for the first paragraph can help focus you on ensuring that ALL of your relevant news is contained in the first paragraph so that if only one paragraph of your release was published somewhere as a filler that the whole message you were trying to communicate gets across. Go for a maximum of three short, punchy sentences in your opening paragraph, but preferably two.
If you know how to write a good news release you will be more successful with your release getting coverage than if you just put anything on the page and hope. It’s like anything you do in marketing your store: if you plan what you do, who you are selling to and why they should buy then you will be more successful than if you just publish and hope.
First paragraph press release tips:
  • 2-3 sentences max
  • 50 words max
  • Can you tweet it?
  • Are ALL your points covered in the first paragraph?
  • Is it news worthy?
  • WHY is this new or different from everything else?
  • WHY is this relevant or interesting to the end readers?
  • Use short sentences (throughout your release). No jargon.
Press releases will generally include a quote from a spokesperson at your company. If you’re a home business or sole trader, then that’s usually you. If you’re not a home business it’s the person who you want to have communicate with the media and respond to any journalist’s questions if they decide to write about your publication and wish to follow up. If you have hired a dedicated marketing or PR person, then it will be them. Many press releases include a quote from the company as the second or third paragraph. This should be short, punchy and relevant to the overall message. You may find that it is the only thing published (as part of another article that the journalist is writing), so make it relevant.

Titles of news releases

Titles of news releases do not have to be creative or “clever”, as many news agencies will change them when the article is published. Your press release title should be written to explain exactly what the news angle of your story is all about.

Writing releases to avoid Google penalties

Google looks at links, so if you include any links to your website in your news release then you must make sure that they are “no followed”. This means that a special “nofollow” tag is added to the link to tell Google not to index the link. This means that the link is merely an informational one for the reader of the release. Why bother with a no follow link? It’s still relevant for you as a business, because if you have a well written news article that gets published you will get natural traffic from click-throughs on the link in the news media release.
Some general notes about writing releases:
  • Make sure you have a news angle and are not just dumping news with the hope of getting a back link
  • Follow all of the opening paragraph writing rules mentioned above
  • Keep the release as short as possible. It’s not a book, its a quick, useful, relevant announcement. Unless the news value of the release warrants it, make sure the whole release fits on a page – preferably 4-5 paragraphs maximum
  • Include a contact reference. Mark the end of the release with the words ENDS and then the contact details of the person who can provide additional information for journalists

How to distribute news releases

In general, manual submission of releases to the relevant news media or blogger you are targeting is a slower but more effective process in making your press release a success.
To get the most out of your release, publish your release and send it out to your hand-picked list of journalists manually and take advantage of social media.

Use social media

A good way to distribute press releases is to manually approach a hand-picked list of journalists, and to publish the story on your website and on Twitter/Facebook. Don’t be afraid to follow your release up by contacting your target journalists and “selling” them the story. You might have a great news release with a topic that fits their editorial schedule but they might not have even had time to read it due to a flood of other material. Big companies have whole Public Relations teams doing this every day, and journalists expect some to follow up on releases as a necessary part of their job.
Can you use imagery? If you have graphic skills and can represent your entire release as a graphic, then you have something that others could share on Facebook or as an accompaniment to a published article. It could help your release get coverage and your message out there – without having to worry about the potential for Google penalties. Likewise, other “rich media” like videos can help in a similar way.

Remember your objectives

There are many online shops that will issue press releases with no news value at all. If you want yours to get coverage you must make sure that your release is punchy, relevant, newsworthy and distributed in the right way. Avoid online news services unless you have vetted the quality of the services and made sure that any links that they include in releases have a “nofollow” tag added to them.
Remember that your overall objective is to reach more customers and grow your shopping cart website’s exposure and ultimately sales. Don’t lose sight of this and ensure that everything you do from a marketing perspective fits this overall objective. If you do this you’ll be able to craft good releases that are relevant and draw genuine publication coverage of your key points both offline and online. Press releases are not a quick win for Search Engine Marketing (SEO) but can be an effective tool in your overall marketing toolkit if you use them effectively.
Ozcart Ecommerce

Ozcart has been in business since 2006 and is an online, hosted shopping cart that you can use for your current or new online store. We offer so many features for the same low price. In fact, we are addicted to adding new ones to ensure that we remain one of the best choices for a shopping cart.

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