By Taimi Dunn Gorman
The afternoon Rich McCudden opened Flats restaurant on 11th Street in Fairhaven, the line of customers went out the door and down the block. He hadn’t run any ads. In fact, he had wanted a “soft opening” to give the kitchen crew a chance to practice, but he wasn’t complaining about the success. It helped launch his new business.
The customers were there because a well-written press release garnered media attention and generated an article about the new restaurant’s unique food and wine.
In the next few years, McCudden called me again as the business grew and won awards, appearing in national magazines and even on a PBS cooking show. We sent out press releases on items that were newsworthy and the restaurant became well known and popular.
With media cutting back on reporters, press releases are more important than ever. They serve a valuable function of getting the word out to people who may not otherwise know your business exists. Publicity doesn’t replace advertising, it is a part of a comprehensive marketing plan that should include purchased ads, Web sites, sales materials or displays, and all of those things that get you noticed.
Reasons to send a Press Release
Business changes, expansions, promotions, new hires or moves
Special events, seminars, free classes for the public
Charity work or donations
Industry awards, certifications or national notice
Seasonally appropriate tips
Interesting statistics or trends
Publicity isn’t automatic. You don’t put a nickel in the machine and get a gumball. In some ways, it’s elusive. Getting good media coverage is part skill, lots of luck and good timing. There are unwritten and written rules to follow. Playing the game wrong is more damaging than not playing at all, so know what you’re doing before venturing in.
Here are 12 publicity tips I’ve created over the past 25 years of creating effective publicity for my own businesses and others:
1) Send it to the right person. Research the Web to find media editors or reporters who will have a specific interest in what you are going to send. Send it to that department.
2) Don’t send a mass mailing. E-mail each press release separately. You may have to change some of the wording to make it appeal to a particular editor.
3) Make your point in the first paragraph and then use subsequent paragraphs to further describe it. Keep it short and easy to read. Begin with a fascinating sentence. End with contact information, your phone and email and your Web site address placed as a “link.”
4) Do not start with “For Immediate Release.” If it’s not for immediate release, why are you sending it?
5) Type your text into the e-mail. Don’t attach a Word document (why make the reporter open something else?). Do not attach a PDF (they can’t copy and paste from it).
6) Make it easily readable. Don’t use all capital letters, funny fonts, background colors or graphics (like your logo) that don’t belong to the story.
7) Do attach a great high-resolution photograph appropriate to the press release.
8 ) Utilize your best descriptive and enthusiastic language. This is not the time for “just the facts.” Draw the reader in and make them want to read more.
9) Compose an appropriate and interesting sentence for the Subject line. Do NOT write “Press Release.”
10) Have a friend proofread it. Once it goes out, you can’t get it back.
11) Do not call or repeatedly e-mail reporters asking if they got it. If they don’t print it, it either wasn’t the right time, there wasn’t space, or no one is interested.
12) Send a “thank you” note or e-mail when someone prints something about you, and don’t ever complain unless what was printed totally ruined your life!
Taimi Dunn Gorman is a former owner and founder of the Colophon Café in Fairhaven. She offers small business publicity and marketing consulting to Whatcom County businesses and teaches business seminars at WCC. She may be reached through her website at www.gormanpublicity.com.
Gorman is teaching “Mastering the Art of Free Publicity” through Whatcom Community College on Thursday, March 11 from 8:30 to 10:30 am. Register online through www.whatcomcommunityed.com.