I have only been on the job for less than two months. In that time, one thing has become abundantly clear. The largest companies in the WordPress ecosystem send out press releases to news organizations such as WP Tavern. Small businesses may send an email with few details. Others send nothing at all.
As a former business owner, I never thought about writing a statement to send to the press. Now that I am on the other side, I see how I missed huge opportunities to potentially get more coverage and build a relationship with the publications within the WordPress arena.
Brian Krogsgard of Post Status, a competing publication of WP Tavern, agrees that companies are missing opportunities. “There are many easy wins in PR that only a few companies take advantage of in our space,” said Krogsgard.
As a journalist, I am here to tell the truth, regardless of who or what the story is about. However, there will always be a part of me that wants to see every businesses within the WordPress space succeed. Therefore, this article is a tutorial that will help businesses within our space get their news items out to the public. Plus, the larger and more successful the WordPress community grows, the more potential WP Tavern has of growing its audience. It is healthy for the ecosystem on the whole.
Because of this symbiotic relationship between the media and product creators, it is important that business owners have a good working relationship with the publications that are writing about them.
What Is a Press Release?
A press release is sometimes called a “press statement” or “news release.” It is an official statement from a company about a particular news item. In a sense, it is a news story itself. There are some publications in the larger world of journalism that routinely publish only the press releases sent to them.
A press release can be in the form of an email, text file, PDF, or even video. Its purpose is to simply let the press know about your news.
Why Should Companies Put Together Press Releases?
On occasion, I get a message that says something along the lines of, “Hey, you’re giving the big businesses too much coverage. How about throwing the smaller folks a bone?” That is a fair question. However, what is often the problem is that this news by a smaller company may not be on a particular publication’s radar.
Enter the press release.
This is where smaller companies should sneak a peek at larger companies’ playbooks. Large businesses often have entire public relations (PR) or communications departments. Sometimes they only have one person in that role. What those PR positions are doing is getting the word out, and they are making sure the publications within the WordPress realm know about their news.
Individuals or small companies need not hire someone for communications with the press. However, at least one person should serve as a representative and handle this role.
There are many things happening in the WordPress world on any given day. Even with a press release, there is no guarantee that WP Tavern or another publication will publish your story. There is a guarantee that they won’t if they do not know about it.
A press release is a way to get your foot in the door and should be a part of any company’s strategy.
“I definitely prefer press packets for product launches, particularly if I can see the key features ahead of time,” said Krogsgard. “Press releases at the time of a news event is fine, but the best company PR is usually done by working with media outlets ahead of a release schedule.”
Whether your news is covered will depend on several factors. The important thing, particularly for smaller businesses, is that you put yourself on a publication’s radar.
The team here at WP Tavern will certainly appreciate your company passing along a press release, but do not limit yourself. Send it to other publications. Give podcast creators a copy. Most will be accepting of any news you send their way.
How To Write a Press Release
Press releases can take a few different forms, but there are some things that should be included with every statement that a business issues.
The following is an outline of a basic press release. You can deviate from the formula a bit, but make sure you include the important information.
Journalists need to know how to get in touch with you or the appropriate representative for your company for potential follow-up questions. In the WordPress world, this will primarily be a name and email address. However, including something like your WordPress Slack username for text chats helps.
Most of all, you should provide the best way to contact you.
This also means being prepared to answer questions if and when you are contacted. Quotes are like gold to journalists. It is often the human element that we are after. The press release opens the door to a conversation.
Journalists get a lot of emails, notes, and so on. A press release should contain a headline that is both factual and grabs attention. It should be a brief summary of what news you want to share. It is no different than writing a blog post. In our fast-paced culture, you only have a moment to let someone know that your story is worth reading. Avoid headlines that look like click-bait, but tell why your news is newsworthy.
Depending on the news, a sub-headline is often an extra piece of info that helps. A quick sentence or two that expands on the headline is sometimes necessary to fully explain why the press should continue reading.
A press release should always include a dateline. There are two types of datelines. The first type is the date of the press release. This means journalists can move forward with the story.
However, you can also put a future date in the dateline. This is common when you want to prepare publications for an upcoming story that you don’t want to publicly announce yet. This is called requesting a news embargo, which means that publications should sit on the story until that particular date.
Introduction or Lede
A lede is the opening paragraph of a story that answers the five W’s: who, what, when, where, and why. This is the moment you should let journalists know what the story is about. Get to the point in answering those five questions.
After introducing the story, you should stick to relevant information about the story. Any data or details that are important for the story should be included.
“Another thing that’s really helpful is screenshots, or short video overviews, and other brand assets that can provide visual appeal to go alongside a story,” said Krogsgard of writing a compelling press statement. “Do you have a revamped interface? Well nicely packaged visual materials really help sell that to convince me that it’s worth covering — and also to use in the article myself if I do write about it.”
Company Bio or Info
Last but certainly not least is including a section that provides details about your company. Consider it a short biography.
One of the worst things for a journalist covering a story is spending hours trying to dig up your company’s information online instead of working on the story. Providing that information up front is a huge help to the press. It also ensures we are getting your information correct.
Credit: Justin Tadlock for WPTavern