By Rebecca Riley, PR Account Manager at White Space

As the owner of a start up business, you can probably often be found in the office until the early hours, juggling your finances, searching for staff, worrying about whether your website is working and, most importantly, trying to find customers.

One of the best ways to drive enquiries is through effective PR. Whilst it is tempting to cross your fingers and hope that your listing in a business directory is enough to drive enquiries; real success comes as a result of the right PR - communications that actually reach your target market. Having a PR strategy in place is essential, whether you’re a one man band or a multi-national company, as communicating with your target market is surely what business is all about?

The first thing to consider is what you actually want to say (although, if you don’t know, that’s something an agency can help you with) and who needs to hear what you’ve got to say. When you’re putting together a press release, think about who you’re talking to. Journalists can spot the difference between a good story and a bad story instantly, so consider what you’re saying. Are you offering something different? Do you have a piece of wider industry news that you can relate your own business news to? Is it timely? If you’ve got an event to shout about, make sure the journalist has all of the details in plenty of time to publish them, or straight after the event while it is still considered ‘newsworthy’, otherwise it is a missed opportunity.

A couple of other points to remember — don’t be lazy with your headline. This is the first thing the journalist will see, so it needs to grab their attention. Remember that journalists receive literally hundreds of press releases every day, so why should they read yours? This could be the difference between your press release being opened or deleted, so it is vital to get it right. The majority of journalists will also appreciate it if you can make their lives as easy as possible, so try to ensure that your first paragraph covers who, what, where, when and why. Always consider the journalists’ perspective too — they don’t want a press release written from ‘I’ or ‘we’ — it needs to be written as if it has come straight from the publication, so don’t overdo the sales messages or first person.

Sending out bad press releases can alienate journalists so take your time before you press ‘send’ or pick up the phone! This is when a PR agency comes into its own. They have the connections, they know the journalists and they know what those journalists are looking for. They can also advise you on whether they believe your story has the potential to secure media coverage so you don’t waste valuable time sending out press releases that journalists simply aren’t reading.

To conclude, the four main things to remember:
+ Make your press release stand out with a creative headline
+ Summarise the entire release in your first paragraph
+ Think like a journalist — don’t be too pushy with your sales messages
+ If you’re struggling for time, pay for an agency as they already have the contacts. Take some time to get your PR story straight — it could make all the difference.

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