How to Decide Whether to Hire a PR Professional for a Press Release
When it comes to marketing a business, particularly one without an unlimited budget, you may often find yourself asking, “can I do this myself?”. Press releases are one area that’s particularly gray. Technically, you probably could if you’re a decent writer with knowledge of press releases or the ability to Google a basic template. However, in this case it comes down to whether or not you should write your own press release.
A press release should be clear and factual, while still tactfully singing the praises of its subject. Your choice of words is critical, and if you’re not able to strike that delicate balance it might not be a job for you. Still, there is a lot more to consider about a press release than the actual document. Even the most well-written of releases will go nowhere without the right distribution and media coverage. If you’re bringing in a professional for that, you’d might as well let them write you a top-tier press release as well.
So, how do you decide if you should write your own press release?
Write your own press release if…
If you’ve written press releases before and/or are confident in your writing, if you have the know-how and resources to set up the actual release, if you have media connections or your goals do not include media coverage, and if you have little or no budget, go ahead and do it yourself!
As an example, I wrote and distributed my own press release when I started my consulting business. I have some PR experience, particularly with writing press releases, but I do not have media connections. I did not actually need a press release, as the launch of a one woman consulting business is not exactly media worthy, but rather I wanted to put something official out into the world that I could reference in my other marketing tactics. It worked well because I knew what I was doing and my modest goals did not require any media (nor would it have been reasonable for me to expect press coverage for becoming a consultant!).
Don’t write your own press release if…
If you haven’t done much writing before and/or aren’t confident in your abilities, if you’ve never sent out a press release and don’t know where to start, if your goals include media coverage but you do not have your own connections, or if money isn’t an object and you can afford to give your press release a big boost, hire a professional!
I have managed the press release process both with and without a PR firm. It’s fine not to have one, but as long as your announcement is newsworthy, a reputable PR pro can get the word out in a way that you simply cannot without an extensive network of media contacts.
What can you do if you can’t afford a PR professional?
Budgets are often tight and the powers that be are sometimes hesitant when it comes to marketing and PR expenses (an issue I’ll make a note to explore in a future blog). It’ll cost you exposure and certainly some time, but here are a few tips for putting out your own press release:
Use a press release template.
Take some time to look up press release templates online and compile a list of questions you’ll answer every time you write one. In general, you’ll always want to make sure you state the news and why it is important, explain in greater detail, include quotes from a few important people, and close with your company’s boilerplate and media contact information (this is possibly you). Depending on the nature of your business, there might be more specific details you’ll want to address each time. Either way, after you develop this list you’ll be able to use it every time.
Write carefully and purposefully.
Make sure your press release is catchy and engaging, free from spelling and grammatical errors, and not too long. Your headline should be a real attention grabber, and the entire release should be compelling and interesting. Explain well but without going into so much detail that you might lose the reader’s interest. When you’re done writing, it’s always helpful to ask someone else to give it a once over. Another set of eyes might catch an error you didn’t notice or have worthwhile feedback on making your release more engaging.
Distribute as best you can.
Press release distribution can be free or it can be somewhat expensive. You often pay to reach news outlets, additional regions, and specific industries. Shop around and choose the best value for your specific needs, but if you do have a distribution budget it’s always a good idea to put some dollars behind getting your release in front of the right audience. Be careful and mindful when selecting your distribution as there can be many options to choose from.
Utilize social media.
Spend time looking up social media accounts belonging to press and influencers in your industry. Follow them and do your best to engage with their accounts over time. Twitter is an especially great place to engage with media accounts. With strategic engagement and a little luck, some just may follow you back. When you put out your press release, share it on your social media accounts and encourage your colleagues to do the same. You never know whose eye it might catch.
In the end, a press release is rarely a bad idea whether you write it yourself or hire a professional. As long as it’s well-written, the worst case scenario is that it doesn’t get a lot of views or engagement. Do the best you can with the available resources and set reasonable goals for your team.