Thursday, September 13, 2007

Poor Man's P.R. - Press Release Part 1

So, you’ve started up a home-based business and you have zero dollars in your publicity budget. What do you do now?

Crank up the fax or find postage and photocopying money. You’ll be embarking on the poor man’s publicity campaign: sending out the press release.

There are really only three categories of information you need to know to start your campaign: form, effective content and where to send it.


I’ve found journalists to be a cranky, overworked bunch. Assume the gal on the other end of the fax machine is some junior reporter-intern hopped up on a caffeine-speedball cappuccino, living on 2 hours of sleep and a dream. Assume she is just itching for a reason to throw your precious press release in the recycling bin. Ensure that it’s properly formatted and you’ll at least escape this fate - for now at least.

1. It needs to be on 8 ½ x 11 inch paper with one inch margins all round. Use only one side of the paper if mailing it out.

2. In the upper left-hand corner type in capital letters FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. If you want your release held back until a certain date, then type for example: FOR RELEASE JUNE 6.

3. In the upper right-hand corner type the date you’re actually sending it out. Things get lost in offices or mixed in the wrong pile. When your reporter-intern finds it, your release date should tell her if it’s still current or not.

4. Try to keep it to one page. If you absolutely can’t, then subdivide large hunks of information into smaller ones under their own headings, i.e. your biography, how your project evolved, etc. It’s much easier to read and absorb this way.

5. Use action verbs to begin your paragraphs.

6. If you’re sending your release out to TV or radio stations phonetically spell out difficult names to ensure easy pronunciation.

7. Spell check thoroughly.

8. Use bullet points or numbering where you can.

9. If you go longer then one page put a sub-title or phrase at the upper left corner of the second page describing the next section of text, ie. NAKED HAMLET if you’re directing a bit of nude Shakespeare.

10. Always double-check to ensure that you’ve included a contact name, phone number (day and night) and an address. Place this information in the upper right hand corner under the date.

11. And lastly, at the bottom type three hash marks - # # # - to mark the end or your release.

Poor Man's P.R. - Press Release Part 2

Effective Content

There’s no point in sending out a press release that isn’t focused on your objective: convincing more people to check out your business and its offerings. You’re pitching for customers, so make sure your best arguments for why you do it better are included in your release.

1. Be honest and straightforward. Don’t overhype. Don’t stretch the truth.

2. In the first paragraph put answers to the five W’s: Who? What? Where? Why? When? The first paragraph contains the most important information. The rest of the release includes information in descending order of importance.

3. Write in clear language. Keep it simple and easily understood, but at all costs do not patronize by spelling out basic information.

4. Add a few quotes of you commenting on your project, for example, “I saw a need that wasn’t being met, so I decided to post my thoughts on the hurdles facing micro-business entrepreneurs. Plus, everybody loves a good rags-to-riches story - and a formula for their own success. That’s what my blog gives them,” said Arleigh Cee regarding her blog, http:\\

The quotes are useful to journalists who may be scoping for a quick and easy filler piece. Basically, you’ve done all the work for them. If they’re facing a tight deadline and writer’s block, they don’t even have to call you.

See the example below of how I put my own press release together. (Note: the formatting's a big wonky here. Make sure you follow my instructions in Part 1.)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 11, 2007

CONTACT: Arleigh Cee


Challenging the belief that you have to have buckets of money to start your own business, Vancouver writer, Arleigh Cee is blogging - - to encourage kitchen-table entrepreneurs to come forth and prosper. From business ideas to p.r. and marketing advice Homepreneur covers the gamut of everything a home-based business owner needs to know.

Commenting on why she started her blog, Arleigh Cee said, “I’d noticed an increased interest in kitchen-table entrepreneurs on shows like Montel and Oprah. I think more and more people are wanting to escape the daily rat race and have more control over their time and finances. And most everybody I’ve spoken with has an idea for their own small-business. I consider it my job as a blogger to encourage people to get their toes wet, if only as a part-time hobby. And you never know, one of my readers could be the next rags-to-riches story I cover.”

Stepping out from the crowd of business blogs out there, Homepreneur aims to help people with tens or hundreds of dollars to invest, not the big money most business blogs assume their readers have to throw around. “I want to offer useful information to the kitchen-table entrepreneur, the little guy or gal who isn’t being offered much of anything these days. I want to see them thrive and get rich,” added Ms. Cee.

- # # # -

Poor Man's P.R. - Press Release, Part 3

Where to Send your Finely-Crafted Press Release?
The next step, of course, is making up your fax or mail-out list. For most small business owners starting out, I’d suggest a local list is the first one you should put together. It’ll require a bit of phoning or Internet searching, but it’s not difficult at all. Look up the web-sites for local radio and TV stations, local cable access shows, community and city newspapers - whatever you can think of. Often they’ll post a fax number or address to which you can direct your press release. Phone to see if there’s a features or lifestyles editor that might be interested in your story and to whom you might direct your press release. Make sure you include a fax cover page that directs your release to the person you want. And most importantly double and triple check that your name and contact information are accurate.

I hope this is useful and that you have a very successful public relations campaign.