After a few false starts, your business is finally up and running. You're producing things; you're providing services; you're making an impact. It's time to issue that hot press release or grant an in-depth interview to the local newspaper reporter. But if you're like many business owners, dealing with the press is unfamiliar territory — maybe even a bit scary. If you're preparing a press release or gearing up for an interview, here are a few dos and don'ts to consider.

Press releases

  • Don't write advertising copy. Unlike a commercial, a press release must deliver actual news or interesting information — something that's newsworthy. It should read like a news story with a catchy headline. The article should answer the big five questions — who, what, when, where, and why. Then weave in quotations, testimonials, statistics and an anecdote or two. Ideally, a well-written press release should instill in readers a desire for more information.
  • Send it to the right person. Publications often have many departments, each of which may be inundated with press releases from governments, businesses, and other organizations. Don't send your carefully crafted press release about construction trends to the fashion editor.
  • Keep it simple. A standard press release usually runs from 400 to 500 words — just enough words to pique a reader's interest. Use standard language and avoid jargon. Remember, if your readers can't understand your buzz words, they'll quickly lose interest. Keep your sentences short and to the point.

Interviews

  • Be prepared. Anticipate your interviewer's questions by creating a brief fact sheet about your firm that can be referenced during the interview and given to the reporter when he or she leaves. Try to recall human interest stories that relate to the history of your business, its staff, or its customers. Come to the interview with a few fleshed-out story ideas, complete with statistics and pertinent facts. If you want your story published, make the reporter smile.
  • Don't fuss. If the reporter (who, after all, knows a lot more about the publication's readers than you do) wants to take the story in a different direction, be flexible.
  • Be available. Remember, journalists have deadlines. A wise business owner will consider those restraints and provide access at any reasonable time.

Following a few simple guidelines can help ensure that your business is recognized in the press and discovered by potential customers.

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