Despite the continuing upheaval in the media landscape — newspaper Web sites replacing their printed parents, YouTube challenging TV, iPod replacing radio — the value in smartly promoting your business remains constant. And by “smartly,” I mean “at minimal expense.”

Sure, you could take out phone book, newspaper and television ads. In some markets, for certain types of businesses, these are effective tools. But word-of-mouth advertising remains the most potent kind. A feature story in your newspaper (or on its Web site), an interview on a local radio station or a visit to your shop by a TV crew will get people talking.

How do you attract an editor or TV or radio news producer to your custom woodworking shop’s story? When he wrote to me late last year, shop owner Jared Smith already knew the answer: Press releases.

Editors and producers are always looking for stories about local people and businesses, and guess what? You are both!
Jared, who runs Smith Custom Woodworking Inc. in Wenatchee, WA, knew this. But he was “still figuring out how to be a shameless self-promoter.” I offered these pointers:

• Make press releases as newsy as possible. Never put out a release that doesn’t say anything. Editors and producers receive literally hundreds of releases every week. Going through them is a lot of work, so they read the first few words, trying to find something of interest to readers or viewers. Write something you think will make them sit up and take notice.
That said, do not — ever — make stuff up.

• Be sure your release gets to the proper person. Get the name of the appropriate editor or producer and send it directly to them. You will further increase the chances they will read it if you call in advance and let them know it is on the way.

If the story has a strong business element, call the business editor: “My company was just awarded a contract for work in state libraries. It’s going to require me to hire people and grow my facility. I’m sending you a press release today.”

If you are angling for a feature story, send it to the lifestyles/living editor. Never send the same press release to more than one editor at the same publication at the same time.

• Enclose a picture that helps illustrate the story. Print editors are always looking for “art” (photos or graphics) to run with a story. For TV people, a photo can help them see how a site visit could provide interesting visuals. Keep the composition simple; jumbled, busy photos don’t help your cause.

• Follow up. Three or four days after sending your release, call again. “I’m following up on a press release.” Did they get it? Do they have any questions? If not, might another editor be interested? Will they forward it, or should you send a new copy?

Whether they forward it or you send a new copy, call the new contact, drop their colleague’s name and ask them to look for the release. If you mail a new copy, attach a Post-It to help jog their memory: “We spoke the other day. Bill Business-Section said you might be interested in this.”

Formatting a Release
There is a definite format to follow when writing a press release. (See image for a visual overview.) Here is how it is done:
Put your release on your company letterhead. Leave three or four blank lines below the letterhead and include the following, each on its own line, flush left (italics used for clarification only):

The date, in “month, day, year” format (use the date you expect to send the release)
Press Contact: (your name)
Your phone number
Your e-mail address
Your Web site address (if you have one)

Include all the above info, even if it is part of your letterhead. Then, skip two lines and type the following, also flush left:


Skip two more lines and write a headline (flush left again). Capitalize the first letter of each word (except articles like “a,” “and” and “the”). For example:

Contract Will Bring Jobs

Now, put your town name and state flush left, all caps, and begin the text:

WENATCHEE, WA — Wenatchee Custom Woodworking owner Jared Smith announced today that the firm has won a long-term contract for work in state-run libraries. Smith anticipates hiring five additional employees immediately and could add as many as 10 more positions in the next three years.

This is the “lead” of your story. It tells who, what, when, where and why. Indent the next paragraph and get into the “how.”

Smith says the contract was the result of competitive bidding and will mean significant growth for his facility.

Now add a quote:

“We’re ramping up now,” Smith says. “We’ve already located a building and are shopping for additional machinery.”

Tell the rest of the story, keeping sentences short. If it runs onto a second page, use blank paper (not letterhead) for that page. At the top left, put your headline and the page number:

Contract Will Bring Jobs
Page 2

When you are happy with the release, go over it and try to cut out at least a third. You may want to tell every detail, but keep reminding yourself of the goal: to interest the editor or producer enough that he or she assigns the story for coverage. When that happens, you will get to tell your story in full.

Close the release with a few facts about company:

Smith Custom Woodworking was founded in 1998. Jared Smith is a graduate of the Way Cool Technical School and the Zodiac Sign School of Design. The company designs and builds custom furniture, cabinets and other wood products at its 15,000-square-foot facility in the West Wenatchee Industrial Center.

Close your release in the time-honored journalistic manner, with a dash, space, the number 30, space and another dash, all of it centered, two lines below the last line of text. (This is how journalists say “The End.”)

- 30 -

Thanks for the question, Jared.

Anthony Noel owned and operated Noel Custom Woodworking for 15 years and has written for CWB since 1994. Got a question? Write Tony at [email protected].

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