Post by Blog Manager Robbi Hess
Hear ye! Hear ye! aka “Read All About You!” Are there times you feel you toil away in obscurity, but you know you are doing good, making a difference in the world of pets and even in the world of pet blogging? What can you do about it? Well, you could write a press release about yourself!
As bloggers and writers we are not always comfortable writing about ourselves — truly when is the last time you looked at your bio on your website and thought, “Wow, I am all of that!” Chances are you haven’t done it recently.
As a recovering journalist and public relations professional (I did pr for a hospital — talk about a tough sell, whew!) I know there are many people doing great things and no one knows about them. For example, when I was at the newspaper I had no idea — and neither did their neighbors — that an elderly couple were raising alpacas in their backyard, making yarn from their wool, dyeing it and knitting it into gorgeous sweaters and scarves. How did I find out? A colleague had a new sweater that I coveted so I asked where she got it. Viola, a newspaper article was born.
Had the couple been media savvy and if they’d wanted the attention, they could have written a press release about themselves. Even if they had they would have needed to make it about more than, “hey we have alpacas and sell items knitted from their wool. Come and buy our goods.” They could have written a press release stating their ages (late 60s to early 70s), mentioned they’d only recently begun raising alpaca, shearing them and spinning the wool into yarn. They could have mentioned their alpaca were doted upon just as we dote upon our house pets. They could have talked about how they just learned to use a loom and make these fabulous knitted garments; and they did it all from two rooms of their house. It was a story of a couple who turned a passion into a business, talked about alpaca and what goes into raising them and oh, yes — almost as an afterthought — we sell products we knit from the yarn and wool.
Before everyone stops reading this post and starts sending press releases to their local news outlet you have to remember several things about writing your press release (which I will get to). Newspapers welcome newsworthy ideas and many times a press release will get turned into a full blown feature, but you have to know how to approach the editors. Newspaper reporters and editors work under crazy deadlines, with fewer and fewer staff doing more work; because of this you need to show the reporter, “what’s in it for them” to even read your press release, let alone print it.
What can you do to get the papers to read all about you? Here are some tips for crafting a newsworthy press release:
- Send the release to the editor in charge of the section of the paper in which your information would appear. If you are a car mechanic and have a new widget to prevent flats from occurring, you wouldn’t send that release to the lifestyles editor. Know your newspaper, know the editors of the particular section and send the release to the correct individual.
- If you’ve ever written for a magazine and sent in a query you understand the importance of addressing the editor by name. When I published my own magazine I received countless queries addressed to: Dear Sir, To Whom It May Concern, or simply, Editor. If you want me to read your query — aka your press release — take the time to learn my name and address it to me personally. A press release sent to: John Smith, Lifestyles Editor at Main Street News will have a better chance of getting read than one sent to: Editor, Main Street News.
- Show the editor, “what’s in it for them, and for his or her readers.” In the example above, our newspaper had a section, “Seniors Doing Great Things/Making A Difference.” (I am not making that up) A press release about this couple, sent to the editor of that section of the paper would have been pure gold. If your paper doesn’t have such a section, consider the couple could have been engaging in an encore entrepreneurial endeavor and that topic could fit in a lifestyle or business section. If the press release was geared toward the animals themselves and the fact that they were treated as pets who just happened to provide the wool necessary to spin, dye and make sweaters, that is another lifestyle angle.
- It’s all about the angle. When you’re writing your press release about yourself, you need to have in mind what you are hoping the readers (which may first be the editor) will learn about you and what you do. “Local Woman Raises Money For Animal Shelter By Selling Homemade Dog Treats,” or “Local Blogger Wins Prestigious National Blogging Award,” or “Local Pet Blogger Celebrates 10 Years of Blogging With An Anniversary Contest.” Even though you are ultimately promoting yourself you need to keep the reader in mind. Note to Nose-to-Nose Finalists — you would likely be press release worthy for having been nominated for the work you’re doing on your blog!
- What makes you the authority? If you’re someone with a successful track record of raising funds or collecting food or blankets for the local shelter — that is your authority. If you are making homemade, gluten free, low calorie dog treats to raise money for the local shelter you now have a couple of angles — chef and fundraiser. Did you win, or were you nominated for a prestigious award? You are an authority because you were chosen by your peers, or others, for this award — that is great for a press release for your newspapers’ business section. Have you been blogging for two, five or ten years? Are you an authority in your niche? Do you have X number of readers coming to the blog on a regular basis leaving comments? Your blog and its traffic makes you an authority. Am I an authority on breast cancer? No. Am I am authority on how to navigate all that goes into a breast cancer diagnosis, surgeries and treatments while still keeping my business running without a hitch? You bet I am. Can I write a press release about myself and that information? Yes, but I would remember that timing is everything.
- Speaking of timing. If I was writing about breast cancer, I’d likely target my press release during October, or I could target it in March — Women’s History Month and use myself as the “authority” on being a female entrepreneur with breast cancer who kept a business running. Do you vacation with your dog? Write a press release aimed at families who travel with their dogs during summer vacation. If you have done it and have tips on how to survive it and what hotels to stay in or what places are pet friendly, you are the authority and you will want to time the press release for about a month prior to summer vacation season kicking off. Look at a calendar (your editorial calendar is the best place to start) and plan a press release around a major holiday. Firework Safety Tips For Your Pets; Poisonous Plants At The Holidays; Dressing Your Dog For St. Patrick’s Day, for example. Keep in mind that you should send your press release to the local newspaper at least a month in advance of any holiday. If there is no holiday, make one up! May 1 is National Dress Your Dog In A Suit And Take Her To Work Day! An extreme example, to be sure, but you get the idea.
- Personalize the press release. Send in a photo of yourself along with the press release. If you are raising alpaca, send in a photo of them. If you’ve gathered up hundreds of blankets for the local shelter or completed a successful fundraiser, take a picture of shelter pets with the blankets or use an oversized check when making the donation to the shelter. Readers of newspaper articles love to see photos as much as readers of blog posts and social media updates do. Make it easy for the editor to run your press release without having to chase you down for a photo. Make certain that all of your pertinent contact information is on the press release.
Are you doing something newsworthy that the local media should know about? Are you doing something that should have your name and blog information noticed on a national level? If not, is there something you can do to make that happen? Remember, if you live in a small town with a locally owned newspaper your press release about a dog cookie fundraiser may be more likely to be picked up than if you live in a metropolitan area. Know your audience and your market. If you don’t submit a press release, you will never know if you’re newsworthy, right?
(Additional note: Look up the newspaper’s policy on opening emails with attachments as many will not accept documents as attachments which means you will have to simply send your press release in the body of the email. The prevalence of viruses has many news outlets not opening attachments so check first so that your newsworthy press release doesn’t get deleted.)
(Photo Shutterstock: Dog Fetching Paper)