My phone rings. I’m a newspaper editor who is extremely busy and I’m the person who decides what my newspaper publishes.
“I’m Jane from Community Real Estate Company,” the caller says. “I sent you a press release. Did you get it?”
I cringe. I’ve got piles of mail in my office and I don’t want to look for another boring press release touting a company’s profits.
The names have been changed, but the above scenario occurred several times during my career as an editor. On far fewer occasions, I received an interesting press release. What interested me? Interesting people. More importantly, readers love stories about interesting people.
Writing company press releases about people is a good way for the company to promote the company without explicitly promoting the company. Editors cringe when they feel like they’re being used. When we see company press releases, we are inclined to react negatively.
The good news is that many editors of community newspapers and specialized business publications are more inclined to be nice to small- and medium-sized businesses—partly because many of them rarely send press releases—rather than large businesses that are used to getting what they want.
My tips to smaller companies about writing press releases about people include:
- Phone Editors: Making a personal connection with an editor enhances your chances of having your press release published. You will learn which editors to send the press release to and which publications you shouldn’t send the story to at all.
- Consider “Stories” About One Accomplishment: Sending a 100-word press release about a person in the community who works for you could be worthwhile. I’m talking, for example, about a salesperson who had a particularly good year. Many editors need lots of blurbs like this.
- Always Send Photos: On dozens of occasions, I published a story because I had a photograph of the person in the press release or published a photograph with a caption from the press release.
- Don’t Be Hierarchical: Press release writers tend to send stories about executives, but press releases about employees who aren’t crucial to the business can give the company better publicity.
When I was a sportswriter, a high school coach wanted reporters to only write about great players, while I was more interested in students who excelled in non-sports activities. He opposed a story about a player who recovered from heart surgery because he was a substitute. I stopped asking him for story ideas.
- Write About “Talkies”: Ask your employees about interesting employees. Who are they talking about? A press release about an employee whose interesting activity is community work or a recovery from a major health problem gives the company a chance to indirectly promote the company.
- Get Involved In Community Activities: The company itself should help the community. Press releases about the most involved employees rather than the CEO could be more intriguing.
- Read Publications: You should know what your local newspaper or specialized business publication focuses on. Sending different publications slightly different press releases might be advisable.
- Phone Editors Again: Several days after sending the press release, you should phone the editors you were told to send the press release to (hopefully, you talked to them during your first call).
Company press releases about people, particularly if they aren’t high-ranking employees, can humanize the company, give it a more positive image, improve morale among employees, and make the company more attractive to prospective employees.