A successful press release convinces a writer or editor to write about your product and business.
What actually happens to your press release when it arrives at the publication? I’ll tell you. An intern or editorial assistant downloads all the morning emails. Then she sorts them into piles. Then she picks up the biggest pile and walks it over to the advertising department. "Here you go," she says as she plops the stack on the advertising intern’s desk. "A hundred or so product pitches thinly disguised as press releases."
Print publications are in the business of selling advertising space to businesses like yours. This is the main source of their income. Therefore, if you approach the media with a message that you have a product to sell, your message will go straight to Advertising. Or worse—into the wastebasket.
"But I have wine to sell," you say. "New releases! I’m a new brand. I’m the hottest thing out there since Brad Pitt and they should be interested."
Um, sorry. They’re not. The wine industry churns out new labels like a Gallo bottling line. The fact that you exist and are anxious to sell product is not a story.
But you CAN capture a writer’s interest with a well-crafted press release, and there are only three things you need you do.
1. Identify a unique angle.
2. Position yourself as an expert.
3. Write a professional release.
Step 1: Identify a unique angle about your business.
It could be the start of a new trend, an unusual farming technique, experimental packaging—anything truly new or different. Here are some ideas:
- Are you experimenting with bag-in-box packaging for by-the-glass programs? A chain of golf resorts is looking at this solution to save money by reducing wine waste. This could start a whole new paradigm in wine sales.
- Are you designing your labels and marketing for millenials? Four Vines, for instance, targets the X-treme sports generation—that’s a great story idea.
- Do you have unusual vineyard techniques? Pipestone uses horse-drawn plows to till the vineyard.
- Do you have a human interest story? Overcoming personal obstacles like a disability, starting a charity for a local cause, providing computers and continuing education for vineyard workers—these are human interest stories.
- Do you have interesting guests? One Paso Robles winery with a B&B hosted a winemaker from a large Chilean producer who wanted to start his own brand in Paso Robles.
- Can you write a Ten Tips list? Web-based publications love how-to lists and tip lists. Capozzi Winery’s 'Top 10 Wine Myths' is still leading the search engines, and it was first printed 4 years ago.
- Are you an expert in your field? Colbert Vineyard was the first vineyard to plant carmenere in Paso Robles, which makes them, by default, an ‘expert’.
Step 2: Position yourself as an expert.
To grab a writer’s attention, you need to do a little more than just state the facts. Position yourself as an expert on your topic by explaining WHY the topic is news. Why is this cutting edge? Why is it different? Why should the writer call you for more information?
Bolster your position by interviewing other people and including their comments in your piece. Write the press release as if it were a mini-article, complete with quotes.
"Isn’t that the writer’s job?"
Yes, it is the writer’s job to write a full-fledged article. But writers work under deadline pressure. The easier you make it for them to envision and then craft a story, the more likely it is that your press release will have impact. If you have customers or associates who would be willing to be interviewed, include that information at the end of your release.
What if your release is not picked up right away? Well, if your release is well-written and interesting, the editors will keep it on hand for future story ideas. If the topic pops up again, the editors will be more likely to call you for comments. And if you are quoted several times in articles, editors will begin notice you and get curious. I know, that's a lot of "ifs". The point is to capture as many "what if" opportunities as possible.
Step 3: Write a professional release.
Naturally, your spelling, grammar and punctuation should be perfect. There are plenty of online guides on how to format and write a press release. I recommend the 10-page tutorial at PRWeb.com for basic advice. It’s pretty simple. But use a current template, not an outmoded one from the 1970’s. Writers are accustomed to scanning releases quickly, and outdated layouts will slow them down—they’ll throw the release away or shove it to the bottom of the pile. PRWeb offers an example of their preferred template here. (Although I find that putting contact information at the top of the page is more effective than at the bottom.)
Write a great headline. Use action words and present tense. Remove unnecessary articles like "the", "a" and "an". Remember that your press release may be distributed nationally, so avoid terms like "local" and "regional". Limit references to your brand name in the headline; it’s best if you avoid mentioning your brand at all in the headline. While this may seem counter-intuitive, you don’t want to come across as self-promotional and lose your potential writer before he gets to the meat of your release.
Don’t put hotlinks to web sites or email boxes in the text of the press release. Add all links and emails at the end of the story, and spell them out completely.
You’re ready to send your press release!
For wineries, I recommend sending a press release out through a regular AP News Wire distributor like PRWeb, and sending it directly to an industry-specific email list as well. The Wine Institute offers a full media list to its members.