Handy tips for creating press releases

We work with all sorts of clients, and some of our most press-based customers include local musicians, writers and artists. Working with the creative industries can be incredibly rewarding, but there are some lessons we’ve learned about writing press releases.

A good release should give all the vital information to editors, but it should also tell a story. In an ideal world, it should be picked up and taken exactly as-is for website announcements or print publications. A recent example for us was the press release for band, …And The Hangnails, which was posted in local press exactly as it went out.

So what makes a good press release?

1. Keep it short

Only provide the essential information. If you need to provide more background on the company or product, you can add ‘footnotes for editors’.

2. Tell a story

People need to know why they are receiving the release. What is so special that you have to tell the press about it? Don’t just create a written advertisement about why your product is so amazing. Tell the story of its creation, of why it is unique.

3. Choose your words

Jargon is a marketer’s nemesis. Sometimes, it is necessary – but in a press release, keep the language as simple as possible.

4. Spend time on writing the release

Just as an error on other advertising can cost you a reputation, the press will not be interested in a company who cannot take the time to craft a good release. The groundwork is the important part.

5. Make your subject line interesting

The media get hundreds of releases every week. Make yours stand out with a clickable title – once they’re in, you need a hook to keep them reading. Images and embedded videos work well.

6. Use a professional

Press releases use very specific language, formats and techniques to be noticed. It can often be a cost saving to hire a specialist writer to craft the release for you – and they may even be able to manage the distribution of the release, too. It saves one of your staff members from struggling through, taking time away from core tasks to get to grips with the way the media like their emails. They can be a picky lot, the press, so using someone who knows what they’re doing will cut the time it takes, and improve your response rates.

Of course, that’s what we do for our clients, but we’re not saying you ought to use us… except we do have a lot of experience. And can turn copy around in no time at all. And have a track record of higher-than-average open and click rates.

Bell Branding officially launched!

Bell Branding logo

We’re very excited to announce that Bell Branding has officially launched! We are here to work with businesses to develop and deliver clear, concise and creative content.

To give you a little insight into what we do, here are the answers to a few questions you might have about what “creative content and brand management” actually means…

Why is content so important?

Getting the right message to the right people sounds simple enough – but if it’s not engaging, unique or interesting, they’re not going to read it. Content needs to be snappy, creative and fresh if you’re to keep clients and potential customers interested in what you have to offer.

How does this go hand-in-hand with ‘brand management‘?

Strong sales leads start with strong brands. A brand which has a recognisable image, tone and message is far more memorable for consumers – so they’re more likely to head to you when they need your service. Good content is absolutely vital to ensuring everything you put out about your product or service reflects your ethos and attracts the right audience.

Where does in-house training come into it all?

You can spend lots of time developing your brand guidelines, building a social media community and honing your messaging. But if your staff aren’t completely on board, if they don’t know what exactly it is they are offering – or how it is being offered – this can let down the strength of your brand.

Working with each team – customer service, marketing, sales, B2B, B2C – to develop the language they need for their specific roles, and to understand what other teams do (and how it affects them) can significantly change the overall cohesion of an organisation. We’re there to support you in creating a strong business from the inside out, and team training is a huge part of helping you on your way.

 

Our regular blogs will cover these areas in more detail over the coming weeks. If there are any topics you would like to hear about in particular, contact us with your thoughts and feedback – we’d love to hear from you.

Thank you for supporting Bell Branding on our first steps as a new consultancy – keep an eye out for future exciting news!

Even small business should outsource

But we don’t have the money! We can hear you cry. But take it from us – even small businesses can benefit in the long term from outsourcing. Here’s why:

Time is money

You know that: we shouldn’t really have to say it. But every moment spent away from your daily tasks – such as generating sales leads, speaking with clients and customers, and managing back office admin – can feel like a moment wasted. If marketing isn’t your forte, it can be a painstaking task to keep on top of even the basics. Do you really have time to blog weekly, talk on Twitter every day, proof that brochure again, or try to teach yourself InDesign just to make a flyer?

You’re not an expert

Well, of course you are. But only in what your business does. We don’t claim to be brilliant at financial advice, nor could we handle large volumes of calls to customer service. But by gosh, can our team write, design, film to the very best standards – because that is what they do all day, every day. Focus on what you can do, and delegate the rest for maximum efficiency.

Can you see the wood for the trees?

Can you see the wood for the trees?

Are you just staring at trees?

Or can you see the wood right in front of you? Being close to your business means it can be easy to get tangled up in the small details. Bringing fresh eyes to a project can help you see how potential clients and customers view your business – and it may not be as you thought.

Avoid costly mistakes

Much like new eyes on a project, if you’re proofing that promotional literature for the gazillionth time, mistakes can be easy to miss – especially if your grammar or spelling isn’t as tip-top as you’d like. Brand reputation is built on the quality of your material – easily avoided errors such as spelling mistakes on flyers can make all the difference between gaining custom and losing the respect of possible clients. Reprinting material is expensive, time-consuming and wasteful, too – you don’t really want to do that, right?

Time saved + high quality as standard + expert input = money in your pocket

Paying someone who knows what they’re doing benefits you by providing business support and bringing new ideas to spruce up your marketing activities. More than that, though, is the return on the output. Investing a little to get something done properly the first time means you can build on a solid reputation, build brand trust, and show people that your business knows its stuff. Just like we do.


 

Bell Branding supports small independent businesses to deliver online marketing strategies, including blog copy, website content, social media engagement and integrated marketing campaigns. We do all this with the challenges of small business in mind – keeping our overheads as low as possible to pass these savings onto other startups and new enterprises. If you’d like to talk to us, well – you know where we are.

Rich content = rich business (Or, The Art Of Blogging)

 

Typing on laptop

You need to switch it on first…
Image courtesy of tidybay.com

You’ll already know what a blog is. You’re reading one right now. So we won’t patronise you with the usual bumpf about the technical aspects.

We’re going to look at how to use a blog as a cost-effective tool for your business, and how to generate sales leads from good content. We can’t give away all of our secrets, of course – just most of them.

Keep to schedule

Ensuring regular traffic means keeping your blog updated – maybe once a week, twice a week – however many times is suitable for your business. However, over-posting – posting because you think you have to, rather than because you have something to say – can damage your readership just as much as lapsed posting.

Avoid posting irrelevant content, and keep it fresh and interesting, by creating an editorial schedule a few months in advance.

Strong content compels readers to return

Quality is key – your content should represent your business vision, and demonstrate your industry knowledge.  If you only use your posts as an extension of direct marketing or to adapt print advertising, you’re doing it wrong.

Provide value: invite industry leaders for an interview, or provide insight into new trends to show your audience that you know your stuff. All of this builds brand trust which, as we already know, is a Very Important Thing.

Keep it short

Any blog above about 800 words is too long. Ideally, you should vary the length of your blogs to between 400-550 words, with the occasional longer post for in-depth content and discussion. Just as visual media needs to be attention grabbing, blogs need to hold all of the information in an engaging and to-the-point way.

Another tip is to break it up: use short sentences, sub headers, numbered lists or graphics to make it easy to read. Consider the devices your blog will be read on – just a PC, a laptop, a tablet, a mobile phone? Make sure it covers all of these devices in a readable format to encourage people to get to the end.

Link back

Remember – a blog is an indirect sales tool. Use other industry sources to back up your statistics, or link to other companies in your field who you think provide good examples to illustrate your point. Working with others is a positive in today’s connected world, so make the most of it by seeing the competition as allies instead of enemies. Build trust in your industry as people who know your stuff, and the respect earned from other companies will translate into brand reputation.

Show that you value your customers 

Letting people comment on blog posts will give you more of an idea which content they are most interested in, generate discussion on industry topics you could use for future posts, or show you what they want to see from you. Encourage customers to comment with a call to action at the end of each post – a question or asking for comments (it really is that simple).

Use metrics

There are many tools out there which will tell you how your blog is being viewed. These analytical tools are great for finding out which posts are most shared, most viewed, most commented etc. You can discover the best times of day to put up a post, and which platforms are the biggest referrers (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc). Doing these all together will make a huge difference to your traffic and provide a much larger pool from which to generate warmer sales leads.

Get it done

Blogs and editorial calendars can take up quite a bit of time. Sourcing the content, finding relevant links, writing drafts, proofing drafts, setting up to go live, generating traffic through social promotion… it’s not a simple task. The content needs to be of a high quality, produced on a regular basis and promoted through various channels to be successful.

Finding someone on your current team with the time and skills to do this regularly and with efficiency can be tricky. That’s where paying for such a service can pay off. A freelance blogger can deliver the quality content to you, without disturbing your regular working day – and is likely able to do the promotional side of it, too. Using an expert writer means less time is taken for the crafting of each post, while the quality remains high.

And that’s what we can do for you. Just in case you hadn’t guessed yet.

Using direct mail to boost business

Colour chart

Image courtesy of colouroptions.co.uk
Follow them on Twitter @colouroptions

For all we rave about online marketing strategies, it is always best to remember they are far less effective when not used in conjunction with more traditional marketing strategies. Direct mail has received a bad name in the last few years – but when used in a targeted campaign together with online media, can give your sales lead opportunities a huge boost.

Why direct mail?

People like to receive things in the post, especially ones that are specifically addressed and personalised for them. This sounds complicated but all it takes is a little groundwork on the online strategy to build your database. Email newsletters, whitepaper downloads, free samples, voucher codes – there are many ways to capture data. Having a physical thing in hand can create a more memorable relationship between your product and the customer.

But it just gets thrown away.

Not if you use it sparingly and with good purpose. If you repeatedly leaflet a letterbox, of course it’ll be seen as junk and just disposed of immediately. But if you use direct mail for a specific campaign, perhaps a summer promotion for people in a particular postcode, your target audience not only decreases (meaning a cheaper print and distribution costs) but raises your chances of a response.

Use it to drive people back online.

Direct mail with a call to action, such as a website form for a free voucher, or a QR code to scan with a unique promotion on the other end of it, brings potential leads that bit closer to you. Every step they take to interact with your business, either on or offline, is an extra step towards their engagement as a customer. Build brand recognition and provide multiple channels to interact, and they’ll be far more likely to do so.

Digital print drives down costs.

Direct mail used to be a very expensive option, with lithographic printing requiring large print runs and specific plates for each new pamphlet. The rise of digital printing means you can not only have small print runs – ideal for specific, local campaigns – but you can also personalise each and every letter if you need. From unique addresses to targeted promotions based on existing purchase history, digital printing is cost-effective for small businesses.

To go solo is stubborn, to combine is divine.

The key point here is that direct mail is still a valuable part of the sales lead generation process, but must be used in conjunction with online strategies in order to generate further interaction from individuals to build brand recognition. The more they get to know your brand, through a variety of channels, the more likely they are to recall your products when they are in the market for your services.

 

Yeah, we can / Yes we can: The importance of tone

It might seem pernickety to find fault in the small things – but as you know, the devil is in the detail. Making sure your branding is consistent from brochure to customer service is as important as the product or service itself.

You can spend so much time, effort and money into researching and delivering your product or service. But have you spent time with your teams to make sure they know just how to approach their roles?

Semantic segregation – use language to your advantage

Every team across a company will have a specific set of roles and their own specific vocabulary. For example, sales teams will tell people about what you can do for them, while customer service teams ask customers how they can help.

While these differences seem obvious, the grammatical variations – from objective sales to subjective customer service – can change how a customer feels about your offerings. The small difference in language should be noted and used where relevant – but the overall brand tone should be consistent across the board.

This includes ensuring your teams understand what level of formality they are able to use when dealing with customers or clients.

>>  Find out why people don’t trust brands <<

What does this mean?

Remember: your branding should come from the company’s core – not be an afterthought. Look at how you have pitched your brochure, advertisements, and other marketing pitches. Are they casual, or formal? Do they address the customer like a friend, or like a business partner?

A general rule is that B2C communications can have some level of informality, to find a level with the prospective customer that doesn’t patronise them. Too chatty, however, and you risk switching them off altogether. A classic example is the friendly packaging on Innocent Drinks, which uses an assumed sense of humour to find a ‘human’ connection with the customer. Their jovial tone is even reflected by the lack of capital letters at the start of a sentence. While some may see this as quirky, others may find it annoying – they have pitched every word at a very specific audience.

If your literature is chatty, so should your teams be. But if you are in a B2B industry, professionalism can still count. If your promotional material matches a professional service – then a chatty tone probably isn’t for you. The consistency needs to be applied across all departments – so anyone talking with customers or potential clients should be made aware of the language they are using.

Speech versus print

When your staff talk to prospective or current customers, are they reflecting the language you use in your branding? Do they address customers by their title (Mr, Mrs etc), or immediately switch to first names? If your customer service teams have scripts, is the language reflecting that of the brand – do they use jargon or technical language? If so, how is this explained in plain English?

The human connection that marketers strive for is best placed in exactly that scenario – with your people, not your literature. Building rapport with prospective sales leads is one thing, but ensuring the same connection reflects your business is a finer art altogether. You don’t want to get the speech police onto every team member whenever they say ‘yeah’ instead of ‘yes’, as that’s not only impossible but we’re fairly sure borders on some form of human right infringement…

But you can ensure your staff understand how to interact with your prospective and current customers, by making sure they know exactly what the product is they are selling, and to whom. This can be done with a simple staff induction for new starters, or a periodic refresher course.


Small pitch alert

Bell Branding offers branding guidelines development, script writing services, in-house training, and brand messaging strategies. Just sayin’.


 

Your people are your strongest marketing tool, so use them effectively. Allow them to have their own personality, as this is of course what customers connect to. But whenever they are discussing your product or service, make sure everyone is on the same page (literally, if using scripts), and encourage the same tone across all conversations to make sure customers have a solid sense of who you are as a business and what your product represents.

 

Get connected

We’ve had a brief look at how social media can boost your business, whether you have 1 or one thousand employees. But what about the individual staff members? A brand is only as good as its people – and making sure your messaging extends to their business profiles is a wise idea.

This isn’t Orwellian. We’re not saying that you should control their Facebook profiles or have their Twitter passwords. What we’re talking about is the key business network across the world: LinkedIn.


What is LinkedIn?

You may have been under a rock somewhere in the Amazon forest, so we’ll briefly explain. Most commonly known as ‘Facebook for business’, users have a profile, are able to connect with others and post status updates.


Invest in headshots

People are far more likely to connect and engage with people if they have a professional photo in their profile. This is not the place for that holiday shot or grainy webcam photograph. Invest in your team members and their engagement on the social network will reflect well on your company. A smart, well-lit headshot in office attire puts out a professional image and shows that your staff take your business as seriously as you do.

Standard profiles

Ensure each key member of staff has a standard summary in their profile. Allow their personality to show through later on – the summary is the first thing people see and you want it to be connected to your business. Create a standard blurb about your business, including ethos, vision and goals. This only needs to be a few lines long.

Get involved

Identify key groups across LinkedIn which are relevant to your business as a whole, or to specific teams. Encourage your staff to join these groups, and engage in them. Start discussions on forums – and answer other people’s questions, too. Remember, providing value is one of the fastest ways to build trust.

Post statuses

The relatively new function of posting a status has brought LinkedIn closer to Facebook’s social element, and is a nifty function for promoting your latest blog or news. Encourage members of your team to post links under a public setting to achieve a wide reach, and this will make a difference to your web traffic.

Have a company profile

Set up a company profile, and have all your staff connect to the page. This profile is a great tool to tell LinkedIn users more about your business, spread your latest blogs, and share industry insights.

Online and offline work in harmony

When you have established good online relationships with key industry players, move the social aspect into the real world. Talking through forum posts and email is all well and good – but nothing beats meeting someone and connecting on a real level.

This also works in the reverse: when you have met people at events, business networking meetings or at your auntie’s wedding, connect on LinkedIn. Try not to leave it too long between meeting and connecting, and keep the conversation going by sending a short message with your invitation.


If you need a hand writing a blurb for your LinkedIn profiles, or setting up a company page, we can help. Follow us on our company page, or connect with our Founder, Imogen Bell, for a solid example of what we can do to help.