Public Relations is one area where sustainable businesses have a tremendous advantage over conventional counterparts. As cutting edge businesses that are more selflessly focused not just on their profits but on society, the local economy, and the environment, sustainable businesses make a great story for news and media organizations.
How successful can a good press release be? Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia and author of Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman, encourages green businesses to use press releases to generate a lot of good, free, publicity:
Writing and releasing a good press release takes a certain amount of know-how, but a degree in journalism is certainly not necessary. The reward, should one be successful, is certainly worth the price of spending some time learning how to write one, including researching it, writing it, and sending it to the appropriate agents.
Here are the fundamental elements of a good press release for your green business.
A headline that grabs. This is listed first not just because it comes at the top of your press release, but because it is quite simply the most important element. You have one chance to grab your readers’ attention. An editor at a magazine may see a hundred or more press releases every day. The headline needs to entice further attention and justify the time that would be required to read the rest of the document. Ideally, you would want to limit this to one line, but it is ok if it has more than one line or a heading and subheading, so long as the headline is well-written and attention-grabbing.
Contact information and date. Usually located in the upper left header, you should make it easy for someone interested in the story to contact you at first glance. Including your company logo, name, phone number and website is fairly common here. Make sure to include the date so that the reader knows that it is relevant and timely.
First paragraph summary. Make sure that the news item is the main subject of the first paragraph – what has happened to make this ‘newsworthy?’ Why now? Why today? The first paragraph needs to summarize not only the timeliness of the subject but also the overall big picture as it applies to society, or some larger social issue.
Body of the press release. The remaining paragraphs should provide some real world insights, unusual perspectives, and additionally address the larger implications of your newsworthy topic. Try not to exceed one page, as your readers have limited time to spend reading press releases, and may simply discard any that are too large to be read quickly.
A paragraph summarizing your company’s relevance to the subject and potential expertise. Who are you? What do you do? Why is your company relevant to this bigger picture you’ve just painted?
Contact information. Underneath a line with a couple of pound signs (#), include your contact information, even if it is repeating what is above in the top-left header. Your reader will hopefully have concluded that they want to write about your story, and will likely have quite a few follow up questions. Make it easy for them to contact you, and you’ll be less likely to lose their interest to another good press release.
There is more (much, much more) to achieving success with a press release for your business. To help owners and managers of triple bottom line businesses, Green Business Owner offers a document that covers the ins and outs of using press releases for promoting your socially responsible business, including how to write one, how to incorporate elements of social media (including ‘tweetable’ lines, hash tags, and dedicated Facebook pages), where and to whom to submit it (you can get some free publicity for your event through JustMeans by simply bartering a link back to them from your site), a sample press release, and a detailed discussion of blogs, newswires, magazines, newspapers, radio, and other media you may want to pursue, all written by and for green business people. This document may well generate thousands of dollars of free PR for your business.
Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on Google Plus
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