Does your business need a press release?

What’s the point of a press release? Many businesses know publicity is crucial to their success, but they don’t always realise a well-written press release is behind it.

Do you need a press release?

Alongside the free publicity, there could be a range of reasons your business might need a press release writing:

  • Advertising a new service or product that is unique to you
  • Raising awareness of community or charity work you sponsor
  • Alerting customers to a change of location or management
  • Promoting your business with a human interest story about you or your staff
  • Publicising your business by tying your services in with a holiday, event or craze
  • PR crisis management in the case of a bad news story

How can a press release help your business?

A press release not only gives free publicity, it is your chance to put across your best face to the wider community who make up your potential customers.

When well written, a press release will appeal to a journalist (and not be salesy), make a potentially interesting story which would fit their publication, be of benefit to their readers, be positive, give a new take on a familiar angle, and tie in with community or national events.

Should you hire a copywriter to write a press release?

Yes.

The odds of getting your press release picked up increase when you use a copywriter – someone who knows how to put together a release that a journalist or editor wants to see (and can use).

How will a copywriter write your press release?

When you hire a copywriter to write your press release, the process should go as follows:

1, A copywriter will discuss with you the message you want to get across and find out about your company

2, They might suggest tweaking or reframing the story in order to pique a journalist’s interest and make it relevant. Remember, journalists are bombarded with press releases from all segments of business and community daily. Yours has to stand out to be featured.

3, A great copywriter will (with your help) craft a quote that fits perfectly with the message you are putting across.

4, A copywriter will mould the press release into a professional, readable and informative piece that has everything the journalist will need to run the story without needing a follow-up enquiry.

5, If you intend to send a press release to a number of different newspapers, magazines or websites, a copywriter will tailor the release to each publication and target reader.

Will a copywriter send out your press release?

Generally speaking, a copywriter is employed to write your press release. However, if you only want to target a handful of publications, this can usually be arranged for an additional fee. Sending out a press release and targeting, chasing and following up – as well as large media campaigns – are usually the role of a PR company.

Hire me to write your press release

If you hire me, you will get all of the above. I’ve been writing press releases since I worked in theatre marketing. I know the structure, the content and the approach to writing successful press releases, and I also know the best way to put your business across.

Don’t put off that free publicity, contact me today.

Write better copy for your business

Whatever your business, you need great copy to sell it. From product descriptions on your online shop to adverts in the local press – well-crafted words are what will get you noticed and get you sales.

The quickest and most effective way to do this is to hire a copywriter. But if you fancy trying your hand, then here are my 7 tips to write better copy for your business.

  1. Sell the experience
    Nowadays we are bombarded with sales messages. If you’re going to make your product irresistible, you need to make sure it is experience-driven. In short, write about the benefits of what your customer will get rather than just the facts, and start with your biggest selling point.
  2. Build a story
    Creating a story helps push your reader along through your copy and builds their engagement with your product. By story, I don’t just mean a fantasy tale. Have a clearly defined beginning, middle and end to your copy (e.g. start with a product’s rich history and end by showing how it is still beneficial to your customer today).
  3. Hook with headlines
    Your headline should be relevant to the text that follows, but it should also be simple. Headings of around 6 words work best and will be fully visible in Google. Great headlines are active, informative and intriguing. Subheadings should be used to break up a lot of text and keep the reader moving through your copy.
  4. Picture perfect
    Images can help clarify a point and they are visually more appealing than a page full of text. But make sure they are relevant in some way and quality (not just clickbait). There are some websites where you can get license-free images (such as Creative Commons) which are not half bad, but if you want more choice then be prepared to pay and head to somewhere like iStock or Shutterstock.
  5. Keep it short and sweet
    There’s no set amount of words that is perfect to hook your reader. Use as many as it takes to sell your message. However, be aware that unless you’re writing about an academic or technical subject, making your content easy to read hinges on shorter sentences (up to around 16 words) with shorter words (ideally up to two syllables).
  6. Call to action
    It would be pretty silly to spend hours crafting a piece of copy only to forget to include a call to action. This is what gets you sales. In your CTA you need to ask your reader to do something, such as ‘visit our website’, ‘browse our online shop’, ‘download our free ebook’ or ‘sign up to our newsletter’. Anything you can offer your reader (ideally for free) is another incentive for them to act.
  7. Edit, edit, edit…
    Great copy undergoes rounds and round of extensive editing and proofing. Not only do you want to avoid glaringly obvious spelling and grammar mistakes, which plant doubt in your readers’ minds, but you also want to ensure your copy is as fluid, inspiring, engaging and seamless as possible.

A lot of time goes into crafting great copy that gets results. Writing your own is cheaper in the short term, but it can cost you big business if errors and bad writing put off your customers.

If you want to keep your time free to run your business in the best way possible, why not hire a copywriter to write your next webpage, flyer or job advertisement? I can take the hassle off your hands and save you time. Contact me today for a free and informal consultation.

How to write your ideal customer profile

If you’re just starting out your copywriting business, it’s a good idea to write an ideal customer profile which helps you define whose business you want to attract.

Copywriters usually offer a b2b service. Since that ideal ‘customer’ is actually another business, your profile should be built around your perfect imaginary business client.

There’s no special formula to writing your ideal customer profile, but here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started.

  1. Describe what you are selling as though to a child.
  2. Do you have any USPs?
  3. Who might benefit from your particular skills? Think about businesses in a certain industry you might have expertise in, your local area, or perhaps even certain members of the public such as educational providers, academics or students.
  4. Can you define a single ideal client? Do you have any conflictions between businesses? If so, write up the pros and cons of each and think about which business would benefit you most. Narrow down your profile to suit them.
  5. What are the benefits for them of using your product?
  6. What do they sell?
  7. Is their product considered a luxury or a necessity?
  8. If a luxury, how would you encourage their potential customers to part with their money? If a necessity, how can you make their product exciting, new and tempting?
  9. Does this business overlap a couple of industries – could it lead to more contacts?
  10. What scale is this business? How many people do they employ? Do they make a modest or a healthy profit?
  11. Does this business need you? Or do they likely already have a marketing department or not realistically have a budget to accommodate hiring a copywriter? How could you tailor your services to their needs and budget?
  12. What are their potential content needs?
  13. What problems does this business face now and in the future? Consider issues such as the economy, skills shortages, changes to the law, environmental pressures, an aging customer base.
  14. How can your skills help them overcome these problems?
  15. What are the benefits for you of working with this business?
  16. Where are they located (what area of the country and are the in the town centre or on the outskirts)?
  17. Describe that business’ ideal customer (remember, your income depends on appealing to their customers’ needs). Are they male/female, what is their age, why do they use this product, where do they live, what is their income?
  18. Think of people you know that might buy from this business.
  19. How long has this company been in business? Are they new and fresh or do they have heritage you can play on?
  20. Are they selling a contemporary service which appeals to a younger audience or a traditional product with an older demographic?
  21. How do they promote themselves and communicate with their customers?
  22. What kind of language do they use?
  23. What are the business’ values? Is it being cutting edge, is it providing a service no one else can, is it providing quality for money?
  24. Can your content help them reach new audiences?
  25. Is there an angle to this business that interests you? Such as its ethical policy, its affiliations, its work in the community. These all make great narratives for copy and press releases.

There are plenty more questions you can ask yourself, and if you wish you can begin another thread relating directly to that business’ customers.

However, you don’t want to get in too deep, but the more you begin to narrow down your ideal customer, the closer you will be to spotting the companies that could use your skills. Once you can show you are close in tone of voice and ideals, you will be in a firm position when you begin approaching these businesses for work.

Looking back or moving forward? Mrs M&S and The Co-op

If you keep your eyes on the brands, you might have noticed that both Marks and Spencer and The Co-operative have decided to shake-up their marketing. But what’s behind it?

Well, when known and loved brands come out and overhaul their branding, it’s usually for two main reasons:

1, There’s a past to be buried

2, They’re failing to reach out to customers old and new

We all know The Co-operative has been through turbulent times over the past few years and M&S profits have been falling – but how can a change of branding help?

In short, it’s all about perception. The Co-op has reverted back to its 1960s’ clover-leaf logo, doing away with the long-form handle and its suffixes: The Co-operative Food, –Bank, –Funeral. This might have something to do with the fact that they’ve shed quite a few of their franchises.

But undoubtedly this reversion to an old and nostalgic logo is intended to win back former shoppers. It radiates heritage, it’s friendly and informal and less institutional that the long-form branding was. In essence, it wants the customer to know it’s getting back to its ethical roots at the same time as unveiling its reward scheme – further showing how the business is less profits-oriented and more about giving back to the community.

Meanwhile, M&S CEO Steve Rowe recently announced the retailer was setting out to win back its own once-loyal customers, customers he feels have been neglected. And the chain believes it knows just who they are: a certain ‘Mrs M&S’.

While both tactics aim to look back before moving forward – seizing on past success and moulding it for the future – have they got it right? Only time will tell. Yet is strikes me there is a fundamental difference between the two.

The Co-op, on the one hand, seem to be using their new (or old) branding as a way of pretending the difficult few years of late never happened, and focusing instead on their new policies and systems. Their message is positive, even if it does hinge on nostalgia.

Yet M&S seem to be using this ideal shopper, the seemingly innocuous ‘Mrs M&S’, as the font of their future success. Although Steve Rowe assured customers they would be implementing some changes alongside this new marketing strategy, these minor revolutions to slash prices and become less fashion/more contemporary-casual oriented seem to be something of a regression for the retailer, not to mention inconsistent with their recent decisions.

It’s unsurprising that some shoppers were offended by this portrait of Mrs M&S. For starters, it’s not a great idea to come out and tell your potential customers how you’re pigeon-holing them. Moreover, in the 21st century, fewer women are choosing to get married, so this title carries less importance than it once would have done. The Mrs M&S of their profiling seems more like a profile of their ideal customer thirty or forty years ago than today. And in being slow to realise this, M&S bosses have overlooked another massive cultural shift that has happened. Our shopping habits. We were once very brand-loyal, but with the advent of internet shopping, our new loyalties lie most with one-stop-shops like eBay and Amazon. In essence, the cheaper, the better.

Something else that Mrs M&S doesn’t seem to account for is that women have become less focused on their age. While some might be content to sidle into a pair of elasticated slacks from the Limited Collection, most others have got their eyes on the latest magazine styles and don’t want to look like a conventional 50-something from a newspaper insert. In fact, they’re just as likely to order a few staples from ASOS as their children are. But if M&S is moving away from fashion just as cheaper sources of clothing and the digital revolution open up the latest styles to more and more people – not to mention after appointing Alexa Chung (one of the biggest fashionistas of the moment) to curate a new collection – then forgive me, but doesn’t that way confusion lie?

It strikes me that it’s not necessarily M&S that has let the customers down – the customers have let the store down, as is their wont in the age of Primark and internet shopping. Today, it is impossible to have one dominant high-street retailer the way there was fifty years ago. But not only has M&S been too slow to react, it also doesn’t seem to understand what the 21st-century woman is looking for, never mind what it is prepared to offer her.

Regardless of whether M&S has got it right, establishing a profile of your ideal customer is one of the first things you should do when you set up business. It helps you define who you are marketing at and helps you keep your selling strategy clear, succinct and powerful.

But how do you get started? What questions do you need to ask yourself and how do you know your ideal customer is attainable? All this and more will be answered next week when I’ll show you: how to identify your perfect customer.

Has gender marketing had its day?

Are women passive and girly? Are men all about their muscles? Of course not. But that’s not what most product marketing tells us.

For a long time it was ‘acceptable’ to gender products in order to sell them. But this has just served to perpetuate the myths we are still trying to break free of – ultimately, that men and women act in wholly different ways and therefore must want, need and be sold different things.

A little story
I recently bought a bottle of Radox Muscle Therapy, my usual bubble bath of choice. I picked it up, paid for it, took it home without a thought. It’s only when I ran the bath later that evening that I realised Radox Muscle Therapy bubble bath is now labelled for ‘MEN’.

Just a matter of months ago, this same bubble bath was safe for use by all sexes. But I – as the dumb consumer that marketers think I am – can only assume they’ve just discovered it contains ‘man ingredients’. You know, the kind that only work on men. It would be wasted on women – you have to be a man to enjoy it!

But what is the assumption behind this seemingly innocuous labelling? That only men use their muscles? Only men get back pain or aching legs? I wonder if they’ve ever heard that women lift stuff too? Or of period pain and restless legs syndrome?

I don’t need to make my point – you already know what it is. But many marketers don’t.

Gender marketing: a double-edge blade
When they market products, many marketers still employ assumptions about gender and sex to sell them. Whether it’s pink, flowery bicycles and globes for girls, or superman costumes and camouflage play tents for boys. And if that fails, they just tell you who it’s for, as in the case of many toiletries products. Just so there’s no ambiguities and everyone stays in their rightful place.

These marketers think that by labelling products appropriately – even though it is totally inappropriate to exclude one sex from a unisex product – they’re attracting a newer audience or targeting their marketing. But here’s the thing. Often, they’re not. Instead, they’re turning off a whole lot of other consumers and risk making them feel belittled, alienated, angry and not listened to. And if those consumers you’re putting off are female, you might just end up losing out.

Women buy
Women account for 85% of all purchases made. They might be buying for themselves or they might just as frequently be buying for the men in their life – so marketers need to have the woman in mind when they sell.

That doesn’t just mean with flowers and fancy décor. Target marketing is about more than just fluff – and sex and gender for that matter; it’s about appealing to your customer’s ideals and values. If you take the time to find out what matters to your consumer, rather than making assumptions, and distilling those values into your marketing, then your message will be picked up.

The paradox
These days we know gender stereotypes are bunkum; we live our lives to the full doing all kinds of different jobs and activities that blur the boundaries of gender and sex. But advertising largely fails to acknowledge that. In a world much more open, we actually seem to be seeing more gendered marketing. It doesn’t make sense.

Women are more likely to buy products aimed at men, more so than men will buy those aimed at women. Therefore, gendering products can work against marketers, who are actually narrowing the field of what men, and some women, will go for. If unisex products were marketed at all sexes, then the audience base becomes wider. We also have to ask ourselves whether women sometimes buy products aimed at men because this is the only way of getting what they want.

How to get what you want
When I went back to the supermarket and looked at all those Radox bubble baths lined up, I noticed something. Only one was labelled for men (Muscle Therapy), while the others had titles such as ‘feel pampered’, ‘feel heavenly’, ‘feel blissful’, ‘feel enchanted’. There was also a Muscle Soak option – I suppose the passive woman’s version of the more intensive, active and energised Muscle Therapy, which is for ‘MEN’, as we now know. Despite the fact that all baths entail the passive act of simply ‘soaking’.

None of the other bottles were labelled for women. But I could tell, what with all the pastel pinks, peaches and innocent, creamy white palettes – and of course the flowers adorning the labels. The men’s Muscle Therapy bottle, however, was angsty black and red, with a label signifying something more akin to the bubbling inferno of hell than a relaxing bath. Of course, men don’t want their bath time to be relaxing, but rather a dip into hell and back. They want the hard stuff.

Just as the statistics state, in order to get what I want I will still buy Muscle Therapy bubble bath, even though it’s now for ‘MEN’. Mostly, I just like the product, but I also refuse to be told I must defer to a more feminine alternative.

Marketers – break the mould!
Gendered marketing seems wholly backward in a time when we are more than ever aware of marketing tactics, more connected, and the already-blurred divide between the sexes is being shattered day by day.

Advertisers and marketers with the most acclaim are those who recognise what their consumers want, but also show the reality of modern culture – whether that’s the recent Match.com advert with two kissing lesbians (albeit in a sexualised way) or the Guinness ‘Never Alone’ advert with gay rugby player Gareth Thomas.

When I see a pink this or that for females and a camouflage alternative for males, I despair. Because it is this lazy, old-fashioned stereotyping that makes it harder for the people out there who don’t conform. And that, in one way or another, is all of us.

At worst, gendered marketing of unisex products is offensive, at best it’s just redundant.