Writing Press Releases for a Design Business
Issuing press releases is a common and useful promotional tactic for all types of corporations. Learn how to write a press release for your design business, where to submit it and why it can benefit your marketing efforts.
Press releases are a long-standing tradition of business, and serve as a formal avenue of distribution for a corporation’s news-worthy announcements. They are company sanctioned, and while revealing facts and statements, they are designed to give the issuing body positive PR.
For the small design business and freelancer, they are a great way to toot one’s own horn, stay in the industry limelight and tell existing and potential clients something you want them to know. There are many reasons to write a press release, including:
- You have won a prestigious design or advertising award
- You have been published in a noteworthy annual (Communication Arts, HOW, etc.) or design book
- You have a great customer story to tell (a website you’ve designed has boosted organic search traffic 500% and sales are up 150%)
- You have reached an important business milestone (100th website goes live, hired your first dedicated account executive, etc.)
It’s better to write one when you have something legitimately interesting to report and not try to force a regular schedule of a new press release every month or every quarter. A good story will hold more weight if isn’t buried in other press releases.
Guidelines on Writing a Press Release
Writing a press release requires a certain journalistic flair and basic storytelling skills without dipping into the business bullshit pool. If possible, have a friend read it before publishing—you want people to latch onto the story but understand the basic business point as well.
Start the Press Release With a Bang
Let’s start at the top: the title. Think catchy, concise and informative, like a newspaper headline. It should mention your company’s name (or your name if you’re a freelancer) and state exactly what the story is about.
The press release should also be dated, and tagged with a location. 99% of the time, this will be where your office is. Stylistically, the location is in all caps, but I feel no particular loyalty to this nomenclature. The only advantage to capping the location is that readers immediately understand they’re reading a news item.
The first sentence is critical. Like the title, it needs to be descriptive, catchy and include your company name, but instead of teasing, it should explicitly lay the foundation of the story to come. For instance:
Kevin Potts Design completes the new website for Apple Computer after almost three years of intense market research and creative sessions with billionaire Steve Jobs.”
I’ve mentioned my own company, the customer I will be discussing, an intensely public figure that any journalist will want to read more about and how those three things tie together. In other words, plenty of hooks to capture their attention. Everything following in the press release will relate to this opening sentence.
Tell the Story
This is harder to teach since every story is different. Think of press releases as self-journalism: you’re reporting on yourself. You have the facts, but your readers don’t. Like traditional media, your story needs to answer the Big Questions: who, what, where, when and why. Tell them what they need to know in an entertaining way.
Support the Story
It’s easy to spin a marketing tale of huge ROI, ecstatic CEOs, soaring stock prices and exponential sales growth, but no one will take you seriously unless you support your claims with qualifying evidence.
This is achieved via two key avenues. First, concrete facts and figures that can be reinforced. Second, direct testimonials from involved parties. The first is a bit easier. For my redesign of Apple’s website, my press release might contains the following facts:
- Because of standards-based development, overall page weight decreased 50%, saving Apple $25,000 a day in bandwidth costs
- Sales of Apple Store items saw an increase of 213% after the newly designed shopping cart system went online
- Because of Kevin Potts Designs’ brawesome SEO skills, Larry Page personally assured that Apple will always be #1 in Google
Notice that the stated figures—all impressive—are associated with work done by Kevin Potts Design. They just didn’t magically happen. They were a direct result of my company’s involvement. This is where the marketing ingredient of press releases surfaces: constantly reminding the reader that Kevin Potts Design is totally awesome and can do the same for your company.
Testimonials from involved parties are also a critical ingredient. These must be chosen with discretion. For “milestone” press releases, there are no customer quotes, so it would be appropriate for the president of your company so say something on the record like:
“Developing and deploying our 100th client website is a major achievement,” said Ted Cannon, president of CannonBall Interactive. “It is a direct result of the hard work, intense creativity and fanatical customer support displayed by our employees.”
For customer success stories, getting your client to say something on the record is even more powerful. For example:
“Kevin Potts Design showed incredible creativity and technical prowess from the very beginning of the project,” said Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer. “I would recommend them to any Fortune 100 company.”
Your press release should be well-written and concise. It is a news item. Keep the length to one page. You may be able to write a book on how awesome your company is, but your audience (ie, every living person except your mom) has a very limited attention span and wants to know as much as possible in a very short amount of time. One page.
Your Company Info
Every press release has a title, location and date. These help reporters and wires to associate the release to the correct media outlets. In addition, you need to supply the reader with a two sentence, boilerplate description of your company. This is appended to the end of every press release to provide background information. When writing it, stay high level. Assume (correctly) no one’s ever heard of you. Example:
Kevin Potts Design is a Kansas-based interactive design agency specializing in visitor-centric, accessible websites. Clients across the country have seen huge improvements to their online presence as a result of Kevin Potts Design’s expertise.
In addition to this description, be sure to include your company’s contact information. Specifically the media contact, address, phone number, general inquiry e-mail and company URL. In fact, it’s best to supply printed versions on your company’s letterhead.
Where to Submit Your Press Release
Now that you’ve written your single page of sublime prose, it’s time to let your child enter the media world. But where to send it?
First, get that thing up on your website in HTML format, not PDF. Casual visitors will read it if the story grabs them right away, and it’s the type of keyword-laden content search engines will eat up. (For an SEO-related anecdote, some of my company’s customer related press releases rank higher in Google than the customer’s own website.)
Beyond your own site, there are numerous press release sites. These get indexed by search engines as well, and news wires do occasionally pick up stories. Some good examples:
In addition to the digital realm, keep a supply of nicely printed hard copies as well. Send them out in proposals, press kits, promotional mailings, etc. They only reinforce your professional image, and every design business could use some of that.