Jim Farrell • PRfirst
As the owner of a group of convenience stores, maybe you recently opened an additional location and want to let the community know. Perhaps your company earned a “Best Places to Work” designation from a local business journal. Or your team just volunteered for a “Build Day” at a local Habitat for Humanity project.
Most businesses in the c-store space have ongoing news that would be great to share in the communities they serve. So how can that goal be accomplished?
Don’t overlook the tried-and-true (and often under-utilized) press release or public relations (PR) effort to help position your company as a “top of mind” choice.
A press release is a straightforward “who, what, when, where, why” announcement that if done properly should find its way into a variety of newspapers and magazines and onto some key websites.
Tell your customers and potential customers your good news through a PR campaign that targets your local media — from the community newspapers to business journals and the dailies that cover your market. If you want to “get noticed” in the industry, definitely include the industry trade journals.
PR is different from other forms of marketing because it is “earned media,” which means that news outlets include your information generally at no cost to you because it is deemed newsworthy. That distinction carries with it the third-person validation of someone else saying good things about your business.
Over time, PR can accomplish two important goals: (1) Boosting a company’s brand recognition and visibility through Google and other searches, and (2) Establishing the business as an industry thought leader.
News outlets are generally interested in publishing/posting legitimate news about your business because many lack the resources to aggressively cover the news of smaller businesses and instead rely upon external submissions from the companies to fill the gap in coverage.
A press release can also serve as a springboard for larger coverage. Curious writers and editors may also be interested in an interview, a profile or even a contributed “thought leadership” piece from you on a topic such as, “Ten trends in fast food in the c-store industry.”
Whether you use the services of an outside public relations firm or have an internal marketing person or team to assist, here are a few basic guidelines.
- Your chances of having your news published or posted are greatly enhanced if what you submit is genuinely newsworthy. The “rookie error” of do-it-yourselfers is not understanding the difference between news and advertising. For example, offering 25% off a product line for the month of June is not news — unless you are donating the proceeds to a local non-profit that feeds the homeless. New hires and promotions, expansions, community charitable good works, new locations, awards won and new products are among the topics that make for good press releases.
- News releases should be written in a very simple, factual, straightforward way. Remember the 5Ws – “who, what, where, when and why” — in writing. The introductory sentences should clearly tell the story.
- News should be written in the third person. It is about (but not “by”) the company. For example, “John Smith, CEO of XYZ Convenience Stores, was named Citizen of the Year by the Smalltown Chamber of Commerce.”
- Include contact information. Someone at your company should be readily available to answer questions in case an editor or reporter wants to call and ask (quick callbacks are key).
- Remember that the goal of a press release is to inform, not promote.
- Where appropriate, include a picture. If it’s a new hire or new promotion, a good head-and-shoulders photograph is a plus.
- Check with the outlets that will receive your press release as to their preference for format. You can find contact information for media outlets with some careful (Google) research. Typically, the body of press release is embedded in the email message and the subject line should summarize the story. If sending to multiple recipients, put all addresses in the bcc column.
- Don’t submit news more often than every other week (unless it is truly “breaking news”). More frequent distribution may wear out the welcome mat for you and lead to less coverage.
- And when you do get placements, the links to the coverage look good on the “in the news” section of your website, or on your social media pages.
Success at PR is more about consistency than magic. Well-written news releases that address topics of interest to editors should yield favorable results. Good luck, and good publicity!
Jim Farrell is the founder of PRfirst, a public relations/marketing company, in Hanover, Mass. PRfirst handles publicity for a variety of clients across a range of industries, including convenience store. For additional information, call (617) 429-7990, or e-mail: [email protected]