Write a Well-Developed Press Release
Collision repair shops often have business announcements, initiatives or events that are worth promoting. Things like new shop openings, community service efforts or educational programs can catch the attention of your community. One of the best ways of getting the word out is the development and distribution of press releases.
“Learning to create a perfect press release is critical for collision repair businesses. It’s such a good opportunity to generate publicity in your market and build brand appeal,” says Debby Robinson, president of Victory Management Group, the firm that oversees CARSTAR Auto Body Repair Experts’ public relations strategy, as well as the strategy for 3M and other companies.
And Robinson says it’s perhaps the most affordable way to get that information out.
But you need to do it right to make the effort worthwhile.
“Most major media outlets receive hundreds of press releases and story pitches every day,” says Kimberly Ainge, communications specialist for Fix Auto corporate. “Body shop owners should take the same pride in creating a press release that they do in repairing a vehicle.”
Here’s how to do it, using Ainge and Robinson’s best practices, developed through years of real-world experience.
You don’t want to waste your time by creating press releases for something that won’t get picked up. So think critically about the topic before diving in. It has to be newsworthy, interesting and have value for the people in your community.
Ainge says things like a new piece of equipment or shop process might be great for your company, but it’s not interesting to many others. Things that are interesting include community events, charitable donations, educational offerings, military support, fundraisers, organizational partnerships, business milestones, local awards, or new business innovations such as the addition of solar panels.
Robinson adds that local reporters are always looking for interesting feature stories to run, too. In addition to specific business initiatives, there are opportunities for shops to pitch stories on more seasonal or trendy topics.
For example, Robinson has had success pitching stories about how to decide whether it’s worth having a car repaired, the safest vehicles of the year, how to prevent collisions during deer season and how to drive safely during snow storms. The press release can position the shop owner as a “local expert” to discuss those subjects, and can earn the owner press attention if they’re contacted for an interview.
The information to include in a press release can be tricky. It must be factual and tell a colorful story while being short and concise. Here’s how:
Identify the basics. Stick to the basics when writing a press release, Robinson says. The first step is to identify the “who, what, when, where and why.” You can develop a relevant story once you answer those questions.
Order the information. Start with the most important information, and trickle down to the least important information. The lead sentence of the press release should clearly state the concept you’re trying to convey—the “what.” The second paragraph should include the key facts of the idea. The third paragraph should explain why you’re engaging in the initiative. A good way to do that is by including a quote from a shop leader, or another representative from the business closely related to the issue, Robinson says. Then all subsequent paragraphs should provide additional details regarding why the concept is important and relevant.
Make it colorful. Use at least one or two quotes in each press release. Provide credible, expert sources, Ainge says.
Keep it short. The goal of a press release is to wet the appetite of the recipient. Try not to offer too much information, and don’t feel like you have to present every little detail, Robinson says.
Stick to the nuts and bolts. Keep it to one page if possible, and never more than two pages.
Include contact information. Always provide information for the person who can answer questions or be available for interviews. Include a note such as, “Bob Smith, owner of ABC Body Shop, is available for interviews to discuss this information. Please contact (contact name) to arrange an interview.”
Include a call to action. Clearly spell out the purpose of your press release, and what you want people to do with the information, Ainge says.
Ensure writing accuracy. Always use accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar. Press releases should be proofread several times prior to distribution. In addition, never write press releases in the first person. Always write them from a third-person perspective.
Shops should make this easy on themselves. Design a template one time, and use that same design permanently with updated information.
Use your logo. Always include your company logo at the top of the press release. Use a color logo to maintain your brand image, Robinson says. But don’t go overboard by making your logo too large.
Include photos. Include up to two photos in your press release. Use a low-resolution image in the body of the press release, and include a Web link where people can access a high-resolution image if they want to publish it. Don’t include high-resolution images directly in the press release because those files are often too large to email, Robinson says.
Include a boilerplate. Always include a boilerplate with standard information at the bottom of your press release. The boilerplate typically includes an “about us” section, a standard three- to five-sentence description of the mission and history of the business. The boilerplate should also include links to your website and any social media platforms your shop has.
Ainge says there are several companies, such as PR Newswire, that can create media lists and distribute press releases for you. They are effective, but fairly expensive. She says the most affordable option is to create media lists on your own following these guidelines:
Identify all of the media organizations that operate in your market—daily and weekly newspapers, radio stations, TV stations, regional magazines and business publications, as well as national trade publications for the industry.
Identify the appropriate person within each organization to send the release to. Robinson suggests contacting each media outlet to figure out who covers consumer, business or automotive news. Establish relationships with all daytime, evening and weekend news producers. Make sure to acquire their phone numbers and email addresses.
Save the media distribution list in your email system, Robinson says, to easily distribute your future press releases to all media contacts.