The Ultimate Guide To Drafting The Perfect Press Release

The Ultimate Guide to Drafting the Perfect Press Release.JPG

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll agree when I say that writing press releases is a tough task. Rather than offering something potentially helpful, like you would with a landing page, for instance, you’re asking for a favor. And most people just don’t do favors without some type of personal gain.

It’s no wonder most entrepreneurs loathe the task, and actively hand it off to outsourced freelance copywriters who although capable, also dislike the task.

This 1-2 page document shares news about your business with the press, and essentially presents journalists with information they can then use to write news articles. Unless it’s actually newsworthy, it’s a waste of time for them to read it, thereby making your request for publicity obsolete.

On one hand, you have to ensure you provide enough juicy detail in there to capture journalists attention, otherwise they won’t care about the press release…

But on the other, you have to leave out just enough detail that promotes an air of mystery. You want to be approached by the media outlets, you want them to ask you further questions and get the remaining detail from you. It’s how they can craft better pieces, which in turn provides you with better exposure.

Tack onto that the careful balance of skilled writing and clear language use and you have yourself a surmountable task. Talk about working for a conversion rate!

The good news is that this is a one-stop shop resource guaranteed to break down the strategy, and make you a better press release writer.

Let’s go over everything in detail, so you can pat yourself on the back sooner than later.

 

The When & Why of Press Releases

press release

Much like with anything else, there’s a time and a place for press releases. Typically, you use them when you want to share something particularly newsworthy. It’s not something you do for just about everything business related. It’s not a tool to use whenever you want the boost of some free press.

Plus, press releases are like pants: one size certainly does not fit all. Just because you wrote one, it doesn’t mean you can swap out information and reuse it for another announcement. That’s why there are many different templates, but we’ll touch more on this later.

For now, let’s consider what makes an announcement newsworthy:

  • Anytime a large number of people is going to be impacted by an announcement.

  • An announcement that’s relevant to what’s happening in current news.

  • An announcement that features a big name that’s well known.

That means anything like award announcements, product launches, big name hires, or partnerships are fine options.

So, what makes press releases so integral to any business? Why should you care to use them?

Well, for one thing, without press releases, you’re at the mercy of journalists research skills and willingness. You’d be running your business hoping that someone out there finds your website, takes a look at your business, and realizes that you have a valuable story to tell. Then you’d be hoping that they have the willingness to cover that story themselves.

Why hope when you can send them a press release to make them aware of you in the first place? At least then you’re being proactive. Even if they don’t cover your story, you at least tried. Plus, now they’re aware of you. Who’s to say they won’t look into your business anyway, and maybe find another story that meets their interests instead?

Journalists are well-connected people as well. Just because they may not want to cover you, it doesn’t mean they can’t forward your press release to someone who may be willing to write a piece on your announcement.

Another major reason why you should use press releases is that it helps build relationships. You’re putting your name out there publically, and you’re reaching out to people directly. You’re offering information that may be of interest and use to someone, in exchange for some traffic and visibility for your brand. That lays the foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship.

If all goes well, and your stories are always successful, it’s entirely possible that you could forge connections with journalists. Suddenly, when you need coverage, you could just casually drop an email to a journalist friend, rather than having to go through the formality of mass emailing a press release.

And all of those articles being written about you? Well, you’re controlling what’s being put out, so you’re essentially managing your own image. And because there’s so much coverage about you, there’s a boost to your SEO.

If these aren’t enough reasons why you should care to use press releases, then nothing I say will hit home. The truth is that although many aspects of a business are crucial, few have the potential impact and outreach that this simple 1-2 page document holds.

 

Press Release Format

press release

Establishing Your Angle

The key to writing a successful press release is to provide information, provide a story, that people actually want to read about. Unless it covers this fundamental need, no one is going to want to write about it, let alone publish it. In this day and age, it’s all about likes and shares. If it doesn’t have any engagement, it’s deemed unworthy.

And too many of those cricket pieces can really damage a publication’s image.

So, before you begin writing anything, you need to find an angle. With a press release, your audience is members of the media, it’s journalists, so you need to add enticing things like exclusive research, breaking news, relevant content that has to do with anything that’s currently trending in most outlets, and finally, emotional stories.

The latter can be anything shocking, graphic, violent, sexual, or even cry worthy in nature. The likelihood of that being the case with your business is slim to none, but we’re covering all of the bases here.

So, what are some examples of enticing elements that capture the press’s attention?

Whatever you do, make sure that you are aware of current topics, be cautious about how you present your brand within that context, and be fast to capitalize on it.

 

Writing A Headline

Consider this your first impression. It’s the first thing anyone is going to read, so it has to be good. Otherwise, there’s no initial peak of interest.

Just like walking into an interview, people get judged before they even utter a word.

For instance, say you’re the one conducting the interview. You’re looking to bring in a marketing consultant, so you can essentially create a road map to your dreams. And when you see the consultant walk in the room, you already know it’s not a great fit.

Why?

Because the consultant walked in wearing a beanie, a hoodie, and dirty shoes. He clearly didn’t care what he looked like for the interview, he just wore whatever he found when he rolled out of bed. In fact, speaking of which, he’s late. He’s roughly fifteen minutes late, with no apology or explanation.

If this guy were a headline, he’d be overlooked. He doesn’t capture your attention from the start. And even if he does, it’s not in a positive light. In fact, the second he walked in, you mentally said no, well before you realized he doesn’t know what chatbot marketing is. Oh, and he doesn’t believe in creating video content.

You see, it’s made even more important by the fact that journalists get plenty of pitches on a daily basis. Their inboxes are never clean. They can pick anything they want: direct leads, product launches by big brands, interesting interviews, scandalous news, etc. So, in order for your headline to not be overlooked… Well, it needs to bring it.

That seemingly simple one-line sentence is anything but. It’s what determines whether you get media coverage or not.

So, here are some tips to make sure you have it covered:

  • Write many versions, walk away, write some more versions, walk away, then come back and select the very best one. Seriously, good writers rarely settle on the first thing that they write. In fact, most will write and rewrite things several times before they get that knowing feeling in their gut.

  • Remember you’re not writing something creative, nor something the public is going to read. It doesn’t need to be eloquent or particularly filled with amazing storytelling elements. The only one who needs to make your story compelling is the journalists. No, what they want from you is a short summary of the event in a direct manner. Keep it as simple as possible.

  • Keep it vague enough to inject mystery. I mentioned it in the very beginning of this guide, if you recall. The careful balance of juicy detail, while leaving enough out to cause mystery. Journalists are naturally curious people, and they’re used to digging further the minute there’s something left unsaid.

 

Writing Your Lead

press release

This is the first 35-45 words that summarize the most important parts of your press release. It’s what journalists read right after the headline, and it helps them determine if they even want to invest in reading the rest.

Think of it like lead magnets, hence the name. Lead magnets are created under the content marketing umbrella, promoted as free and helpful, and help entrepreneurs obtain hundreds of email addresses. Unless that magnet is something people actually want, however, you’re wasting your time.

A good rule of thumb with the lead it to cover the classic: who, what, when, where and why. If you can provide answers to these questions, then you have a pretty good lead.

Here’s an example to give you an idea:

“Apple Inc., an American multinational tech company specializing in electronics and computer software, has announced that it will be price cutting the new line of iPhones due to lower sales. This is largely attributed to consumers upgrading less, and opting instead to upgrade older models.”

Notice, this covers all the W’s in just 45 words:

  • Who - Apple

  • What - Lowering prices

  • When - With the new line of iPhones

  • Where - Multinational means globally

  • Why - Because people are upgrading older devices

 

Writing Body Paragraphs

This is the meat and potatoes of your press release, but unfortunately for you, only a handful of journalists will ever get to it. Unless, of course, you have a pretty newsworthy story on your hands.

Still, that being said, as a general rule of thumb, in the grand scheme of things, not many people will get to the body paragraphs. Most journalists will ignore your email, and whoever doesn’t may read the lead and decide it’s just not for them, or the publication. There are many factors to consider, many of which are outside of your control.

Essentially, you have to be a pessimist, and yet, still prepare for the best possible outcome. You have to write well, and in an order that elevates your chances of success, despite knowing that the odds are ever against you.

But I digress.

Body paragraphs should be relevant. They should stay on topic, describing event details and the brand, without ever going overboard. After all, you’re not writing a novel, you’re not using flowery language to tell a story, you’re just making it possible for the journalist to write a good piece on it.

So, it’s easy if you think of it as presenting the most important information first, and ending with the least important aspects, always assuming your audience will never read your press release to the end.

Here’s the flow:

  1. Most pressing information. This is where the lead goes.

  2. Body: the information in more detail, with facts and generally useful information. Think arguments, controversy, evidence and the like. Just make sure to present information from most important, to least important.

  3. Tail: the extra information that journalists could essentially do without. It’s the sprinkles on a sundae―you can do without it, but it does elevate the experience, doesn’t it?

 

Adding Quotes

Pop quiz time. What do journalists love more than a story? Hint: it’s not images, although that is helpful. It’s also not big names, although that certainly helps boost the story.

No, it’s quotes. Direct quotes from people involved.

And the reasoning is simple, really. When you’re telling a story, it feels rather incomplete without any quotes. It’s like being told a story by a narrator, and never giving the main characters any dialogue. It feels hollow, and it leaves you with a rather… unpolished feeling.

It’s this feeling they are trying to avoid at all costs. They have editors to submit their work to, it has to be as close to polished as possible before it makes a certain desk. So, if it makes it there without quotes… Well, it better be good. And those stories don’t happen often enough.

Of course, not just any quote will do. Ideally quotes need to meet specific criteria. Things such as getting a quote or two, or more, from someone directly involved in the story. A direct source who is in touch with the story’s “main character” is also acceptable.

Whatever the case, the person needs to have some sort of connection, authority, or importance within the context. Think company founders, close family and friends of a victim, or someone who is being sued for something scandalous. This gives the story credibility, rather than planting the seed of doubt and speculation in the reader.

This is of the utmost importance, since dabbling in doubt can actually cast an entire publication in a bad light. News should be rooted in truth, only verifiable facts published. Direct quotes from people who speculate things are fine, because they’re quotes, not outright proclamations of unverifiable truth.

 
 

Writing A Boilerplate

The boilerplate is basically standard copy that describes what your organization stands for. It’s factual data, marketing goals, company projections, etc. all consolidated into a paragraph.

That’s right, one solid paragraph, no more, no less.

That means every sentence, every word, should be completing a mission. And everything altogether should be working toward the same objective: becoming a good boilerplate.

That means it has to be specific. If you run a company that creates computer software, say so, don’t settle for I.T. or tech company.

Just don’t get too carried away. Keep the specifics legible to the public, assuming they lack industry jargon knowledge, because they probably do.

Furthermore, the boilerplate should use data. Actual, factual, verifiable data. Consider it a source that the journalists can use in their articles, making their stories that much more compelling. Details like when a company was established, and what its revenue looks like, or even what projections they have for the year, are all fine examples.

Finally, keep it short and sweet, otherwise it comes across like you’re bragging. Remember, factual data often means you’re listing off achievements, because if you intentionally want media attention, then… you have a positive story on your hands, right? No one willingly writes a press release to share negative details.

To help ease this, write from the standpoint of what your brand is, rather than how great it is. And keep it to no more than 150 words. This should keep you in line without too much of a hassle.

 

Adding Contact Details

Not to point out the obvious, but you need to add contact details to your press release before you send it off. Otherwise, people will have some burning questions, or seek further details, and then not know who to contact.

Which means, if they really want your story, they’ll call around and talk to just anyone available. And then, well, your story is kind of out of your control. Suddenly, the news pieces feature information that you may not have otherwise wanted shared.

You don’t want that, as it can ruin other product launch events and detailings, which in turn hurts anyone you’ve chosen to collaborate with. It would speed up their marketing, ruin everyone’s metrics, and even make some landing pages obsolete.

So, add in something like this at the end of your press release:

Media Contacts:

Karen Embers

Marketing and PR

Business Name

Xxx-xxx-xxxx

fakeemailaddress@email.com

 

Writing A Press Release

Before moving forward, let’s do a quick recap. The following is an outline of your press release format. Treat it like gold, follow it down to the letter, and you’ll reap some great rewards in the years to come:

  1. Headline - clear, concise and simple, without lacking personality.

  2. Lead - direct summary of who, what, when, where and why.

  3. Body Copy - inverted pyramid (of sorts) for information, beginning with the most pressing, to the least important details.

  4. Boilerplate - clearly avoids jargon and bragging, yet still incorporates data and notes on what the brand does and is hoping to accomplish in the near future.

  5. Media Contacts - who do the journalists contact with any questions, concerns, or comments?

Sometimes it’s easier to write a good press release when you can read some good ones, written by other companies. It’s how you can learn by reading, and certainly how professionals such as content marketers and marketing consultants determine what to strive for in terms of public brand reflection and representation.

Here are some great examples of real press releases by companies you know and love:

 

Additional Tips

press release

Congratulations, you’re almost done. But as with anything that’s being read by several, maybe even hundreds of eyeballs depending on your contact list, there are some loose ends to tie up.

For instance, what are your goals with this press release? Do you want journalists to write about this because you want more customers, or because you want to establish media connections you can later count on?

This is very important to ask yourself, as it will determine if you’re writing a product press release or a non-profit one. Although the format stays the same, the way you go about it is different.

For example, if you want more customers, you should target a smaller, niche website that appeals to your demographic. The press release would have more impact there than at a generalized publication.

Now, if you want brand awareness, you need to do the opposite and target the big publications with larger readerships.

Another tip is to put yourself in the journalists’ shoes. What would you want to read if you were on the receiving end of the press release? What details would captivate you, and what kind of information would you ideally want incorporated? Maybe you’d be thrilled if you read a direct quote from a company founder?

Thinking like a journalist may not be your go-to now, but it should certainly be. Not only do you get insight on your own writing, you also get a sense for what will work, and what won’t.

 

Distributing A Press Release

press release

Distribution takes one of two forms: either you self distribute using email to send out your press release to journalists and media outlets…

Or you use a press release distribution service of some kind.

Let’s go over both.

When you distribute personally, you forgo complications. You’re in charge, you’re in control, and because you also wrote and edited the press release, you also got to complete the entire task from beginning to end.

But there’s a price to pay for that independence, which will largely factor depending on your brand’s overall goal…

It’s a time consuming endeavor that requires you to have a lot of contact information on hand. If you don’t, you can only reach out to so many people, hence limiting exposure.

And again, if your goal is to gain brand exposure and visibility, well, this isn’t your best bet. You’d have to find contact details for bigger publications, send off the press release, and hope that they like it enough to cover the story.

If you want the best odds in this situation, you would find power in numbers.

On the other hand, if you want more sales, distributing yourself would be perfect. You don’t need exposure, you need to email smaller, niche publications, remember? You can find contact details much easier for smaller publications, and chances are, because every niche industry is small by comparison, you already have a few contact ideas in mind.

This means that personal distribution isn’t for everyone. Sometimes, you really need to use a service, such as PR Newswire, for instance. They distribute your press release to thousands of news outlets and agencies in a small fraction of the time it would take you to do much of anything alone.

Of course, there’s a cost involved. You are looking at hundreds spent on a single press release outreach, and absolutely no personal contact with journalists, unless they reach out to you in response, of course.

It’s not a great solution for smaller companies with smaller marketing budgets. Better to save that for advertising resources like Google Ads and Facebook Ads. Social media is a cheap, effective way to advertise products, especially if they’re visually captivating.

These distributions services are not a great solution for anyone who wants sales rather than exposure. But it’s certainly a tool that should be used at some point, when the time is right.

 

Best Time to Send

Now, as with most things in life, timing is everything. Two people meeting at the wrong time can doom them from the very beginning. And someone mentioning a job opening just as someone is about to share their job loss woes is immaculate timing.

So, logically, timing also affects your press release.

Ideally, you want to send it out when it can gain the most traction. That means Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Why?

Because on Monday, journalists deal with the most hectic day of the week. They’re having to pull content for the week, check countless emails, write several drafts, you name it.

And on Friday, well, it’s the end of the week. That means deadlines are coming due, and everyone is running around the office frantically. There’s possible small fires everywhere, and someone is surely losing their hair.

Then you have to consider things like holidays and extended weekends. The longer they’re away from the office, the less likely they are to check your press release.

As for time, obviously morning emails are best, ideally between 8 and 9. If you can’t manage that for whatever reason, aim for no later than 2 in the afternoon. Anytime after that is null, and will carry over to the next day…

But your email will be buried below the smarter business owners and PR reps who got up early and sent their emails the morning of. Remember, inboxes go chronologically, with older emails being listed below the newer ones.

And as a final note, keep time zones in mind. The times listed above are standard go-to’s for all parts of the world in their time zones. That means if it’s 8 in the morning and you’re sending off your press release to publications, make sure it’s also 8 in the morning where they’re living/working too.

If you’re in New York, but you’re sending off a press release to San Francisco, wait until 11 in the morning to send it, since there’s a 3 hour time difference.

 

In Conclusion

press release

Writing is no easy feat. It’s not for the faint of heart, and it certainly isn’t for people who are afraid of how they are perceived by the public.

Instead, it’s for the copywriters, business owners, and PR reps who understand that to grow a business, they need to step up their game and deliver exactly what journalists want and need.

Business owners in particular should understand this, as they start entire business endeavors based on audience personas, essentially giving people what they want.

And copywriters, they’re used to giving brands the copy that they ask for. It’s how they run their own businesses, assuming they’re being outsourced. A freelancing business is a solo endeavor of hard work and networking.

That being said, writing a press release gets easy over time. As long as you follow the format, and keep practicing, your releases will improve. Soon, it will become second nature, just a small part of a weekly to-do list.

And remember, if you lack the time and energy, or you simply don’t see yourself writing something like this each and every time you have a story of note to share, consider hiring a marketing consultant. They’re well-connected professionals, which means they can teach you the ropes, and connect you to some talented copywriters.

So, which part of the press release format do you find the most challenging, and why?

Don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments section below. I love hearing from you all!

The Ultimate Guide To Building A Thriving Online Community

The Ultimate Guide to Building A Thriving Online Community.JPG

Whether you’re selling clothing, home decor items, or designing and publishing your own video games, most entrepreneurs would agree that a thriving online community is an absolute must. It’s what leads to higher engagement with your social media posts, more insightful feedback on your blog posts, and yes, more leads and sales.

Plus, it proves to others that you have a reputable brand. We’ve all see that one account promoting products, coming off as self-centered. There’s no genuine care involved, they don’t actively spark up conversations with their target audience. They just expect to be paid for their time.

Don’t be that brand.

To avoid being that trainwreck, you should remember that it’s all about fostering your community. You should be caring about your customers, and it should be reflected in everything from conversations, to spontaneous action. Seek to be a friend who cares about interests, needs, and behaviors. A friend who helps solve problems.

And trust me when I write, if you do these things, your business will grow at a steady pace. Because people don’t respond well to money-hungry business practices anymore. We all crave more humanity from our interactions. We crave more empathy.

The following is a one-stop shop to building a thriving online community that will root for you in return for some much-needed, problem-solving products.

Let’s take a look.

 

Find Your Niche

Why should someone participate in your community over someone else’s? What do you have to offer that others do not? And furthermore, who are you catering to?

Perhaps it’s all connected.

Here’s what I mean:

Suppose you’re running a community for gardening fanatics, avid gardeners, and landscaping designers. Anyone with a love of plants who either enjoys them as a hobby, or career path. That is your niche, it’s plants.

And you started this community because you sell plants and plant-related products. That means it’s your industry―to run a plant business. You’re in retail, selling these items to people with a fascination for it.

Now, why should someone participate in your community over someone else’s?

Because you know what you’re talking about. You make a living off of it, after all. Therefore, any announcements or topics posted by you are of great value to the community members. You’re not just some plant enthusiast with little knowledge. You’re a professional, maybe even a specialist.

What are you offering that others aren’t?

Well, there’s insider knowledge for anyone looking to break into your industry and niche. There’s also the first-hand knowledge of plants that you only have with years of experience working on different types of gardens, soils, locations and themes.

Perhaps you’re even offering special discounts only obtainable through the community, making them exclusive deals.

In other words, when you’re looking to start a thriving online community around something, you really have to get specific and smart about your niche selection. It has to be something that you’re passionate about, as well as something you have a lot of knowledge on. It can’t just be something you’re mildly interested in.

Or better yet, consider this: if you don’t have a business yet, this community could eventually turn into a brand. If you can’t see yourself running a business related to this niche, then it’s probably not a good idea to begin with.

Now, if you do have a business already, and your community is just an extension of that, then you already have something to go on. You could choose a very specific aspect of your business to build a community.

Suppose you’re a marketing consultant, and you work with an array of clients all over different industries. You come in to assess what it is they’re working with, what their goals are, and then point them in the right direction, essentially fixing anything that’s broken, and implementing smart strategies for their teams to use.

That’s a business, not a community though. No, the community would come in if the marketing consultant decided to start a forum for marketing enthusiasts and professionals. A place where people could ask questions, share tactics, provide insight, get feedback on tools and software, you name it.

Of course that’s not specific enough. A niche would be something that has to do with digital marketing, but is very targeted, such as social media marketing, or better still, Instagram marketing practices.

Building a community around something that you find fascinating, but is very targeted, brings out a lot of people who are curious about the topic. People can bond over this love of Instagram marketing, and share their results after conducting marketing tests.

Now, as a precaution, remember that once you create this community, as hyper targeted as it may be now, it won’t always stay that way. At least not exactly. Things branch out, conversations evolve into relevant, yet entirely different discussions, and that’s okay.

We’ll touch on this point in another section, but for now suffice it to say that you should trust your members. Whatever conversations evolve from the seed you plant should be welcome as long as they don’t break any guidelines. In the end, your niche is still your niche, and any subtopics that pop up can still be very relevant.

 

Start Small With Plans to Scale

online community

Before you really kickstarted your business, before you had an office, or even a fancy desk, your setup most likely resembled the image above. It was a tiny excuse for a table. Although stylish, it was pretty much a chair and just enough surface area for a small book, drink, and your trusty laptop.

Well, that setup changed over time. It got better as your business grew. And it only grew because you put in the time and effort to make it happen. What started off as small, scaled into something you worked very hard for.

Think of your community in the same way.

You could start your community as a very small email list, or even a forum thread. It could be friendly dinners for people who bond over… anything. Pick something you could then turn into a business at some point in the future, if you haven’t already.

The point is that you can grow this over time. You can learn more about its value, why it works, what could make it better, etc. Essentially, you could iterate it until it’s pretty much as polished as humanly possible. And from there, it could turn into a business.

If you already have a business, this small start could just be a discussion board for people to bond over the love of X, Y, or Z, all related to your brand, of course. And it could start of being this very small, personal, helpful thing. No monetary value, just a place to connect with likeminded people. Over time, you could improve on it, work out any issues, and then reach a point where you could really champion it as an integral part of your business.

If all goes well, you could have more than a community of loyal buyers, you could have some pretty close friends. Your network could expand that much more. And imagine the events thereafter: full of people who genuinely believe not just in a brand, but in you.

 

Set Some Clear Guidelines

Of course, as with anything in life, there are some expectations to be had when starting anything relating to other people. You simply can’t dive into something expecting people to always behave. Unfortunately, online platforms have taught us that toxicity is something to beware. It creeps into every post in the form of a comment, and it certain creeps into entire communities with their negative posts.

That’s why even though you’re starting off small, you still need to set some clear guidelines. It prevents those one-off, or even recurring, trolls from ruining everyone’s time. Letting them run rampant actually leads to a breeding ground of negativity, and in turn, makes it difficult for genuine fans to enjoy themselves. If anything, it makes them want to excuse themselves from your community altogether.

Set some standard rules, such as no spamming, only sharing relevant content, and being at least logically respectful of other members. It’s okay to disagree with people, and even argue to make points heard, but it’s not acceptable to harass, stalk, or otherwise bring about personal business into the mix.

To touch on that further, it’s okay for conversations to get heated. It shows passion, and it promises a form of entertainment. It could even educate readers, as well as the people involved in the argument itself. What isn’t okay is when a line gets crossed. The guidelines are there for this reason, to ensure that any form of abuse is outright frowned upon. What that line is, is entirely up to you.

However, it’s important to stay realistic about expectations. Really take your time to determine what the guidelines should cover, and what they shouldn’t. Ideally, you want to facilitate a welcoming environment where freedom of speech is accepted, but you also want to ensure people feel safe enough to keep coming back.

If you feel like you need the extra help, or as if it’s just too awkward to actually follow through with kicking people out, feel free to outsource some help. Online moderators are a great solution. If you’re unsure of where to find them, or who has a good reputation, talk to a marketing consultant you trust. They’re typically well-connected and can point you in the right direction.

 

Make A Habit of It

The most successful things in life are the most addicting. Video games that reach the top of the charts are the most played, because they’re so hard to put down. It’s why developers market their games in a way that plays up those addictive elements.

And your community should be the same way. It should be there, in people’s inboxes, every single morning. Make it easy for them to click into it and read, or comment. Become part of their routine, and you’ll quickly become a habit.

Use things like email, notifications and assignments to your advantage. If you can regularly, as in on a daily basis, make yourself a part of these people’s lives, don’t hesitate to do so.

 

Make It Exclusive

online community

People like to join things that are popular. Just think of those restaurants with the longest lines. It seems like it would be a deterrent, not worth the 2 hour wait time, but wouldn’t you know it, it has the opposite effect.

When something is deemed popular, we associate it with being something of value. It’s delicious, it’s good value for the money, it’s top notch quality, pick your positive description.

And likewise, when we think of things that are unpopular, we think of them as being… well, not very good, right?

Just think of the super tiny friend group you knew back in high school. It must have been terrible, seeing them hang out, knowing that they were never quite going to fit in because the die had been cast, and they were deemed “unworthy”. No one wanted to belong to the friend group composed of all of three people.

But there’s one way around this: by making it exclusive. Just think of those fancy golf clubs or meetups. They have the best of h'orderves and cocktails, and hang out in nice rooms, and yet, there’s only 20 people in there!

Wait a second, now we’re thinking. Imagine that, a small, exclusive club with everything you’d ever want in a fancy club. They can afford to offer these luxuries because they kept their numbers small. And the quality of their meetings, the educational factor of their conversations, is high because it’s not a massive room packed with hundreds of people fighting for attention.

Suddenly, being part of a small club is a luxury, it’s a commodity. It’s something to brag about, and surely, something that will capture the attention of many.

What starts off small and exclusive often grows into something fantastical.

And for the record, no, you don’t need to have a fancy setup for people to want to join your exclusive community. Remember, this is all about online communities anyway. Just make sure you have your website, your forum, or whatever it is you’re using as a base, designed by someone who knows what they’re doing. You want it to look sleek and appealing to many people. You want to be small, yet cool enough to entice others.

 

Aim to Help

online community

The best communities are helpful ones. They’re the ones that really serve each other more than anything, thus building strong, unexpected connections.

For instance, imagine someone going onto a sales forum. If you’re unaware of what these are, picture entire communities built on the sole act of discussing the latest deals, discounts, and bargains available on the market. Deals on everything from basic kitchenware, to car products.

Well, these boards are great for finding like minded people who enjoy getting a good deal, obviously. These people will swap tips, offer deal insights, and will also vote on the posts by each person. If there’s a deal that no one knows about just yet, a community member can post about it, and the whole community will vote it up or down as they see fit.

And every now and then, if two people have been members for a very long time, they may offer each other discounts or even some digital items, such as video game codes, over private message. They could even sell things directly to each other at a fraction of the regular price, assuming they’ve formed a friendship.

These aren’t things we actively associate with online communities, but they happen everywhere, in many corners of the internet. This is just one example. And it showcases the benefits of building a thriving online community.

For a business building a community, you can expect your customers, your community members, to share insights on products and discounts as well.

Perhaps you sell vinyl records and your community is built on the premise of talking about music, your store sales, and little crate gems.

One person could post about finding a certain record they never thought they’d find, and wanted to share how excited they were over it. Another person could respond with a similar story, and then a third could make the argument that your store has a very wide selection of music, perhaps the biggest selection around town, and that it makes it easy for everyone to come in and find something unexpected.

This looks good on you. And it gives people something to mull over in their minds, and on the forums. A little healthy discussion goes a long way, and could turn into an insightful resource for you.

After all, you don’t have everything. There’s bound to be a few people who make the argument that you don’t have x, y, or z available in store.

But now you know what you should be ordering for the store. Now you know what people are asking for by name.

And of course, these types of discussions are always full of helpful music recommendations. Once someone talks about a particular musical artist, someone else chimes in with a “If you like X, you’ll love Y.”

Essentially, they’ll be helping each other find things to search for in your store. And they’ll be helping you make smart choices for your store’s inventory.

By creating an environment where people can help each other, you’re creating an open, thought-provoking environment. People are free to share, suggest, and ask as needed. That equates to an environment where your community members can learn and share, and then repay that with some helpful knowledge dropping of their own.

And if you’re concerned that this will lead to bashing, know this: there’s always some level of disagreements and ill will in online communities. It’s inevitable to be spotless. But if anything is particularly out of line, that’s what the guidelines are for. Enforce the rules, and you’ll have a carefully moderated community.

 
 

The Art of Interaction

The best example for this is actually a parent, so bare with me and think back to your childhood. Whether it was biological parent, adoptive parent, or other parental guardian, you likely had someone to watch over you when you were young. This person gave you the tools necessary to learn on your own, to figure out who you were/are, and to essentially live on a day to day basis.

But this person also had to practice the art of interaction. This person had to know when to step in and course correct you, and also when to step out and let you make your own mistakes. That’s a tough call to make, and certainly one that they messed up many times on. But overall, this person tried very hard to make the right choice in the moment, with your best intentions at heart.

Well, this is the lesson that you now have to master with your online community. You have to know when to pop up, and you have to know when to leave things be.

It involves being able to trust both your members and your guidelines, knowing full well that there are things in place to handle messy situations.

But how do you know when to chime in and step out?

 

Chiming In

First of all, remember that if it weren’t for you, this community wouldn’t exist. There would be no community to share things to, learn things from, or just to connect with like minded people on.

As the point of origin that you are, you’re the one in charge of connecting members, getting the conversation going, and then letting go so that people can chime in freely.

Here are some of the instances where chiming in is your duty:

  • Starting actual discussion topics.

  • Popping in to ask a further question on a thread that’s not as active as you’d like it to be.

  • Pointing out how a discussion was posted in the wrong section of the forum, and then moving it to its proper spot.

  • Reminding people to stay relevant, or simply removing an unrelated comment altogether.

  • Sharing announcements.

  • Answering questions that you have very helpful answers to.

  • Clearing up any misunderstandings either with you, your business, or between community members.

  • Handling it when someone is blatantly going against the community rules.

 

Stepping Out

This is the hard part. Chiming in is easy for any community creator, as it’s your pride and glory. You want to hang around and moderate, or add your two cents in on discussions, because you created the community in the first place.

It makes sense.

But learning when to show yourself out is the parental equivalent of knowing you can go on vacation, and the house won’t be set on fire while you’re gone. Trusting that your guidance and regulations, and outright good will, is enough to influence the community into staying on track.

And this is the difficult, yet valuable lesson every community creator needs to learn sooner than later. Otherwise, everything will feel like it’s being watched over, and your members will feel heavily moderated, or even scrutinized.

That’s not a way to run things.

So, when is it critical to step out?

  • If your community has boards or channels, which break off into subtopics, let them be.

  • If your members are direct messaging each other in an effort to build a stronger friendship, let them be.

  • Step out when the topic is relevant and ongoing, with members sharing insightful information and tips. Your input isn’t needed, if anything, it would disrupt the flow.

  • There’s an argument underway, but it’s nothing that these people can’t handle for themselves. No guidelines are being broken, it’s just 2+ people discussing something they do not see eye to eye on.

 

Let People Know

online community

Finally, remember that people only respond to things they know about. If people aren’t aware of your community, they don’t have a chance to check it out, let alone become a part of it themselves.

Or rather, it’s the classic case of building something great, but it’s dysfunctional because it’s such a ghost town. Don’t build a ghost town. Use lead magnets and beyond to your advantage. Here are a few tools you should actively be using to promote your community:

  • Newsletter - This is a must, and if you don’t have one for some reason, that’s an issue you should resolve right away. Before you build an online community, preferably. Newsletters allow you to reach out to customers directly, share the latest news, spark conversation. It’s a bonding experience, a way to connect.

  • Landing Pages - You could even use a full-page popup on your website in place of a landing page, if you rather go that route. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s well-designed, and informative enough to make people aware of your community’s value.

  • Social media - That’s right, whether it’s an advertisement campaign, or it’s just a series of posts to your Instagram feed, you have a valuable platform at your fingertips. You can share the latest and greatest, including news about your brand new community platform. Think Facebook Ads, Tweet links, or LinkedIn articles.

  • Google Ads - It’s a valuable tool and you can work with the settings to make it as targeted as you want. It may not be your first choice when it comes to announcing something that is potentially being offered for free, but it is a strategy to at least consider. Make sure to do your research and use all tools available as well, such as Google Analytics, before making any major decisions.

  • The Actual Media - Journalists only care to share stories that do something for their publication, whether it’s getting more views or clicks, or even subscriptions. However, letting relevant publications know what you’re doing could lead to a great piece for them to cover, assuming you can present it in a light that screams “Your audience would greatly benefit from this.”

  • Influencers - They’re trusted by their followers, and they have a voice that’s heard all across the internet. Whether they post images to Instagram, or videos to YouTube, influencers promote products and services they feel would greatly benefit their audience. If your community fits the mark, they’ll likely talk about it in their content.

  • Ambassadors - Kind of like influencers, but not. Ambassadors are actually loyal customers that love your brand so much that they decide to vouch for it online. They create online content regarding your items, and then promote your brand, oftentimes using a unique discount code as an incentive. Doing so allows them to make a cut of the profits, while still providing value to their audience.

  • Tiered-Invites - Tier A is all about loyalty. They are super engaged with your content. Tier B, on the other hand, is moderately engaged. Start small, send invites to Tier A, and then once you’ve worked out some kinks, invite Tier B.

  • Your Personal Network - You’d be surprised to find out how many people you know through family and friends. And oftentimes, that’s enough for a solid start. This is especially true for those heeding the warning, and starting off small. For instance, maybe you’re building a community that could potentially turn into a brand.

  • Targeted Outreach - When you’re targeting people, you’re working on your outreach, trying to get people’s attention, remember the classic line “quality over quantity.” Sure, you need to get your message in front of many, many people. But all in all, it won’t matter if those people aren’t even remotely interested. At that point, it’s not your idea, it’s not your brand. You are not the problem, it’s who you’re targeting. Look for newsletters, publications, and blogs that cater to your actual niche. Make sure you appeal to those who would likely want to hang out in the first place.

 

In Conclusion

Having a solid, engaging, honest community is the lifeblood of businesses, whether you see it that way or not. It’s not about the conversion rates, or the social media follows.

It’s about having a community that drives retention. One that is full of helpful advocates, and therefore, ambassadors. Acting as a massive focus group, a community can add value for your customers, sharing insight, tips and tricks that you never would have even thought of.

Fostering a thriving online community is a brand’s way of staying in touch with what it’s all about at its core: helping others solve problems.

So, if you’ve been wondering what you can do to grow your business, or to get more out of your content marketing, this is your answer.

And as always, remember that if you’re stuck at any point during the process, or you don’t feel comfortable handling things by yourself, you can always hire a marketing consultant. They come in, assess what you have, what you’re working toward, and then optimize everything to ensure you get there in the end.

By the way, if you had to choose one of these steps to call the most challenging, which one would it be and why?

Let me know in the comments section below, I love hearing from you all!