When your company has news, you write a boring news release. When you write a boring news release, reporters delete the news release. When reporters delete the news release, people don’t benefit from the news. When people don’t benefit from the news, they can’t buy your products. When people can’t buy your products, revenue goes down the toilet. When revenue goes down the toilet, you lose your cushy corporate job. When you lose your cushy corporate job, you have to sleep on a dog bed in your kid sister’s basement. Don’t sleep on a dog bed in your kid sister’s basement.
Read on for some tips on how to write great news releases and stay out of basements.
Cutting through the clutter
There are two reasons communicators write and distribute releases. First, to keep the media and your industry informed of your company’s most recent efforts. Second, to sufficiently pique the interest of reporters so they will write about your company. When they write about your company, they increase your visibility which could lead to a future sale.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of competition for media attention. There are some 3,000 news releases distributed each day through Business Wire, Marketwire, PrimeNewswire, PR Newswire and PR Web. So how do you differentiate your news release from the other 2,999 distributed the same day?
The secret of writing great news releases is to write great stories. It’s as simple – and complex – as that.
Reporters are storytellers. So help them tell the story by making your news release compelling.
Before you write the first word of a news release, put yourself into the role of a reporter and ask the following questions:
If there are any negative answers to the above questions, you might want to rethink the release.
The audience is the thing
To whom are you writing? If you’re writing for the general public, make sure you describe the sun, not heliocentric theory. In other words, don’t get caught up in technical/scientific jargon (e.g. heliocentric theory) unless you’re writing for a technical/scientific audience.
If you are writing for a general audience – everyday people – try humanizing your leads. The following is an example of a news release which humanizes a sociological study about homelessness in America:
Mary Smith and her children have become the new face of homelessness in America. After being abandoned by an abusive husband and losing her job in a company downsizing, Mary found herself homeless with three young children for whom to provide.
“I had lost my husband, my job and my home and I had three small kids to feed. I didn’t know where to turn,” said Mary. “I thought I had done everything the right way. But I was still homeless.”
Doesn’t that make you want to read on to find out how Mary and her kids are doing? Did Mary get a new job? Was she able to afford a place to live? Why are families the new face of homelessness?
Now, take a minute and write a headline that will grab the attention of a reporter. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
Here’s what I came up with: Families are the New Face of Homelessness in America.
An attention-grabbing headline and real-life examples will get the media to read the rest of the release about the study and its findings.
Enhancing news releases
We are deep in The Visual Age. Painting pictures with your words is now rivaled in importance by visual images accompanying your news release. All media – TV, radio, print, online – want images that help tell the story. Given their increased responsibilities brought about by the explosion of social media and an across-the-board reduction in staff, reporters are looking for news served on a silver platter. One great way to do so is through a Digital News Release that provides all media with a story in the format they each desire: a tracked video package and b-roll for TV; audio tracks for radio; a news release and supporting graphics and collateral for print; all of the above and links to other information for online outlets. And the video can be repurposed on your corporate website or sent to stakeholders or potential customers.
Today, it takes a great story to grab a reporter’s attention. Here’s hoping some of my tips will help you do just that.
Reg Rowe is founder of GrayHairPR, an international virtual PR firm based in Dallas, TX. He can be reached at rrowe@GrayHairPR.com.
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