With a hat tip to Grey Group and DirectTV …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 drain. When revenue goes down the drain, 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.
To ensure that you stay out of basements—and enhance what is arguably the most important PR skill—here are a few tips on how to write great news releases and get them read.
CUT 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.
Unfortunately, there is fierce competition for eyeballs. 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:
1. Is this really news?
2. Is it interesting?
3. Will my readers/ listeners/viewers care?
4. Is it timely?
5. Is it unique?
If there are any negative answers to the above questions, you might want to rethink the release.
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 to humanize your leads. The following is an example of a news release that 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. 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 media reps to read the rest of the release about the study and its findings.
PUMP UP THE VOLUME
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 across the board reductions in staff, reporters are looking for news served on a silver platter.
One great way to do so is via a digital news release. It 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 and all of the above and links to other information for online outlets.
Video can be repurposed on your corporate website or sent to stakeholders or potential customers. The new model is publish once, distribute many, but make sure you have a compelling story to tell.
Reg Rowe is founder of GrayHairPR, a virtual PR agency based in Dallas. He can be reached at rrowe@GrayHairPR.com.
This article originally appeared in the March 3, 2014 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.