Entire industries have been brought to their knees by the digital economy. We don't know, for instance, if the music industry or the news media will ever recover. But where one industry suffers, another finds opportunities. For PR professionals, the beating that the news media has taken has brought new life to the news release—good, useful content is needed to fill the insatiable craving for content on social channels.
Indeed, the basics of writing great news releases are more important than ever. Outside of your headline, most of your focus should be on crafting a strong lead paragraph—that's where your news release lives or dies. These 10 tips from Don Bates, an instructor in writing at NYU and the founding director of the master’s degree program in Strategic Public Relations at the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, will help you increase the odds of your news release getting picked up and shared by overtaxed journalists and bloggers.
- Focus on the five W’s: who, what, when, where and why.
- Before writing, decide which aspects of story are most important. Emphasize these aspects.
- Explain the less important aspects in the second or third sentence.
- Be as specific as possible.
- If your lead is too broad, it won’t inform.
- Minimize hyperbole, the bane of PR writing.
- Be brief. Readers want to know why your story matters to them and won’t wait long for answer. Leads are typically one sentence, often two, and 25-30 words [rarely more than 40].
- Use active sentences. Strong verbs make leads lively and interesting. Passive constructions sound dull and leave out important information, such as the person who caused the action.
- Consider the audience’s knowledge. In today’s media culture, most readers don’t need a lot of background. Context is key.
- Be credible. A lead paragraph is an implicit promise to readers. Deliver what you promise.
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