Press releases remain an important tool for communicators, which means the stress of managing edits from senior leaders and clients is not going away anytime soon.
Here are some tips from Elizabeth Hillman, SVP, communications for Discovery Education, and Dan Ronan, senior director of communications for the American Bus Association, on managing this sometimes fraught process.
1. Clarify your deadlines and communicate those deadlines to all parties. If a release has a scheduled day to go out, make sure you can get it approved long before then, 24 to 48 hours in advance. If you're responsible for writing the press release, the deadline for publishing it is going to mean a lot more to you than to anyone else involved in the approval process. Do not be shy about insisting on deadlines for feedback from senior leaders. If deadlines are missed, fingers will be pointed at you regardless of the true cause of the delay.
2. Know ahead of time how many people need to approve the press release. Anticipate delays. Not everyone likes to write first drafts of anything, but almost everyone loves to chime in after the fact and second-guess someone else's work. It's possible that more people will insert themselves into the approval process at the last minute.
3. Take responsibility/ownership for your part of the press release writing process. Don't let someone else's delays in editing or providing quotes get in the way of doing your job.
4. Determine in advance how long the release should be. Stick to that word count. A predetermined word count can also come in handy when someone else wants to add empty jargon and hackneyed phrases ("we're thrilled") to the release. Your comeback, for example: "It's a brilliant idea to say 'we're thrilled that Jane Jones has joined our team,' but sadly that puts us over our word count."
5. Get the facts. Get a great first draft with perfect spelling, grammar and strong writing. Be critical. Look for traps—you’ll find them.
6. Before writing a word, ask if the release needs to be cleared by legal. Give legal lots of time. Does the release make claims that could get your company or client sued?
7. Constantly remind yourself that you are part of a process. Don’t let your ego get engaged about ownership. You're not writing the Great American Novel.
Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI