This is not another article on how to write a news release – or “press release,” as it is often called. There are already many excellent “how to” articles on writing effective releases.
Instead, after writing and reviewing thousands of news releases over the years, I would like to share the following recommendations for anyone planning to utilize this humble, yet important, communications tool to gain the attention of the news media.
Is That All There Is?
Many business people equate doing news releases with having a public relations program, but in fact, a news release is to public relations what flour is to a cake. It’s essential, but not the only ingredient. Don’t depend on news releases alone to enhance your company’s profile. To do that, you will need a strategic, long-term plan.
There are times when company representatives – concerned about being held to account for an inaccuracy – will add so many qualifying statements to the wording of a simple announcement release that its impact is watered down or it reads like a legal document. Rule of thumb: If you are uncomfortable making your announcement without adding explanations to every direct statement, you aren’t ready to send a news release.
“Get Me Rewrite!”
Journalists get hundreds of news releases every day, so unless you are working for the White House or some other big outfit where millions of people want to know what you’re up to, your news release had better be written in a way to attract attention or it’s going in the recycle bin. Don’t rely on an editor to wade through it to decipher what you’re trying to say, then clean it up; they don’t have time for that. Make it clear, concise – and interesting.
News Means News
There are companies that send news releases at the drop of a hat – Joe won an award, Mary’s title changed, the company was named one of 50 top widget makers by Widget Makers of America, and so on. An endless stream of this type of “exciting news” lands on the desks of reporters and editors until, at some point, the company’s news releases are ignored altogether. Why? Because the writers don’t know what “news” is, and they end up getting that reputation with journalists. This is not a good policy, and it usually stems from a lack of perspective. If you want to know what news people consider news, read the news, watch the news, and listen to the news.
Know Where to Send It
Deciding on where to send your news release is important too. Pay attention to the type of news that is covered in different news outlets. Is there a new executive at your company? Are you announcing a new product or service? These two news items may go to completely different editors or news outlets, depending on who you are and what you’re selling. Do your homework up front, and you’ll be much more effective at getting your message out.
Keep in Touch
Putting together a list of news media contacts is just the beginning. You will have to update it periodically to make sure you still have the right editorial contacts. I’ve seen some pretty dusty media lists over the years, and that’s one of the main reasons events or announcements don’t get covered. Keep in mind that people come and go at news organizations. They may leave for other opportunities, or just leave a particular “beat.” Don’t count on them to forward your information. Be proactive in knowing the right person to contact with your news.