A Press Release isn’t a Selfie
There are now so many outlets greedy for press information that it should be easier than ever to generate publicity with press releases.
The digital revolution has undoubtedly transformed the PR landscape, with a higher volume of PR press material now produced for on-line rather that Print publications. Media-savvy people and companies have cottoned on to this fact and are churning out a steady stream of material to satisfy the demand.
If your Press Releases are not among those that get picked up regularly, if they seem to get ignored more often than they get published, the temptation might be to try to jazz them up, to make them more on trend; to turn them into the written equivalent of a Selfie, in other words.
Ignore this temptation. Although the nature of the medium has changed, it doesn’t automatically follow that the old rules of Press Release writing have suddenly become obsolete: What you need to do instead, is objectively review the nature and style of the stories that you are sending out and take a big stick to anything that doesn’t satisfy the fundamentals of good news reporting.
As I make clear in my best-selling book, The Upside Down Guide to Writing for the Press, the established rules for press release writing are just as relevant in the digital age. In some ways, because of the immediacy needed to make an impact on-line, they are more relevant than ever. The closer you can stick to them, the more likely you are to create stories that are ideal for on-line as well as print publications.
Before you distribute your next release:
- Use the Inverted Pyramid concept to check that your story gets across the key points as high up in your introduction as possible; ideally in the first couple of paragraphs. If it doesn’t, make the time for a rewrite before distributing the release.
- Go through the “6 Ws” to ensure that you have covered all of the salient facts and figures. (To refresh your memory, these are Who, Why, Where, When, What and hoW questions you need to answer to make your release as informative as possible.)
- Check that you have included interesting quotes from anybody mentioned in the story. If these are made by members of your senior management team, try to steer them clear of jargon. Unfortunately, many senior managers and virtually all Chief Executives have a fondness for Management Speak; believing, quite wrongly, that it lends their words an aura of expertise or authority. In this, they are totally mistaken, since it means their message can only be understood by other people familiar with the same kind of business jargon. Stick to simple, plain language that makes the story accessible to as many people as possible.
- For the same reason, avoid complex abbreviations and acronyms. If a reader has to spend precious time trying to unscramble an acronym, he or she will soon give up the ghost and move onto something that is easier to read and understand.
- If you are distributing the release to multiple outlets, make sure that the story is totally relevant to each of them. If necessary, rewrite the introductory paragraph to slant the story specifically to each sector. If in doubt, don’t send the release. Very few things annoy editors as much as irrelevant or trivial news stories.
- Finally, make absolutely certain that what you are sending out looks, sounds and reads like a news story. Remember, the story must be written from a third party perspective. Delete any references to “we” or “us” in the body of the text.
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