As a former journalist turned public relations consultant, I know how journalist are always under pressure to meet their deadlines and their inboxes are daily flooded with press releases and media pitches ranging from a CSI campaign to an announcement of a new product or an appointment of new CEO that mostly are not newsworthy or relevant for the media audience.
Distributing a press release to a generic media contact list without selecting the relevant industry media and specialised journalist who writes on the subject matter, you might miss the opportunity to reach your targeted audience.
I will address why most of these press releases never get a space in the print or even online platforms but end up in the trash. In this article I’m unpacking four points to consider while writing a press release:
Newsworthy: Is this interesting or in the public interest?
When your client comes to you and tells you they want a press release, ask them what is their story. As a PR professional you have to make a determination whether their story is newsworthy or not. If it is not newsworthy is your duty to advise them accordingly or sit down with them and brainstorm new story ideas or ideas you think will result in great media traction.
Audience: Who are you communicating with?
When you have determined the newsworthiness of the story, now you have to determine your audience. This can be mainstream, niche consumers, traders, suppliers, or stakeholders. The marketing team will be in the best position to advise in this regard.
Medium: What channel does your target market prefer?
Once you know and understand your audience, you know what publications or medium you’re going to distribute your press release to. You must never use the general media contact list to distribute your press release because it is going to be a mammoth task or impossible to follow up with everyone and if it is not relevant to their audience obviously, they are not going to publish it.
Writing: Are you answering all questions your audience might have?
Now you have done all your research work and we come to the last point, the writing part. I know all publications have different writing styles but you must write your press release in such a way that it will be easily adaptable to any of the publications you want to distribute to.
The technique of writing
If you cannot tell your story in your headline, make sure that you tell your story in the intro.
- Use your intro to introduce your story to your audience
- Don’t use fluffy language Journalists don’t have the whole day to read your press release
- Be precise and to the point. If you can’t answer all 5Ws and H in your intro make sure that in your second sentence you answer all the questions. No journalist would read your press release from heading to the last sentence if they’re not using it
- That’s why it is important to have all the important information about your story at the top and leave out all the marketing talk and messaging at the bottom
- Stay away from adjectives and maintain a sense of objectivity throughout
- The person you quote in the press release must be the most senior expert in the organisation if not prominent. Your quotes should express sentiment and fresh insights
- Try to integrate all your key and secondary messages in your quotes
So, what makes a newsworthy press release? News has to be new, fresh, and breaking. News has to be prominent, proximate, informative or educational, stimulative, and relevant. News must have the ‘Wow Effect’. If it gives one ‘So What’ reaction then it doesn’t tick any of these and it is not newsworthy.
Donald Makhafola is a former B2B journalist/editor and he’s currently working as PR consultant at a Johannesburg-based agency and he writes in his personal capacity.
- Twitter: @DonaldMakhafola
- LinkedIn: Donald Makhafola
- Cell phone: 073 300 2033
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