How to Write a Good News Release Does a press release follow a formula, specifically for the headline, the lead paragraph and the quote? It's a great question because press releases are one area where creativity can work against you as easily as it can for you. Be too creative and you'll lose the interest of an editor who is skimming for the "real" news. Be too boring and risk having your release tossed aside. Here are some tips to keep in mind: Use a descriptive headline: Rather than writing "ABC Publishing Releases New Book, Grow Your Own Boss," try something more provocative, yet still clear: "Grow You Own Boss Expected to Bring Cheers, Jeers From Corporate America." Consider a headline/subhead combination: Instead of using just a single headline, consider adding a subhead so you can tell more of the story before the editor even makes it to the lead paragraph. A typical headline might read: Acorn President to Speak at Local Kiwanis Club A better headline/subhead would read: PR Expert to Speak at Kiwanis Meeting Twenty-five-year veteran to share tips on how small business owners can generate publicity that positively impacts the bottom line The original headline focuses on the title of the speaker, which is relevant only if you already know who the President of Acorn is. The second headline/subhead summarizes the entire release and answers the question, "What's in it for me?" Write a lead that "grabs" the reader: Think like a reporter. Write an opener that immediately answers the question, "Why should I care?" Focus on the benefits and why readers want to know this information. Avoid trite phrases such as, "ABC Company today announced a new version of its popular..." A release is an announcement, so you don't need the phrase at all. And new versions of anything usually induce a yawn at the editor's desk. A more interesting approach would be, "Starting in 2003, taxpayers will be able to complete their 1099 forms in one-third the amount of time previously required, thanks to significant changes to the XYZ Software, released today by ABC." Use quotes sparingly: Reporters very rarely use quotes from press releases. They prefer to get an original quote by phone or in a face-to-face interview if they feel the story merits the added perspective of the executive. So, if the quote doesn't significantly contribute to the understanding of the message, drop it. If you choose to use quotes, please make sure they sound like something someone would actually say out loud! The average daily metropolitan newspaper receives about 300 press releases a day, so to get yours noticed takes more than just competent wordsmithing. It takes understanding your audience and knowing what makes news. The most important thing your release should do is make the editor’s job easier. Print and broadcast media are constantly searching for fresh news. If you can give it to them in the way they want to receive it, your clip file will be bulging before you know it. You’ll increase the chances of your release getting the attention you crave if it is: Timely Are you addressing a current topic or hot issue? If it ties into issues already being written about, you’re halfway home. Local Find a local angle for your news. Media outlets want to tie into something in the region: people, educational issues, sports, politics, business, etc. How will your announcement impact folks in a specific region? Relevant Why should someone reading the local paper care about your announcement? Show how it will affect the reader’s life. Unusual The media always look for something out of the ordinary. In Atlanta, the AJC ran a front page story in the Metro section about a funeral home that offered a free casket and funeral services to anyone who put in writing they intended to drink and drive on New Year’s Eve. If they died in the process, the funeral home would provide everything free of charge. It was a great gimmick for getting media coverage. But be careful – think about the image you want to cultivate. Interesting News flash here, readers! Editors rarely care that you have a new product or service. Write about how your product or service is being used to make users' lives more productive, more profitable, less stressful, more enjoyable, etc. Finally, don’t send your release to every news outlet you can identify. It’s a waste of money and time. Target specific outlets that typically cover the kind of news you want to share. Not every news outlet has the same demographics and mission. These tips were provided with permission by NSA member Marilynn Mobley. You can sign up for her free e-zine called PR Tips and Techniques at www.prtipsandtechniques.com.
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