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7 Tips that will Immediately Improve Your News Releases

February 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Are your press releases getting you the results you want?

If you’re constantly in search of more coverage for your clients, perhaps you should consider working on writing your press releases; they’re vital.

The news release, (or press release, as it is often called) is a tightly-crafted written statement distributed to targeted channels to deliver news information about an organization or event. Usually sent to members of the media, releases get the “press” ball rolling, and lead to follow-up between journalists and PR people that often lead to news stories and interviews.

If your releases are worded well and formatted according to AP style-standards, it is not uncommon for them to be published verbatim by editors of news publications. Most organizations also post their news releases on their company websites, and increasingly, via social media.

As you can see, press releases are an extremely important piece of the PR professional’s tool set. Today, I just wanted to offer a few tips that will enhance your writing for news releases.

 

Here are 7 tips to improve your news releases:

1) Before you even start writing, ask yourself: “Now why do we care again?” Anyone can write a press release. To write an effective press release, you need to understand basic newsworthiness. If it’s not crystal clear to a journalist why the reader should care after skimming a few lines, you can pretty much say goodbye to your chances of getting a story in the paper. Before pen goes to paper (or fingertips go to keys), give serious consideration to conveying your story’s newsworthiness.

2) Address the 5 Ws in the first sentence. Most people, especially journalists, don’t have the time these days to read novels. You need to explain the “who, what, where, when and why” in the very first paragraph, if you want your press release to be taken seriously. Get right to the point.

3) The “how” can wait until the next paragraph. While it’s important to tell us the five Ws upfront, equally important is holding off on the “how” until slightly later in the release. There is such a thing as information overload. Cramming the “who, what, where, when, why and how” will cause just that. Careful placement of separate thoughts and details will increase readability drastically, and journalists will thank you for making their job (read: sifting through a thousand poorly-worded press releases daily) easier.

4) Thou shalt provide hyperlinks. In this 21st century society, seeing is believing. You can say whatever you want, but on the Internet, oftentimes people won’t believe you unless they can follow a link to verify the information for themselves. Call it skepticism if you want, but it’s true, especially for members of the press. In a job environment where they are constantly bombarded with both news and “news” information, journalists can become jaded quickly, and cynical of all but the most obvious facts. How to avoid this affecting whether your story gets press? Easy: provide your readers with a link to back up your facts, and set your press release apart from the pack (According to experts, only 13% of PR professionals use links in releases).

Hyperlinks can add credibility to your press releases and further optimize SEO rankings. Experts suggest adding one link per 100 words of copy.

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5) Longer does not equal better. If you think that a longer copy increases your chances of getting press coverage, think again. You may think that those four extra paragraphs adds more “meat and potatoes” to your press release, but in actuality it’s just more lines for a tired journalist to skip. In 2010, a ten-paragraph press release is really just a paragraph or two that people will read, and the rest will be either skimmed or skipped, depending on your luck that day. Plainly put: when it comes to press releases, concision is your best friend. Just give us the necessary details.

6) Formatting matters. Just because you’re got all the key info into your press release doesn’t mean it’s necessarily ready to go out yet. Before you send that bad boy out, make sure your release follows standard formatting conventions. If you don’t, journalists are is likely to ignore your precious work. Spacing, margins, and all other formatting conventions do matter, so use them wisely.

7) Read your copy aloud. No really, do it. You might think you’re invincible when it comes to typos, but I promise that one good read-through aloud of your next press release will convince you otherwise. There’s only so much that Microsoft Word will catch. Eventually a “to,” where you actually meant to type “too,” for example, will slip through the cracks. If you want to avoid such a careless mistake, make sure to leave time before your deadline to read through your copy out loud.

So these are my seven tips for improving your press releases in 2011. If you’re able to work some of these tips into your writing, your writing will have a more polished, professional feel, and you’ll have a better chance of getting coverage for your stories.

And now it’s your turn…


What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Share a tip for writing better press releases below.

New Media: You’re Never Done Learning It.

August 18, 2010 3 comments

So you’ve got a Facebook account, and you know how to use Digg. Perhaps you’ve even run a successful social media campaign or two. But do you know which social network will be on top a year from now? Tell me, which iPhone app will be the quintessential tool for public relations professionals in six months?

Relax, this isn’t a test of your psychic abilities; instead, I ask these questions for a different reason. As much as you might think you “get” new media, realize there’s always more to learn.


Change is inevitable. Are you ready for it?

Twenty years ago, the field of PR largely consisted of traditional media relations — newspaper articles, press conferences, etc. But as we ventured into the 21st-century with the birth of the Internet, and Web 2.0, PR has found itself an increasingly digitally-driven industry that is constantly changing to fit the marketplace.

As Web 2.0 has developed, so has PR 2.0. With the advent of the 21st-century’s technological innovations, professionals now have access to many more methods of communication: blogs, social media platforms, mobile technology and more, each of which has distinct advantages over traditional methods, but presents challenges as well.

The field of PR constantly changing. You must be able to adapt.

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Your clients expect you to.

If the last five years have been any indication, nearly every facet of society is adjusting to new media technology. As of just a few days ago, for instance, you can now buy Delta airline tickets directly through their Facebook fan page. The majority of clients out there already expects that teams handling their account are new media-savvy, and this trend will continue. If you expect to have a job in five years, you’d better be up on the latest technology. Clients expect it, and studies project that they will continue to do so. In a recent study by the Pew Internet and the American Life Project, 67 percent of respondents agreed that by the year 2020, Generation Y-ers will still largely use social media as “ambient broadcasters.”

Why?

A big reason is that the immediacy of information made possible by the Internet and social media, in particular, has made it all simply too convenient for Generation Y.

For PR pros, this means the following: don’t expect a social media crash. My prediction is that social media will be around for a good while, and those who work in public relations would be smart to learn all that they can.


It pays to keep up-to-date… literally.

Not knowing how to use new media will lose you clients, simply put. If you don’t know at least a little about social media, clients will move on to someone who does.

Those who spend the time learning new media technology and become proficient are well-rewarded in today’s PR world. They’ve learned the culture and etiquette of various social sites. They know what’s happening across the industry. The recent marketing and ad trends toward mobile and location-based technology, for example. In terms of social media usage, they know what works, and what doesn’t. They know how to find out what’s being said about their client’s company, and more importantly, how to fix the less-than-ideal things. They have experience using social media to manage crisises, and can fully explain their reasoning and method to clients. In short, they “get” it.

But they never stop learning, and neither should you.

If you want a leg up on your competition, you need to realize that new media changes every day and you need to keep up.


You’re not done learning yet.

To keep up with new media technology in today’s fast-paced world, make a personal commitment to constantly be in a state of learning.

Many experts suggest regular participation in ongoing training. Kaila Strong (of TheSocialRobot.com) suggests that social media “webinars,” short virtual workshop-style sessions, are the way to go. These are a great idea, particularly if you can find free ones.

In my opinion, however, the best way to stay on top of new media is to literally keep yourself connected, being an ‘early adopter’ when new platforms are made accessible, and use them yourself as the site culture develops. In addition, read all you can, and take part in the blogosphere (if you’re new to the blogging world, and you’d like to get started, check out this excellent list).

Most importantly, however, take it all one day at a time, and never say that you’re a new media “expert“.

. . . Even if you think are one.


What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Join the discussion and add your thoughts.

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