Sunday, September 16, 2012

Why Your News Release Should Not Be Written Like One

As I sit here writing yet another news release, it occurred to me I have never really talked on this blog about why I write them the way I do.

The best outcome of a news release is when someone decides to do a story on a topic. But in today’s online world, chances are small anyone is going to pick-up the phone and interview whoever is quoted and do their own story. You can call them back - particularly if you know them - and maybe get a story out of it. But someone write a story on their own volition based upon most of the awful news releases that are written today - I don't think so.

But there’s a much greater chance that a blogger or reporter will use what the news release says – often close to verbatim – and put their name or no name on it and run it as is, as an article. Why?

Picture a 22 year-old junior reporter, straight out of college, with 10 stories to write that day, or who has a job as an aggregator who finds news by looking at other resources. If he or she gets a news release that is already written as an article, it can be repurposed as a story. Or a blogger can pick up your release and run it, if it's relevant to what he or she writes about.

News releases that are written as news releases can stay up a few hours or just a couple of days, if they go through wire service or other distribution. They are usually not highlighted. No matter where they are picked up, they are categorized as news releases and go to a special place on media web sites that is kind of a dead zone unless I’m looking for a story at that particular moment, that is exactly what you’re writing about, or I find it before it comes down and it's a source on a story I'm working on.

And what's one of the major purposes of a news release. To generate as much traffic as possible to a company's web site and create a bigger online presence than before.

Just write the darn story for them

So your best bet is to write the story for the blogger or reporter – keep it under 500 or at most 600 words. Now do reporters actually do this - depends on who they write for, what the rules are and how much time they have. But all except the ones at top notch media sometimes will and I have the track record to prove it.

Tie your news release to search terms that are popular at that moment – a holiday, current news item, hot topic, industry terms or best yet a celebrity, or big brand name, and media will find it quickly. Put that popular term in the headline if you can. That’s much better than something which says so and so was hired by so and so to do so and so. Sleeping.

So the releases that I’m writing tells the story of your news in a way that I know a reporter or even an algorithim will respond too. The problem with many PR people is they don't want to write a news release that moves away from the traditional format they were taught before Instagram. (If you don't know what that is you are definitely out of touch or don't have kids). 

I mean news releases filled with long, clunky thoughts, industry jargon, several lengthy quotes by all the people who matter, and missing anything that might possibly be perceived as negative or upset someone somewhere along the line.

Hello news release trash bin. 

Writers are not going to take the time to put up something that they have to edit and with quotes they can’t use.They want to go home before midnight like the rest of us.

The style of quote that is being used in many news releases is way too long, and has multiple points in it. The point of a quote is to amplify the thought that comes before it. Like a journalist would use one. That extra step – the editing and changing someone else's words requires permission. Even the laziest of reporters knows darn well they can't alter someone else's words. So they won't bother with your news release.

Finally headlines have got to attract the attention of a broad audience, even if your audience is fairly narrow. So for instance, a company that gets a new client or puts out a new product that doesn't change the world - what does really - no one other than a very few trade reporters will care. But if you can tie that news to a broader industry trend, or information on how this is going to change the way business is done, or bring new insight, that’s better. 

Is there a way you can make this greener, cheaper, better, smarter, or a major benefit to big players in your industry or world? Go for it. Just watch the use of big adjectives and tell me the story as a reporter would write it.

That's my rant for the day.