All PRs can generate press releases. But not all turn into news stories. The skill is understanding what, out of everything you have going on, is news, and learning how to communicate it in a timely way that will interest relevant journalists. If you get it right, your client will be written about and the press coverage will put your client in front of its desired audience; building profile and hopefully encouraging new business calls.
So what is news?
When you pick up a trade magazine, for example, why do you read it? Probably because you want to monitor developments in a specialised industry, be alerted to trends, keep an eye on what clients’ competitors are up to, spot opportunities – generally keep informed about what’s going on.
If information you have will provide value to readers of the publications you want to reach, you have the beginnings of a news story.
How do you tell your story?
Understand first what your story is. What is the most newsworthy angle? That is, what are the people you want to read your story going to be most interested in? What will make them sit up and take notice?
A classic mistake is to think your headline is ‘X company is launching X,’ or ‘X company has appointed X.’
While these are obviously part of the story, and state ‘what’ is happening, leading with headlines like these means your story is not nearly as newsworthy as it could be.
The key question you should always answer is ‘why?’ Therein lies the real story.
‘X company creates 20 jobs by launching manufacturing division,’ or ‘New CEO appointed as X company expands into regions’ – these are powerful headlines and tell the correct story. Journalists often have to do a lot of leg work to find the story. Do the work first yourself by choosing the right angle and this gives you the best chance of being noticed by journalists.
Tips for writing a good press release
When writing your press release, stick to the facts. Avoid any hype or marketing speak – press releases are not sales documents. Plain English is enough to get your points across. Structure your press release beginning with the most important or significant points.
Avoid saying something is unique or the best. The first question in a journalist’s mind will be why? Demonstrate why. Show how people will benefit. Does your clients’ product save time or money? Make people’s lives easier? Understand clearly what the benefits of your news announcement are and you’ll be able to tell your story clearly.
Ultimately, write your press release in the style of how it would appear in your chosen publications.
The easier you make it for a journalist to understand your story, the more likely your efforts will result in press coverage.
Stay away from jargon or industry buzz words – you may understand what you mean, but you will alienate those who don’t. If you use technical terms, explain what they mean using a few words.
A quote is necessary to add colour and personality to your story. A quote should give further insight. Avoid things like “I am delighted…” or “The whole company is excited to see…” Quotes should be written as someone speaks – they should feel natural and add substance. If they don’t, they are unusable and it’s likely they won’t appear in any press coverage.
“The merger will help us take our products to Spain and Germany as our partner has offices in these countries…” or “Our new CEO’s contacts in the retail industry will enable us to start stocking our products in independent fashion stores in the North of England…”
These quotes give valuable information and add substance.
The length of a press release is as long as it takes to tell the story and get across all relevant, useful facts. Don’t go over two A4 pages – if you need more room it’s likely you are not getting your points across clearly.
Always include contact information at the bottom of your press release. Make sure you have a name, direct landline and mobile numbers, email and web address.
How to reach journalists with your news
You may have a few journalist contacts already, and emailing them your press release is the next step. There are likely to be hundreds, sometimes thousands of journalists who cover the sector your news is relevant to, so to reach all of these people you may want to use an online press release wire. You populate an online form with your press release, opt to add a photo or video, choose which sectors your release is relevant to and press submit. Your press release is then delivered to journalists in your chosen sectors.
The day you send your press release out, make sure the named contact is available to speak to journalists, otherwise you risk wasting your efforts.
Be available, be helpful, and your press release will translate into press coverage.