So. The news release. Not usually the first thing you look at doing for a client, is it? Not usually the first thing a client asks you to do either.
The news release – whether you believe it or not – can actually work wonders. Honest. A well-timed, well-positioned release can provide you with a very powerful and pro-active tool. And an effective addition to your copywriting arsenal.
Yes, I know. It's an over-used tool and the vast majority are thrown in the trash. I've certainly had my share tossed. But … used sparingly, and only when you have something really newsworthy to announce, it can produce truly positive and long-term results.
The question now is…
What formula works best for producing a top news release? Is there a formula?
Yes, there is. And it's really quite simple:
How to Write a News Release
1 - Make sure the announcement is newsworthy and of wide interest. First and foremost. If it's not of wide interest, don't even bother. The media won't pick it up and you'll ultimately negate any hope for a positive relationship.
2 - Select/make an appropriate – and updated – media list. Key word here is updated. Lists change constantly and making a mistake in who receives it will probably ensure that your release ends up in the nearest receptacle. And don't think of just one type of news outlet. There are many groups out there that you could, and should, be targeting.
3 - Limit the length of your release to one or two pages. Remember, you want your target outlets to read it. They can call you when or if they need more info.
4 - Use the "inverted pyramid" style. That means putting the most important information in the first paragraph, followed by progressively less important information.
5 - Use only one piece of information per paragraph That can be hard to do. If you're like me, your mind's going a mile a minute and you have a ton of stuff you want to get down on paper. But don't let that take you off course. Stick to a single item per paragraph. And don't deviate.
6 - Use the past tense. (e.g., "The ABC Corporation announced today…")
7 - Answer the "5 W's" and "H": Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Old hat, yes, but it still works. And please don't forget "Who cares?" In other words, make sure what you're writing is relevant.
8 - Title, date and location of announcement are de rigeur – strictly required – in any news release. Don't forget them.
9 - Use short sentences. Don't overwhelm your reader. Make it as easy as possible for them to get your message in as short a time as possible.
10 - Use direct quotes. And make sure you have the approval of the person being quoted.
11 - End with the "-30-" sign or "…" If release continues onto a second page, use "more".
12 - Follow with your contact information: "For further information, please contact name" along with your phone number, email address and any after-hours contact you prefer.
13 - Consider using audio or, preferably, video clips to accompany your release for broadcast or internet outlets. These clips should only include "sound bites" of the news announcement. Do not package a completed "news item".
And that's it. Easy, eh? And once you get accustomed to the format, very quick.
Bottom line? The poor, sometimes maligned news release is one of the easiest and most effective ways to maintain your flow of information.
In an upcoming blog I'll talk about using Sidebars and Kickers in your articles and newsletters. And how you can get the biggest bang out of them. I'll also touch on the Video News Release (VNR).
Stay in touch.
Do you remember learning all about the Four P's? Jerry McCarthy's Rosetta Stone of Marketing Education 101?
Of course you do. Product, Price, Place, and Promotion.
You develop your product, price it to make a profit, place it on the shelf of a willing retailer, and then you promote the heck out of it to an eager and impressionable consumer. Easy-peasy, right?
Well, that was then. This is now. Today the consumer is king and queen. And they have a ton of options, of which you're only one.
What to do then? The old Four P formula obviously isn't working. No longer is the once-reliable retailer an easy sell, and the previously pliant consumer has all but disappeared.
Enter a new formula: Lautenborn's Four C's.
Bob Lautenborn, an expert in marketing communications and corporate advertising, first introduced the concept in Advertising Age two decades ago. How prescient he was.
So, if you haven't already done it, it's time to forget the Four P's. No more product, price, place, and promotion. The Four C's are what will help you build relationships and generate the greatest profits. Here they are:
Consumer Wants and Needs
Forget Product. Learn about Consumer Wants and Needs. You can't sell whatever you make in today's world. You can only sell what someone wants to buy. And that means you have to entice them one by one. To do that, you need to do your research, build your relationships, and listen.
Cost to Satisfy Consumer
Ignore Price. Appreciate instead the Cost to Satisfy Consumer. This is a difficult, complex calculation. But an incredibly necessary one in today's digital market. Consumers today consider numerous things before they buy; dollars are only one part of the cost. Time, tastes, conscience, all these factor in to the choices they make.
Convenience to Buy
Forget Place. Consider instead Convenience to Buy. Why drive to the mall when there's the internet? Amazon, eBay, and thousands of on-line sellers offer just about anything you might want to buy. So what does that mean for you? That means you have to think outside your usual distribution channels and get to know how each subsection of your market prefers to buy. Then permeate it.
Dispense with Promotion. Promotion is passé; gone the way of disco and mullet haircuts. It's manipulative and seller-focused. Communication, on the other hand, is supportive and buyer-focused. Today's consumers are market savvy. They don't tolerate hard-sell; they don't listen. They question, they compare, they click, and – if you've struck a chord with them – they buy. Or they move on to a new site.
The Four P's formula hasn't yet gone the way of the Dodo bird. There are still companies out there plying their trade under the product, price, place and promotion banner. And maybe that works for them.
I've got to go with Lautenborn.
Sure, we've probably been using his Four C's in our current marketing efforts. We know how important communication is, how we need to address consumers' needs, not our desires. We just didn't see it as a formula, a blueprint to follow. But it is.
The Four C's is a blueprint for success