A PRO-ACTIVE TOOL YOU'RE PROBABLY NOT USING ENOUGH
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: ____________", followed by 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.