I just put the finishing touches on a news release, and started thinking about the first releases I wrote so many years ago.
I remember struggling for hours on a draft, only to have my supervisor rip it apart. It was painful, but good because I learned to write even complex news releases clearly and concisely.
I’ll share some of what I’ve learned with you.
Focus on your readers.
The first, and most important item, is that you need to focus on your readers, not you. That means it must stress the benefits of your product or service. There is that old saying that your readers will be tuned into the “WIIFM” radio station.That stands for “What’s In It For Me?” You need to answer that question if you want their attention.
The second most basic guideline is that you need to have news. This may seem obvious, but it means that the topic must be:
- And have human interest.
The more of these characteristics, the better. Without these characteristics, nothing else matters. People need a reason to read your announcement, and reporters need a reason to cover it.
This does not mean your announcement needs to be earth-shattering. Few are. Nor does it mean that you can’t “create” news. That definitely is possible. It just means that your release can’t be total fluff. It cannot directly sell your product, service or cause. The release is designed to generate interest, not to make the final sale. That comes later.
Focus on one idea.
The best releases explain one or possibly two related points; they do not try to do too much. Ask yourself what your goal is and write to achieve that goal.
For example, if you are announcing a new accounting service, you would probably cover:
- Its name
- Types of services
- USP or unique selling proposition (i.e., what makes you different)
- Target clients
- Logistics (e.g., location, contact information).
You would not, in the release, discuss changes in the tax code or describe new accounting software.
To determine your basic idea, you might ask yourself questions such as:
- What is the announcement?
- Who is the audience?
- Why should the audience care?
- What do you want people to know?
- What do you want people to do?
- What does the product or service do?
- What are its main features and benefits?
- What are its strengths and weaknesses?
- How is it different?
- When is it available?
- How much does it cost?
Stay focused. Keep the release simple.
I’ll cover more tips in my next post.
In the meantime, you can see examples of news releases on my website at https://communicationsplus.net/WritingExamples.html.
Susan Monroe says
If I were an instructor of public relations writing, I would point students to this great post. Or even go to the length of copying it and handing it out in class (Old fashioned, I know, in this digital age.)
It’s to the point and genuinely helpful. Wish I’d had it during my PR days when clients wanted “fluff” releases.
Anne Janzer says
What, you mean it can’t just be full of our favorite search keywords?
Seriously, good post, Kay. The basics often get lost in the dust of the ‘group edit’ activity that can happen around press releases.