Writing News Releases That Catch Fire
News releases are a must for any company interested in getting its news out to the media, however there is definitely an art to cutting through the noise in a 24-hour, worldwide news cycle.
The New Newsroom
Something you should consider before you ever put fingers to keyboard to draft a news release is how newsrooms have changed, and how influential bloggers have moved the target for news. More than ever, newsrooms employ less-seasoned news teams who must weed through hundreds of stories a day. In some cases, how your release fares is completely dependent upon the individual taste of someone on the news team.
You also need to make sure you’re not focusing solely on the tastes of a newsroom: there are high-value influencers in every vertical market and you should consider how your story could appeal to them.
With so many outlets, and a different group of readers to impress, how do you get your press release picked up?
It starts with one question: “Why should I share?”
A News Release Should Tell a Story
It’s important in the planning stages to outline not only your facts and quotes, as is traditionally done, but also stand back from the content and look at it from the perspective of a disinterested party and ask: “Would I want to hear more about this?” You need to consider whether you’re enticing people to your release, or simply shouting out boilerplate.
Consider the posts you’re most likely to click on in a given day on any news source you read. They usually have a headline or hook that you can’t look away from. You need to find a way to make what your company wants to announce that attractive. (If your story “can’t” be made more attractive, you shouldn’t be announcing it because it will likely get lost anyway. Find a better story.)
If you’re announcing a new product, you likely have a story that can be made interesting fairly easily. You should take a look at your features list and talking points and decide whether you’ve got a hook, and if you can twist it.
A hook is best defined with a cliché: “Dog bites man is not a story. Man bites dog IS a story.” You have to look at different ways you can tell your story. If you’re launching a product that solves a problem, the hook isn’t “We solve your problem.” The hook could be, “Last year, 14,000 people suffered from this problem. Did you?” Sometimes the hook is the relatable problem, not your solution to it. The hook could also be the weirdest thing about your product. Consider how many weird stories you read in a day. Perhaps your company’s hook is something you tell people about your company at dinner parties.
Other times the hook is something quantifiable. Is your product smaller, lighter, quieter, bigger, more efficient, or brighter than something everyone has had experience with? Your hook should lead with that claim.
Be aware of how content is written now when you plan your releases. Many news sources and blogs are relying on galleries, listicles, and shorter-form, easier digestible content. Consider laying out your story with these types of content in mind. Consider the hook to be “10 things you hate about (your vertical market),” for instance.
If you’re opting to tell a straightforward story, consider all the ways you could slant it. If you’ve ever heard two people share the same story, each one places different emphasis on different parts. Think about all the different ways you can tell the same story but intrigue readers instead of simply inform them.
You should pitch your story several different ways to people until you find a hook that is intriguing to them. Assess their feedback and go with the slant that generates the best feedback.
You should consider the typical voice of your audience when submitting a press release. If you’re in a vertical where the press and bloggers are informal or use specific language, you should consider incorporating this into your press release. Consider that your story will be broken down and shared on social media and the language will be made more colloquial. It’s important to take this into consideration, and perhaps guide the type of slang or descriptions you’d like to see used.
You and your company may very well be thrilled to announce your great new product, but if you don’t make it as enticing as possible for the people who report on it so they can turn it into an interesting story, the time and effort you spend on a traditional press release may very well be wasted. Knowing how to hook, twist and tell a story is the key.