(That’s a Basil Brush reference, in case you were born in the 21st century.) I know it’s not funny; my husband and daughter have repeatedly told me over many years that I can’t do jokes.
But it is true. In my experience press releases are written by people who think journalists will want to know what they have to say, and news releases are written by people who know what journalists need.
So how do you make sure you write a news release not a press release.
There are some simple steps, the final one being the all-important triangle of news.
- What are you trying to say? What is your purpose? What’s the message you want to get across, to whom and what do you want them to do as a result?
- What does your target audience care about? Think about their concerns and priorities. What information do they want? What is it they’re worried about.
- Identify and understand the target media. What sort of stories do they cover? What angles interest them? Do they need pictures, video or audio?
- Why is anyone going to be interested in your message now? What makes it topical?
And now for the triangle.
Journalists are busy. Faced with immovable deadlines, they’re under pressure. The space available is fixed so, no matter how good or otherwise the story, they probably can’t include it all. They cut from the bottom. And if your release isn’t quick to cut, they’ll move on to one that is, even if the story’s not as interesting.
The solution is to stick to the triangle of news. At the apex is the headline. It needs to capture the essence of the whole story. Good headline writing it a real skill so don’t be surprised or disappointed if the media drops yours and uses their own.
With the focus on the main hook, the first sentence needs to expand on the headline, giving the journalist what they need to entice the reader. Then with each sentence develop the story as you move down the triangle always asking yourself, if this gets cut, have I still got my point across?