In the second instalment of his three-part series on Media Relations, Weber Shandwick Asia Pacific’s Head of Editorial Content Michael O’Neill outlines how to craft a press release that’s both engaging and effective.
As we discussed in Part 1, the press release is still a vital part of the media relations process. With this in mind, what do we need to consider when producing an effective press release?
The most important questions that need to be considered are the ones we ask least: ‘Is my story newsworthy?’ and ‘Will anyone care?’
This may sound harsh – but being able to honestly answer this question will be the difference between a story being picked up or not. If the answer is no, then pause. Or even better, work the angle to make it more newsworthy.
This, of course, begs the question: What makes a story newsworthy?
Each publication has its own preferences, but the checklist below will give some guidance.
Topics that are related to a trending news story will always have more value, especially if you are releasing an opinion piece.
How many people will be affected by the story?
The closer a story is to home, the more newsworthy it is – especially for local-market media
Media is always interested in something new. But, remember – what is new for you is not always new for a publication’s audience.
Media is interested in news that impacts people, places and things.
The media like stories that challenge convention and stir debate. Again, this is particularly relevant for opinion pieces.
A story that describes the emotions and experiences of people to which the audience can relate will always appeal to the media, regardless of timing, significance or proximity.
Once you have newsworthy topic, you get to the crafting of the release. Again, there are no hard and fast rules here, but the tips below should help you on your way.
Lead with the story, not the brand. Create interest with a story, and the brand interest will follow.
Work your headline. This cannot be over emphasised. The headline should never be an afterthought, as it is the first thing (and, in worse case scenarios, the only thing) a journalist sees.
Summarise your subject in the first paragraph. Journalists are generally taught to get as many of the “five Ws” (who, what, where, why and when) into the opening line of news stories. So should you.
Be concise. 300-400 words should be enough to communicate your story. Four to five paragraphs plus some quotes.
Use quotes to provide insight – not information. Quotes should read like a real person said them. Avoid jargon, technical language or excessive facts and figures.
Provide background notes and company information – but keep it separate from the main body of copy.
Provide links to help journalists find out more without having to search the internet.
Support with multimedia assets, such as photos, video and graphics.
Check you spelling and grammar. Once done, check again.
In short, do what you can to increase the likelihood of your news being noticed, read and published.
Remember, one part of your job is to make it easier for the media to do theirs.
Michael O’Neill is Senior Vice President, Head of Editorial Content at Weber Shandwick Asia Pacific.