Contrary to belief, the news release is not dead. In fact, in Asia Pacific, the news release is STILL one of the most considered communication materials for the media. Cision’s Global State of the Media Report 2021 concurred that 78% of journalists prefer news releases and announcements compared to other content types. In Asia Pacific, the news release is still seen as an authoritative information source that is ranked higher than bylines and commentaries. So, what would make a useful news release that may find more traction with the media?
1) Conclusions first, evidence next
Just like our academic and research papers, present the most important paragraph upfront. The first paragraph, together with the headline, should entice the media and readers to want to know what’s next. Write for substance and community impact, not for effect. This means that it should answer the big WHY this announcement is so important to the masses.
2) Go strong or go home
Include executive quotes, but sit the executives down to get their deepest beliefs, and why they feel compelled about certain things, before penning their quotes. All too often, news releases feature very bland “motherhood statements” quotes by executives that look like “cookie cutter” and “MBA jargon” statements that gloss over real important issues in the community, meekly avoiding making strong and committed statements. It won’t come as a surprise why so few executive quotes are used in the media. Make a strong and memorable statement, that positively influences people and stirs action and even belief.
3) Don’t over-sell
This is simple to understand but not always easy for business executives to do. Most company executives tend to pitch too hard with overt sales pitches about their companies and products, rather than how what they can do to help people. As the golden rule of salesmanship goes, nobody likes to be sold, but they would like to believe. So, don’t over-sell a company, its brand, products and services, in a news release. State the facts, answer the WHY, and allow the media and the public to make an intelligent and positive decision.
4) Refine the backgrounder
All too often, the “About the company” part of the news release is ignored or forgotten. That paragraph (and it should be just ONE paragraph) should be the distillation of all that the company believes in, what it does in clear terms, and ending with a website URL to find out more. Never fall into the trap of writing a backgrounder that is vague, opaque, full of jargon and meaningless terms. If you are selling IoT (Internet of Things) devices, say so. If you are selling fleeting and affordable fashion, say so. If you are selling packaged bread that keeps well, say so. Don’t hide behind bombastic words and jargon.
5) Make it visual
These days, whether you are sending your news release to the media or even to wire distribution services, the recipients would expect some image assets such as JPEGs, or even videos. However, don’t send them in the release as attachments if they are huge. Deposit them on your own online newsroom, or hosted by your PR agency, to ensure that journalists need not bust their bandwidth or clog up their limited mail boxes just to receive your humongous image or video attachments. Never send attachments unless requested to.
6) Get expert help
The news release is often written by professionals. If your in-house communications team does it, it is usually pretty professional and ready for distribution or pitching to the media. But if your company lacks such a team, get expert help, such as a PR agency. The news release should always answer the 5W1H (why, what, where, when, who, and how), and it should read like an editorially compliant document, rather than a sales brochure.