Start Spreading the News
A PR pro shares top tips for writing effective news releases.
Got some news about your company you want to share with the world (or at least the local media)? Doing that the right way will help you catch the eyes of reporters and editors and hopefully land your information in print and online.
“You don’t want to abuse the process,” says Phyllis Ershowsky, whose Fort Myers–based company PKE Marketing & PR Solutions helps businesses with their communications strategies. “You only want to send things out when you believe they have value as news. Think about if somebody is really going to be interested in this.”
Once you determine that the new product you’re launching or major event you’re holding truly is newsworthy, it’s time to spread the word. Here are Ershowsky’s top tips for writing effective news releases.
TELL ENOUGH OF THE STORY
“I think the perception is sometimes that you don’t have to write the full article,” says Ershowsky. “But I think you want to make it as easy as possible for someone to pick up the information.” She recommends putting as many of the important details as you can in the first paragraph. “You don’t want make the writer or editor look for your information,” she says.
AVOID GOING OVERBOARD
You may think your business expansion or charity gala is the greatest thing since sliced bread. But that’s not how any news professionals are going to report on it. “People want to make their event or news sound really wonderful, so they use very flowery or sales-y language,” says Ershowsky. “And usually that is not printed. So it’s important to write your release in a more factual way, as if you were reading it in a newspaper.”
USE QUOTES WISELY
Think more real life, less rehearsed. “It’s fine to use quotes and position someone as an expert, but you should be imparting information that sounds authentic and like something that they would really say,” says Ershowsky. “Sometimes the quotes just sound so canned.”
INCLUDE THE BASICS
Ershowsky says news releases should include a boilerplate, the paragraph that goes at the end of the release and gives a summary of the company or organization sending the information out. “Things like how long has it been established, what its mission is,” she says. “In case a reader of that release has never heard of your company or organization, they now know those basic details and don’t have to research it too much.”
LOOK FOR EMBARRASSING SPELLING OR GRAMMAR MISTAKES
If your release has too many, it might get ignored. “Have someone objective take a look at it for you so you’re not the only pair of eyes,” says Ershowsky. “You can get very close to your work and make it easy to miss something.”
GRAB PEOPLE’S ATTENTION
A catchy headline that can also be used as an email subject line is key. “Reporters and editors are getting thousands of emails a day,” says Ershowsky. “If they see an effective, impactful headline, you have a better chance of them reading your message.” She’s found that headlines evoking emotion or touting milestone numbers often pique interest.
SEND THE MESSAGE SMARTLY
Ershowsky advises cutting and pasting your news release into the body of any emails you send out. “A lot of media companies either have a strong firewall or are suspicious of attachments,” she says. “So they might not open it if you just send the release as an attachment.”
LOOK FOR INTERNAL VALUE
Once you’ve crafted a good news release, you can use it within your own organization. Tweet the information out yourself, or use it as the basis for a Facebook video or blog post. “There is a cost effectiveness of writing it, because you can use it for so many different things,” says Ershowsky. “Everyone should realize, especially in these times and this market, how important it is to have a PR component to your business.”
MIX PATIENCE WITH PERSISTENCE
It can be hard if you’ve done everything right and still haven’t seen your information in print. “Some writers are open to a phone call reminder or second email,” says Ershowsky. “But you don’t want to be annoying.” And if a reporter does call you about your release, be quick to respond. “If you don’t call back, they’re not going to call you again,” she says.