Stop, Think and Consider Before Writing, Sending A News Release

Communications professionals can learn a valuable lesson from reading about the boy who cried “Wolf!” too many times.

I’ve heard editors complain about organizations that send out so many news releases that they reach a point where the editor doesn’t pay attention to them.

So before you write any news release, ask yourself if the story you’re thinking about is really news? Will it pass the “So what?” test every editor you send it to will use in those precious first 4-5 seconds he or she will spend reviewing it? Blanketing the news media with non stories will weaken your credibility as a public relations professional.

If your announcement is truly newsworthy, then ask yourself: “Will this story, if covered, help advance my client’s or organization’s objectives?” 

If you can’t answer both of those questions with a resounding “Yes!”, then you need to counsel your client or supervisor and say, “Chances are we are not going to get any coverage of this announcement. And if we do get coverage, it won’t help our organization. So I’m sure there is a better way for me to spend my time.”

But let’s say you have a genuine news story you need to communicate. There are certain elements that are necessary to make any document more readable. One element is brevity.

When you’re writing any document, make it as succinct as possible. The length of a news release does not determine the amount of interest it will generate among the news media.

Time is money, and space in a newspaper or airtime on radio and tv is also money. It costs money to produce a newspaper or a broadcast news show. When you’re approaching the media with a news story, what you’re doing is asking them to spend their money communicating your news. You’re asking for space in their newspaper. You’re asking for time during their broadcast.

Space and time are expensive these days so don’t be greedy. Don’t approach an editor with a three-page press release when all of your news can be told on one page.

Get to the main point of your news release immediately. Don’t waste the editor’s time. So make the editor search through your release to find the news you’re trying to communicate.

Get rid of any rambling sentences, meaningless quotes and repetitive statements. Choose the short word over the long word. Choose the familiar word over the fancy word. Choose the specific word over the abstract word.

Economize. Make every word count. Use no more words than necessary to make your meaning clear.

Write as if you personally are paying for every word. I guarantee that if you take that approach, you’ll find yourself writing a lot tighter than you do now. And your news placements will most certainly increase.

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