Our attention span is shrinking: so get to the point quickly in your news release

I had heard recently on the radio that a new study showed our attention span has gotten shorter. So I went online to see what I could find. I came across a 2014 study (not exactly new) from the National Center for Biotechnology Information that said the average human’s attention span was eight seconds in 2013, as compared to 12 seconds in the year 2000.

This sounds about right. When a news editor sees your news release, how long do you think it will take him or her to decide if it’s worth reading the rest of your copy? I’m guessing eight seconds might even be on the longer side of the scale!

My point is that you’ve got to capture the editor’s interest quickly! You want to get to the point in the first or second sentence. You don’t want to wait until the second or third paragraph. You don’t want to use confusing structure or jargon. You don’t want to be cute.

You have maybe five seconds to convince the editor that your news release is worth reading all the way through. How do you do that? There are a few tried and true methods. Here are three tips:

1) Localize, Localize, Localize — Local news media are always looking for stories that have a connection to the place they are based. If you have a local angle to your story (and I hope you do!), make sure the editor realizes that by incorporating the name of the town or city into the subject line of your email, the headline of your news release and into your lead. For instance: XYZ Corporation has promoted Springfield resident Jane Doe to senior vice president.

2) Power of ST — If your news includes a word that ends with the letters “st” (first, last, largest, etc.), make sure you state that as soon as you can in your news release. For example: XYZ Corporation has promoted Springfield resident Jane Doe to senior vice president. She is the first Native American to hold that position in the firm.

3) Avoid Boilerplate Lead — Save your company background/history/market share information for your boilerplate at the end of your news release. Don’t clutter up your lead with that type of data. In other words, get to the point! For example, don’t say: XYZ Corporation, America’s oldest, most reliable and most popular dish washing machine manufacturer and the winner of three straight High Quality awards from the U.S. Washing Machine Association, has promoted Springfield resident Jane Doe to senior vice president.

I hope you get my point. With our attention spans shrinking to shorter than that of goldfish, we no longer have the luxury of sloppy, lazy writing when it comes to our news releases.

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