News Releases: the artist formerly known as press releases

By: Kate Walter

News Releases.  Such a simple task can seem daunting when faced with so many pieces to make the puzzle come together.  I was always the “A” student in English class. The one who read every required reading book and would rather have written a ten-page paper than take a multiple-choice exam. However, even I have to admit there is a learning curve for writing in the field of public relations. You are faced with AP stylebooks, word limits and writing for various media like print, online and social networking sites. Many times you are writing about an industry or a product that you weren’t familiar with 20 minutes ago. And in the end the information has to be accurate, newsworthy, unique or informative (or both), and ideally further the branding of your client. So where to start?

I recently read an article in Tactics, the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) monthly newsletter that discussed common mistakes in writing news releases and how to fix them. I liked the article so much, that I not only saved it, but I’m going to share the advice.

  • Think in terms of audience benefits- Essentially, why should readers/consumers/publics care about your bit of news. Your news release should be answering the question, “What’s in it for me?”
  • Focus on the news- Don’t let your news release sound like a commercial for your product, event or accomplishment.
  • Cover the basics- Include the who, what, why, where and how. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to include this in the lead.
  • Keep your message clear and readable- Try not to use abbreviations, corporate buzzwords, industry jargon or too many technical details. Remember you are writing a news release to be submitted to the general public.
  • Don’t use lame quotes- Instead of making the quote client-centric, make it customer-oriented, punchy and interesting. Use the quote to add perspective, meaning and color to the news release.
  • Use keywords- Keywords are crucial when it comes to search engine optimization so make sure that you include them throughout the news release.

We have committed to blogging more frequently with relevant, timely glimpses into the PR life.  So stay tuned in for more anecdotes, strategies, words of wisdom and all things PKE!

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