There’s been a massive problem with press releases for a long time now. I’ve talked to multiple journalists on many occasions of what’s wrong with the current system of press releases.
It’s also funny from the other side often politicians, or organisation complain about not getting enough airtime, or not getting the story they want picked up.
All be it there’s a whole other side to PR which goes to relationships, power of the individual and organisation but I’m not going to get into that in this article. Press releases are just one tool in the PR kit and should never been viewed as holy.
Press Releases Should Mirror A Story
If you’re trying to come up with a completely new story. You have to sell it. We know that journalists are extremely time poor and PR takes advantage of this by providing free news stories. We know that 45-65% originate from some form of press release. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement which benefits all parties.
Think about press releases as a prepackaged story. Therefore, having a journalist background or being taught journalism is an advantage. You should make the information straight forward, interesting to read, and have all the necessary elements of a story.
One thing recently a journalist pointed out to me was they were annoyed that a politician’s press release didn’t provide any links to information and was simply their point of view on the issue. In a general way in the media if you’re going make statements you need to back it up with further info.
Press Releases Don’t Always Have To Be Text Based
There’s plenty of different types of media to use. You can attach photographs, studies, videos, social media, interviews and more. If you provide this in the press release, it’s possible that you might get this media in the story. Budgets a low in newsrooms so by providing content you actually providing new incentive for the story. It also provides more evidence, emotional aspects and can add a human element – all of which journalists want.
Scott Morrision in the federal election took advantage of this a lot. His PR team provided free photographs of him on the campaign trail. You can watch the Media Watch episode which covered this here: https://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/episodes/images/11109212
Make Your Headline Exciting
So many headlines I see are extremely boring, aren’t creative and aren’t intriguing. The headline should resemble something you would see in an actual news story. It should give a glimpse of the story and push the reader to read on.
Make The First Paragraph Compelling and To The Point
The first paragraph should really provide journalist most of the information they need. In the example above it is “we bought the hat” and this is what the money is going to.
Use Dot Points
Like I said before journalists are extremely time poor. Make it easy for them. Provide them a list of dot points near the start with the key facts.
Make the information easily navigated. They should be able to scroll through find the information they want quickly. This is particularly important if you’re going to provide a lot of information.
The problem I’ve seen with many journalists is they a hard time finding information stated so they can check the source. Insert links so they can check the source easily.
Make sure that the paragraphs are only a couple of lines and they’re easy to read. We know that a lot of the time journalists and normal will often scan documents rather the read the whole thing.
In conclusion think about how journalists will view your story. Does it have substance? Is it actually newsworthy? Have you provided information to backup provided statements? Try to step inside the shoes of a journalists. Or better yet ask one.