Having spent my early career in the newsroom as a journalist and then as an editor of numerous B2B trade titles, I have received my fair share of press releases from over excitable PRs, that, let’s say, haven’t quite hit the mark!
However, with many publishing companies and newspaper groups cutting budgets whilst at the same time requiring even more content for both print and online, press releases still remain one of the most important tools in any PR’s armoury.
Thankfully, my previous experiences have ensured that I have a clear understanding of what journalists want from a news announcement – and also what would have them reaching for that ‘delete’ button. Here are my five golden rules, which should set you on the road to press release perfection…
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
First up, it is critical to know your audience. If you’re targeting the retail sector with a press release announcing the launch of a new piece of technology, then it is important to emphasise just how this new product can help retailers. Journalists receiving hundreds of releases a day may only have time to read the headline and introduction too, so this angle should always sit at the very top.
If said piece of technology is being sold across different verticals, then make sure you tailor a number of press releases to fit each sector – this way you can approach different journalists with the angle that is most attractive to them.
CUT OUT THE JARGON
Much in the same way, a journalist working for a retail magazine is unlikely to understand the intricate details that led to the development of that sophisticated technology – and they probably don’t need to know that either. Stick to what is important to them whilst speaking their language. If a reporter has to go away and research a topic to decipher your jargon, they are less likely to run your story.
DON’T BE TOO SALESY
Publications make the majority of their money from advertising, so they are not going to give it away for free on their news pages.
It is crucial that you maintain a neutral tone throughout your release. With journalists having less and less time on their hands, and needing to publish several stories daily, they don’t often have the time to completely rewrite press releases. Therefore, give them a neutrally positioned story that can be easily copied or lifted – and that means cutting out the salesman act.
PROOF, PROOF AND PROOF AGAIN
In similar fashion, a journalist will want to maintain his or her integrity at all times, especially for by-lined articles they will put their names to, so they won’t tolerate typos or grammatical errors. It’s a matter of trust.
It is not enough to just proof your own work so hand it over to your colleagues for a further check and added peace of mind. Having a workmate spot a typo is better than a journalist you’re trying to impress. In addition, try printing your work before proofing it. This makes it far easier to spot any errors when reading it back.
ADDING VALUE WITH EXTRA CONTENT
The development of substantial online news portals, together with the ongoing growth of smartphones, has only increased the need for publications to publish more multimedia content.
Firstly, you cannot allow imagery to be an afterthought. Make sure you have a number of decent (high res!) images available to send along with your release. An editor is far more likely to give your story top billing if it looks the part too!
Secondly, additional content - such as video or graphics - can also add value. More and more websites now have video sections, which are often too expensive or time-consuming for journalists to populate with content. If you plan far enough in advance, and have the budget, then you can help to fill that void.
Previously, one of my client’s videos performed so well on a national newspaper’s website, they used screenshots on page three of the following day’s paper, read by over two million people.
If you have a story that needs to be told, then make sure you tailor your content, ditch the jargon and cut out the sales talk, whilst thinking outside of the box in terms of imagery and additional content. This recipe for success continues to serve Prolific 10 and our clients well. If you’d like to know more about our PR and content marketing solutions then drop me a line at email@example.com