Part of your marketing plan must include public relations, and the number-one tool in your PR toolbox is the humble news release. But first, a definition, courtesy of the Columbia Encyclopedia: “Public relations is activities and policies used to create public interest in a person, idea, product, institution, or business establishment. By its nature, public relations is devoted to serving particular interests by presenting them to the public in the most favorable light. Thus, the goal of public relations is to create, through the organization of news and advertising, an advantageous image. Toward this end, the making of favorable public opinion, many research techniques and communications media are used.”
But it all starts with a news release. The media see millions of these news releases a year. Most of these news releases are fairly well written, formatted properly and newsworthy. But editors will tell you they’ve received news releases that were handwritten on ripped out spiral-notebook paper, the backs of pizza menus and, more often than seems reasonable, even with the addressee misspelled.
First things first
• Always use professional stationery, with your text typewritten, not handwritten.
• Make an appropriate media list and research which reporters, editors and producers have worked on stories bout your industry before.
• Know to whom you should address your release. Get the spelling absolutely correct. Even if your news release is announcing that you’re giving away a free house, a misspelled editor’s or producer’s name will guarantee your release a one-way trip into the circular file, no questions asked.
• This is not an article — it’s a teaser to get the media to write an article/run a story about you/your company.
So you need a news hook.
Other than introducing a new product, service, employee or event, there are a few basic ways to get the media interested.
1. Relate your company to a hot-button issue (industry trends, financial news, etc.).
2. Spotlight the unusual/colorful background or personality of one of the company’s principals.
3. Demonstrate how photo/video-friendly your service is (this is often related to a community event).
Since most of the time you’ll be writing according to principle #1 above, another way to look at it is spotlighting a problematic issue and presenting the solution — your expertise and experience.
• Answer the 5 w’s and an h: “who, what, where, when, why, how.”
• Quote attributions: Use the word “say.” People say things. They don’t comment, or remark, or whisper, or note, or murmur, or pronounce — put your thesaurus away.
• Refer to people, both male and female, by their last names without courtesy titles. There’s a tendency to want to call women either by their first names or by Miss. Don’t do it. We’re all equal in news releases. Once you first introduce the person by full name and title, ever after they are called by their last name.
• Write in present tense, as in, “We’re very interested in space travel,” Jones says.
• You must write about yourself in the third person. Save the first-person stuff for brochures. Don’t be afraid to quote yourself. This accomplishes two things — it looks as if you hired someone to write your releases for you, and it gives you some distance and objectivity from the subject.
• Be sure to include contact name and phone number.
• Use a memorable, short, succinct headline.
• Avoid clichés, superlatives, overused phrases, technical/industry jargon.
• Save editorializing for quotes.
• 2 pages maximum.
• Use quotes, statistics, facts, unusual information, resources (websites, books, research studies, field experts).
Nathan Jansch May 10th, 2013