Why does your news release meet with silence while your competitor makes headlines regularly?
There could be more than one answer to that question, but the place to start is the quality of your news releases.
Some basics: News releases differ from advertisements, where someone is paying for the time or space to say something, and blog posts, where you can also say pretty much what you want because it’s your website. In both cases, readers know that they are reading an opinion that may be factual but lacks the credibility that comes from being published by a respected outlet as a news story.
A news release is a first step towards getting a news outlet interested in covering something positive about your organization. Its end goal is to generate a news story, not to be used verbatim. Because they are usually well-written and well-researched, they are often used as stand-alone documents on blogs or in social media. As noted above, news releases that end up as blogs have less credibility than those that end up as news stories.
Journalists are looking for news that will interest their readers of information they can use in the jobs or personal lives. They care about its quality, newsworthiness, legitimacy and appeal to their readers. A good news release can be a journalist’s nest friend, but if your news release even suggests that it is not going to meet the outlet’s standards (and
Every editor or report working for a medium-sized to major news site receives 25 to 500 news releases a day. Perhaps one or two will be used. The first thing a journalist does is scan the headline. Then the first sentence of the release (called the ‘led’ but pronounced ‘lead’).
If you have violated any of the following, your news release will end up in the high-tech version of a round file.
- Fail to proofread. Professionals who edit and write for news outlets and blogs for a living won’t take you very seriously if you don’t meet their high standards of grammar, spelling and style. If work alone and don’t have a colleague to review your copy, get a good editing program.
- Lay off the hype. Hype is extravagant; judgemental language used to promote a person, thing or service. Superlatives like “best,” “most popular,” or “highest performer” are giveaways. Avoid any word that makes a judgment without cold hard fact to back it up. Don’t use quotations as glowing endorsements. Use of hype makes your release sound like a sales pitch. Go the opposite direction. Turn the hype meter off and stick to factual statements like you see in the news columns of the nation’s best newspapers. Cite third party sources and use footnotes.
- Got news? There’s a reason news releases begin with the word “news.” They contain information that is new. If your release rehashed information or something the competition already has covered, your chances are low.
- Put the takeaway at the top. What’s the takeaways for their readers? A new technology that makes their job easier or their company more successful? Advice or selling faster or buying smarter? A scam to avoid? Don’t bury the reason a reporter should use your release. Put it in the headline or the led.
- Keep it tight. Nobody is going to read more than 500 words. Three-fifty is better. Remember, the goal of a good news release is to interest a reporter into doing a larger story, not to tell the whole story.