From a consumer perspective, press releases might not feel all that relevant at this point. Why would we even need to know how to make a press release newsworthy?
Are Press Releases Still Relevant
The quick answer is… a resounding YES!!
They came to exist at a time when print media was the fastest and farthest reaching means of communication. Now that we’re living in the internet age, every company can simply publish their own ‘news’ on their own site, and interested parties could just find the information there. On the surface, there’s no need for businesses to put out press releases for media outlets, because any company can act as a bona fide media outlet.
Not so much.
The main reason for press releases still being relevant today has to do with the intrinsic appeal of media coverage. An article by a company might better capture the essence of the news they’re trying to deliver, but it won’t have the same trust factor as something coming from a body that impartially reports on the goings-on in a particular industry.
An article from a company won’t see the same kind of viewership as a media authority on the subject either, especially when we take into account international audiences and language barriers. And it also, most of the time, won’t be as suited to general audiences as an article by some publication. All these factors play a key role in what makes a good press release, and they’re a good place to start our discussion.
Knowing How to Write a Press Release
You’ve got to know the purpose of your press release before you can write one well. A press release isn’t a news article and it’s certainly not a memo.
1. Keep it short
A press release has no business being wordy, repetitive or long-winded. Remember, you’re not writing a story for an audience, you’re writing a story for a storyteller. A press release isn’t intended for your average consumer, it’s intended for the editor or journalist that writes for the average consumer; which means it’s got to be written in a way that appeals to those people.
Conciseness is key! Remember, these are people who go through hundreds, if not thousands of these every week. However…
2. That doesn’t mean you can’t sell
Wordiness and long, confusing sentences? Yeah, you should avoid them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk up or stress the importance of what’s coming. The key is to do so subtly, though not necessarily modestly.
The whole point of writing a press release is letting the ‘press’ (media outlets) know that something newsworthy is happening. Focus on why what your company is doing is important, and not so much on how important it is. Press releases are conventionally only a single-page, so you’ve got to make every word count. Which brings us to…
3. Don’t forget you have creative license
Recall what we said about editors going through hundreds or thousands of press releases every week. The majority of these might not even be worth publishing, but a company could always use more coverage, so it may as well try its luck.
Knowing how to make a press release newsworthy is often just a matter of knowing how to inject personality into your text without compromising readability. Writing style and phrasing might not be of prime importance when it comes to a press release, but that also means they’re a great way to set yourself apart from the rest of the list.
Make it Newsworthy
Keep in mind the earlier two factors, but so long as you’re sticking to the point and not using complementary adjectives, experimenting with the actual words you use is fine.
A journalist who’s captivated by your release is much more likely to turn it into an article that captivates the masses.
Knowing What to (and What Not to) Write
1. Avoid jargon and technical terms
This is fairly straight-forward, though it applies more to general publications rather than to publications that cater to a specific niche. You should keep your language as simple and easy to read as possible. If you absolutely must use a technical term, make sure you explain it right after, without getting too caught up in nuances. Neither the media outlet, nor most of their audience, needs to know those technicalities, so functional definitions will do just fine.
If your press release is too steeped in jargon, chances are an editor will see that as a sign that it’s not of general importance, or too complicated to be understood by a wide audience.
2. Be as specific as you can
If you have access to information and the information isn’t sensitive, you should always try to be as clear and detailed as you can be. “97 percent” of something might not sound as impactful as “an overwhelming majority”, but nothing inspires trust the way numbers do.
Statistics lend more authority to whatever you’re saying because they imply an in-depth awareness of the domain that makes an impression on readers, and authority is something media outlets always want more of.
This also applies to the way you phrase your release. Instead of being vague or unsure, you’re better off simply stating facts. Don’t use words like “probably” or “hopefully”, and instead just rely on statements. You’ll want to seem confident in what you’re saying; it adds impact and also goes a long way towards establishing credibility.
3. Don’t spend too much time on historical details or background
Sometimes, your press release will be about a venture or product that has been in the pipeline for years. Other times, it’ll be the most recent update on a developing situation. In either of those cases, you might want the release to include a summary of the events up till the present, or the major steps in the product development process.
While you’re right to give your reader a (very) brief idea of what you’re talking about, it’s important to keep in mind how much information you need to give. Don’t think about “What does my reader need to know”, and instead think more specifically about “What does my reader need to know to be able to understand the press release”.
And understanding here isn’t dealing with your idea or product as a concept. Your reader usually just needs to know why something is important to them, not why it’s important in itself.
This also relates to details about your company. Aside from your standard boilerplate-print you don’t need to talk about your company’s history or background. This obviously doesn’t apply when the release itself is about a change in company structure, such as a merger or acquisition, but in any other case you should skip the company details.
4. Know your audience
This ties in to the first point in this list. Even if four media outlets compete for the same audience, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need to send all four of them different press releases.
A particular magazine might be popular amongst real-estate professionals, while another publication might be more popular with people in the tech sector. If your story is somehow relevant to both, it’ll still obviously be relevant to both for very different reasons. Make sure you’re mindful of those reasons, and that your writing reflects that.
This applies especially to publications that deal with a specific niche. Your press releases for a niche publication that covers your domain will be starkly different from the ones you put out for general publications. In the former’s case you’ll try to highlight why your story is important to your industry, while in the latter, you’ll focus more on factors with general appeal, like cultural impact or implications for multiple industries.
Knowing how to make a press release newsworthy is mostly a matter of knowing how to phrase things correctly for the medium, and also knowing how to tailor your writing to it. The heart of a good press release is always a noteworthy story, so be careful about not putting one out at the slightest excuse. You wouldn’t want your one big event or achievement to be buried under twenty unremarkable ones.
You also don’t want to build up hype so long in advance that it dies down by the time your event rolls around. Timing and attention to detail are just as important to a good news article as a story that matters.
If you’ve got a mind to improve your press and you don’t know where to start, why not give our press release writing and distribution service a try? We’ve handled stories ranging from politics to paleontology, so you’d be hard-pressed to find similar breadth of experience and a comparable level of expertise in any one place.