Public relations has a reputation for being somewhat of a dark art, but we think that’s an outdated notion.
There are no hard and fast rules for producing the perfect news release, but these tips are easy to follow and will help you get the coverage you deserve!
Step one: Find your angle
By its very definition, the news provides information that is new and interesting, so you need to identify what it is that makes your story newsworthy.
Good examples include: investments and developments; new recruits; the launch of a new product or service; corporate social responsibility activity i.e. charity support; a change in policy announcement; acquisitions; significant company anniversaries; office/site move or new opening.
Including recent statistics or interesting facts to help illustrate your points – particularly if it ties in to something on the national agenda – will bolster your release. Journalists also love a human-interest angle so if your relocation to larger premises, for example, will create new jobs, make sure you include that in the headline or opening paragraph.
Ultimately, your aim is to demonstrate that you have an interesting story to tell that is of relevance to the people who are going to be reading or hearing about it.
Other things like staff birthdays or events you’re attending would be more suited to a blog post on your website and social media channels.
Step two: Write your headline
We’ve put this down as step two, but it might be easier to revisit this once you’ve written the main body of the release.
The best headlines are concise (preferably no longer than one line) and, for the purposes of SEO, it’s usually good to try and include the name of the company you’re promoting. Don’t worry if the story concerns more than one, as you should be able to mention them all in the top line.
There are times when headlines are easy to write – either because there’s no other way to say something than to tell it how it is, or because you’re having a particularly good day and it comes to you without much thought (PR professionals live for those moments!).
Occasionally you can afford to have a bit of fun and get creative with a headline by using a pun or a play on words, so do try to when it’s appropriate.
If you’re struggling, then why not involve your colleagues? There is no shame in doing that and it’s always interesting to hear others’ ideas; it can be quite a laugh!
When the story is published, don’t worry if the journalist has changed the headline as this is common.
Step three: Craft the top line
The top line of a news release should be around 30 words – long enough to summarise the main point of the story, without being too long that the reader loses interest.
Journalists may receive hundreds of news releases every day, so the top line needs to be eye-catching and punchy as it can make all the difference between them accepting or rejecting a story.
As with the headline, it’s a good idea to consider SEO when crafting the top line so try to include the company or individual’s name again.
It helps to imagine the structure of a news release in a funnel-like fashion so that the most important information is included at the top and the finer details stem from there.
That should give you an idea as to how important the top line is in leading the story.
Step four: Include quote(s)
It’s a good idea to include at least one quote in your news release from key individuals about whom the story concerns.
They help to break up the story and can be used to crowbar even more information into the main body in a different style. Plus, quotes are the only part of the news release in which you should use hyperbole e.g. “it’s amazing to see”, “this fantastic development”.
We would advise you to avoid using generic clichéd phrases such as “we’re delighted”; you could instead use the opportunity to say why it matters, for example.
If you’re unable to get direct quotes then it’s perfectly reasonable to make them up, but always get approval from whoever you’ve quoted before issuing the news release.
Do bear in mind that whoever is included in the quotes may be expected to be available for interview, so they should be willing and able to speak to journalists.
Step five: Only write it for what it’s worth
Don’t stress yourself out by thinking your news release has to be a certain length; it doesn’t matter whether you feel it warrants one page or two, you should write it for what it’s worth.
As long as you’ve answered the five Ws (who, what, where, when and why), provided quotes and included any calls to action, then you should have it covered.
There’s not much difference between a news release and a finished news story – PR people have reason to be pleased when their news releases are published word for word as news stories. So, there’s no need to try to write differently; on the contrary, you should try to emulate the news style of the paper or website you are targeting.
Step six: Provide some extra information
At the bottom of the release you should include some notes for editors: basic facts plus some contact details for further information, such as an email address, telephone number and out-of-hours number if possible.
If after reading this you still feel like you need some help crafting a news release or ‘selling in’ your story to journalists, feel free to.