During my 20-year career as a reporter, I probably received tens of thousands of press releases. Many of them were of little or no use to me at all. In fact, I’d say it’s rare that a reporter can glean any real value from a press release. Why? My experience is that many releases are written in a very formulaic fashion with just a little bit of usable information that gets lost in a bunch of gobbledygook.
Of course, the objective of a press release is for a company or individual to tout something they’ve recently accomplished or launched. Whether it’s a new product or the promotion of a senior executive, the goal is to maximize the number of people that hear the good news.
Some businesses — or some executives — think everything their company does needs to be honored and treasured. The problem is, one person’s treasure is another person’s trash. Your “news” won’t get much coverage if it isn’t relevant to a publication’s audience or a reporter’s beat.
Too many press releases rely too much on jargon and rhetoric, according to veteran CRN reporter Rick Whiting.
“It’s like there’s more focus on making sure all the key buzzwords are in there rather than in clearly communicating what the main point is. The result is that the main point of the announcement — like the specific capabilities of a new or enhanced product – can get lost. I’ve read press releases where I’m not entirely sure what’s being announced,” said Whiting.
With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you to improve your press release content and get more coverage.
1) Make Sure It’s News
This sounds simple enough. After all, who wouldn’t want to know that a charging cable is now available in three new colors! But seriously, when you’re debating whether or not to create a press release for something, try to put yourself in a reporter’s shoes and ask yourself if he or she would write about it. If the answer is no, then it might be time to rethink the focus of the release.
In my experience, press releases about industry awards are a prime example of this. Practically every organization in the channel gives out awards for best vendor, distributor, partner, customer, employee, etc., and therein lies the problem. A publication would need a reporter dedicated full-time just to write all the awards releases issued annually. For that reason, many publications won’t run any awards announcements unless it comes from a verified, independent, third party. Otherwise, as soon as a publication ran one such article it would be inundated with requests to run others and have to field complaints about why they ran so-and-so’s announcement but not another.
2) Don’t Bury the Lede
I’ve seen a lot of press releases with the most interesting bit of news in the fifth paragraph. The charging cable comes in three new colors, but, oh by the way, it also sets an industry record for a full recharge in less than a minute. Many times, glancing through a release, I had “Wait,.. what?!?” moments.
Such instances always remind me of the great scene in “Broadcast News” when Albert Brooks’ journalist rambles on and on before professing his love for Holly Hunter’s character. “How do you like that? I buried the lede,” he realizes. We all do it, but the more pronounced you can present the most relevant information, the more likely a reporter will take notice.
Of course, sometimes burying the lede is intentional. This is especially true in personnel moves. Often, reporters will be more interested in who is leaving and why than who just got hired. To a company issuing such a release, be prepared for more questions about why your longtime SVP of sales is gone “to explore other opportunities” than about who is replacing him or her.
3) Numbers Don’t Lie
As a reporter, I immediately glanced over any new press release looking for numbers or stats that provide evidence of why the company was making an announcement. Backing up news with statistics (growth numbers, market research, etc.) instantly makes a release much more interesting.
For example, if you’re a vendor adding a new cloud-based solution for the healthcare market, adding market research that demonstrates how much cloud is growing or how much healthcare cloud IT spending is growing will matter to my readers and make them more interested in the company’s application.
Finally, now that I’m on this side of the fence — writing releases — I’ve learned that you can’t often write that “perfect” release. Maybe it doesn’t fit with the desired messaging or maybe there’s a legal reason you can’t divulge certain information. In any case, writing a good press release is really about the balance of getting the company’s message out to partners and customers with attracting reporters’ interest with enough objective information to craft an article.
I’d love to hear more about your press release-writing challenges. Drop me a line a email@example.com.