One of the fundamental tools in public relations is the news release. It can be one of the best approaches. It can be one of the most abused. If written well, used properly, and distributed strategically, the news release is a great tool to communicate your company’s message.
Anatomy of a release
As the old Wendy’s commercial asked in the ’80s, “Where is the beef?” Many reporters ask the same question when their emails are clogged with news releases that aren’t news worthy. Instead, the question is “Where is the news?”
When you boil down the must-have sections of a news release, it looks something like this:
- Contact Information: Provide your name, phone number(s) and email. Forget writing, “For Immediate Distribution” at the top. Why write it? Isn’t it already assumed that it’s for immediate distribution since its a news release?
- Headline: Write a direct headline. Not having a headline that complements the lead paragraph might have it thrown away or deleted without having someone read the first paragraph. You can also have a sub-headline for added detail that will tell more of the story.
- Dateline: Before anything is written, provide the city, state and date of the release. Make sure the text is written in bold lettering. You don’t need to add the state for the largest U.S. cities. An example, St. Louis (March 24, 2010)
- Lead Paragraph: This is the most important paragraph. This is where you provide the facts: Who, What, Where, When and Why. Don’t add more than that and to make it more challenging, try to keep it to 50 words or less. There is nothing magically about 50 words. I just find that anything longer than 50 words is too long.
- Follow-up Paragraphs: After your lead paragraph is written, the subsequent paragraphs provide the details. Use your best judgment with details. Write a couple paragraphs to support the Who, What, Where, When and Why. Hold back on the information that isn’t going to enhance the story. This will be one of your biggest challenges. I find that for most news releases you only need 2-4 paragraphs at most to tell the stories.
- Tagline: This is the last paragraph that gives 1-2 sentence description of your company, provides the company contact information — phone number and Web site. Look at this paragraph as an opportunity to share your elevator speech.
Future blogs will discuss how to distribute releases, who should receive them, etc…
Your company has news to share! If its a product launch, service introduction, office relocation, community award winner, new hire, quarterly earnings, etc… the news opportunities are endless.
Just make sure that the news is communicated in concise, clear and crisp language that will make the reporter want to continue reading and follow up with a story. The news release is both a summary of the news item and an opportunity to engage the reporter. Make your release news worthy. Provide the meat within the copy, not just a picture of a cow staring at you like the one in this blog!
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Founded in 2008, St. Louis-based AMM Communications LLC is an integrated public relations and marketing firm that provides public relations, marketing, crisis communication, social media and sales management training for small- and mid-cap financial institutions, professional service firms and manufacturing companies. For more information, please navigate to www.ammcommunications.com or call 314.485.4390.