A press release is something completely different from a business article. It is a document that you send to editors to tell them about your news. It is up to the editors to decide whether to do a story from that document. Learning what journalists expect from a press release helps you to create valuable content for journalists and generate story ideas. They are always trying to fill a news hole. Take note of the expectations in this article.
by Louise Harris
Long before society was overloaded with information, a press release was be the most important source of company announcements. Newspapers, magazines, radio and television would most likely use material gleaned from a press release, especially if the story was local and the paper was a community paper.
Today, however, press releases are competing with other press releases, social media, pop-up messages, video content and blogs. Journalists still use plenty of press releases, but they expect to be wowed. Here are some tips on how to improve the press releases and what journalists expect.
Any press release that isn’t written in the correct format will be tossed regardless of the newsworthiness. Journalists expect public relations personnel to use Associated Press style. They should have a headline, which includes a subject and verb and not a list. They expect the most important information to be at the top of the release.
Most journalists read the headline, lead and two more paragraphs. If the press release doesn’t capture their attention in the headline, it is likely to die.
Journalists are looking for good story ideas that haven’t been done. P.R. people should find something unique. For example, a restaurant owner that is offering a new cuisine for the first time in a city or town might spark an editor’s interest. Real estate agents who are using different tools to sell houses have attracted the media.
Write a release about a first, a new way of doing things, new research and anything else that will make the story unique. That doesn’t mean that P.R. people can’t write about something trending, but if the story already is in the news, the professional must find a new spin to hook the editors. Often, P.R. pros can take a national story, find the local angle and have a unique story to pitch.
If a contact listed on the press release is not answering phone calls or e-mails, the story will not happen. Journalists expect officials to be available to answer questions and clarify information. If the contact is busy, the press release can list times the journalist may call if he or she has questions. Also, the press release should have correct spellings of key people quoted and contacted. This would reduce time journalists take on a story by eliminating the need to verify the spelling of sources.
P.R. pros should follow up on important press releases and those that are highlighting an event. Press releases can get lost in the daily grind of putting together the news. When P.R. people remind journalists of a press release they had sent, it puts more weight behind it. Journalists are more likely to use a press release if people are calling to ask about it. They should be ready to resend it in case the journalist can’t find it.
Journalists expect P.R. people to treat them with respect and courtesy. They should recognize that journalists have to have time to complete their stories on deadline. When they follow up on a release, respect the journalists’ time and treat them like fellow professionals. They don’t want P.R. people to be demanding or yelling. Journalists recognize that they need P.R. pros as much as P.R. pros need journalists. When they work as a team, they get more accomplished for both.
THE NEXT STEP:
You can satisfy a journalist 100 percent with your press release. However, first, it must reach those journalists or your efforts in writing it well would be pointless. You must deliver your press releases to the right journalists who may be interested in your story. To help you target the right journalists for your situation, you should take a look at Faselis solutions packets for distributing your press releases. You will have the latest contact information of the journalist.