Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How to Turn Your News Releases into News Stories

Media and presentation skills coach Edward Segal contributed today's post. He has placed stories in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times, and is author of Profit by Publicity.

The news release is one of the most important and effective ways to tell the media and the world about you or your organization, what you are doing, why you are doing it, when you are doing it, and how you are doing it. These one- to two-page documents should:
  • Answer the all-important question of “who cares and why?” 
  • Include the who, what, when, where, why and how of your story (whether it’s an announcement about the hiring of new employees, the opening of a new office, or an important award or recognition your company has received).
The best news releases are self-fulfilling prophecies: the more they are written as real news stories and sent to reporters who will be interested in them, the more likely it is that they will become news stories. 

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all, fill-in-the-blanks news release. Rather, you should think of your news release as a custom-made dress or suit that must be carefully tailored to tell your own story in the most effective and attention-getting way possible. Here are 11 steps for preparing your own tailor-made news release: 

1. Include your name, phone numbers and e-mail, social media and Web site information at the top of the first page. This will make it as easy as possible for reporters to contact you if have questions about the release or want to interview you.
2. If appropriate, place your announcement in the context of relevant trends or developments.
3. Organize the information as if it were a pyramid, with the most critical information at the top and the least important at the bottom.
4. Summarize the announcement with an attention-getting headline.

5. Write a succinct opening paragraph that summarizes your story or announcement.
6. Explain the impact your story or announcement will have on audiences of the news organizations that receive the release.
7. Insert a short quote (no more than 35-50 words) by from company official about the announcement. 

8. If appropriate, include a call for action.
9. Include relevant facts, figures and background information. 

10. If necessary, include a picture that illustrates the announcement, accompanied by a descriptive brief caption (also called a cut line).
11. To signify the end of the release, insert -30- or ### at the bottom on the last page of the release and center it on the page.
In addition to writing your releases as if they were newspaper stories, be sure to abide by the same rules for grammar and punctuation that reporters follow when they write their articles. Refer to the Associated Press Stylebook for guidance.

While it is certainly not standard practice, if the release is well-written and meets the criteria of a legitimate news story, sometimes a news organization will simply run the release, or use major excerpts from it, exactly as you gave it to them.
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