Ever sent out a press release and wondered why the excellent story you had to tell didn’t get published while magazines seemed to fall over themselves to use something that you considered to be nowhere near as interesting?
The answer is all in the presentation. And we don’t mean fancy logos or italicised intros. In short, whether a journalist is happy to top and tail a press release or wants to do his/her own research, getting the essence of the story over to them as quickly as possible is the key.
Journalists are not lazy but they are busy. Often they simply don’t have the time to wade through a press release to find the story hidden half way down page two (or even three if it’s that long).
The formula is very simple. If the headline and the first paragraph don’t tell the story, your release stands a very slim chance of being used. You cannot expect a journalist to read through a paragraph describing what a company does and when it was formed before learning in the second paragraph – later in many cases – what the purpose of the release is.
If you have a point to make, a product to promote, a message to get across, make sure the information is in the headline and first paragraph. The reality is that this tends to be how journalists assess the value of a story.
Of course, another factor is how the release is written. While nobody would suggest sending ‘dumbed down’ information to trade and technical magazine editors, you should not be attempting to impress them with unnecessarily big words either.
Don’t fall into the trap of a police officer who famously used the phrase “I was proceeding along the highway when I observed an individual imbibing from a drinking vessel”. What he meant was he was going along the street when he saw someone drinking from a bottle. But he wanted to impress so he headed for the thesaurus.
Anyone writing a press release should not make the same mistake. As a simple example, they should ask themselves, how would I speak to a friend?
1. “Very recently I travelled by public transport to the hub of the city to purchase some footwear” or
2. “I went to town earlier on the bus and bought some shoes”?
You’re more likely to keep your friends if you choose option 2 – unless, of course, your friends are very odd. Likewise, if you keep the language in a press release easy to understand you have a much better chance of getting your news published.