Long live the news release

The news isn’t dead

As a public relations practitioner, I believe it’s important to stay on top of the latest industry trends and practices. I am particularly struggling with one industry debate, however, that involves the news release. Some people believe it’s no longer an acceptable way to share news. For example, I recently overheard one of my peers tell another practitioner that the news release is dead. “Just send a Tweet,” she said.

I began to wonder if this is true. After all, the news release is the go-to communication tool for many public relations practitioners. It’s a way to share news about a new business or service, an upcoming event, a recent hire or a product launch.

Overall, I don’t believe the news release is dead. However, I do believe its content and distribution need to adapt to the ever-changing world of technology and easily distracted readers – not to mention overwhelmed journalists.

If you want your news release to stand out, consider these five tips:

Remember your audience

Before you begin writing your news release, think about who you specifically want to reach. Consider those who will benefit from your news and how it will affect them.

It is also important to send your news release to the appropriate media contact. For example, if your news release is about a new healthcare product or service, send it to the reporter or editor who covers that industry. If you are unsure about who to contact, call the news organization for assistance or look online. Also, inquire about how the person prefers to receive a news release (e.g. a PDF sent by email).

Don’t forget the basics

If you don’t own an Associated Press Stylebook, also known as “The Journalist’s Bible,” I highly recommend you purchase or borrow one. You can also subscribe to AP Stylebook Online. Most commonly used by journalists, it provides guidelines for news writing (e.g. abbreviation, capitalization, numerals, spelling and usage). You’ll be doing yourself a favor by applying it to your news releases.

Keep it simple – and realistic

Research shows that the average adult reads at the 9th-grade level and that people like to read recreationally two grades below their actual reading skill. The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level tool can help you determine the reading level of your news release. If it scores in the double digits, consider using shorter words, sentences and paragraphs.

Also, try to avoid industry jargon and acronyms, unless you are sending the news release to an industry trade publication.

In addition, quotes are an important component of a news release. Try to include quotes from a person of authority. If the news release includes good news, avoid using the words “excited” or “thrilled” in your quote. It should reflect what the news release topic means to a company or organization, not how the person feels about it. Also try to include compelling facts and statistics.

Break it down

Creating subheadings within your news release may also help make it easier to read. In addition, try to keep it to one page. Journalists are constantly receiving news releases, usually by email, so be sure to keep yours concise – a little can go a long way!

Use social media platforms

I agree with the person who said to send a Tweet; however, the Tweet should include a link to the news release. First publish the news release to your website, if possible, and that will provide the link you need for whatever social media platform you choose. You might also try measuring the traffic your news release drives to your website by creating a custom campaign through Google Analytics.

Never stop educating yourself about the news release and the nuances that can help or hinder your efforts. You’ll save yourself and your audience a lot of time and frustration.

If you have never written a news release, we created a template to help you get started.