Make your news amazing and true

Want to communicate with your clients effectively? Then focus on creating impactful content that matters to them says Mark Ferguson, Director of More Fire PR Ltd

Some journalists I know thoroughly enjoy telling me how they often read the headline and, if feeling particularly generous, maybe the first sentence or so of press releases they receive.

That’s usually about as far as they get before deleting and moving onto the next pressing subject landing in their inbox.

They’re not alone. It’s a natural reaction to information that’s relevant to us, or not. Whether it’s a press headline, email, TV programme or radio commentator, we’re constantly acting on or rejecting a flood of messages and content.

First we consider the medium itself. Whether we like the politics or angle taken by a particular press or social media feed depends upon our personal tastes, past experience, peers’ opinions, and a host of other immediate decision-making factors.

So how does understanding all of this help your business? Whatever field you work in there’s a need to tell stories about what you do to audiences that matter.

Effective PR helps bridge the gap by shaping your story for the journalist, editor, reader, viewer or listener and answering the two most important questions they have: ‘So what?’ and ‘What’s in it for me?’ If you can quickly address these crucial demands you’re on the right track.

To achieve this your news should, naturally, be newsworthy. Be dramatic, quirky, new/topical/timely, factually accurate, and concise.

If you have an enticing image to accompany your words, all the better – even radio has online pages these days. To be clear, the press release isn’t dead. It just needs to stand-out from the crowd and matter. Include relevant commentary, offer further contact details, and be appropriately targeted.

The humble news release really is worth spending professional time and effort on. You might feel warm and fuzzy outputting 30-plus stories a month, but it’s much better to deliver just one or two that will actually reach your audience and have the desired impact.

Here follow some top tips when it comes to constructing your news release:

1. Have a punchy headline

Short, sharp and attention-grabbing. Achieving a response from the FT or The Sun will likely require different writing approaches, but neither should be boring.

2. Have a clear message

Have a key point and avoid multiple themes in one article. The easier an audience can get the information they want, and quickly, the more chance there is of them actually responding to or acting upon it.

3. ‘Killer’ quotes

The “comments” in your press release need to be informative, accurate, help tell the story, and come from a relevant source or authority. Keep them to the point. If comments are interesting enough, a journalist or broadcaster will follow up for more.

4. Bigger isn’t always better

As a rule of thumb, keep your news release to around 250 words. Remember we’re living in the Twitter era. You can always include additional perfunctory detail – key dates, weblinks, further sources – in an ‘Editor’s information’ section at the end.

5. A picture… thousand words etc

A picture should ideally be attached as a high-res Jpeg, under 2MB in size. Never embed an image into a Word document – this simply annoys all involved and demands a further, time-consuming email or phone call. National press will almost always want to take their own picture, but there’s no harm in showing what’s on offer.

6. Be unique

The best, most proactive journalists love a genuine exclusive. This means your mass mail to several hundred contacts might receive the same response as junk mail. Before pressing ‘send,’ think carefully about the story you want to tell. Ultimately, don’t make it about you and your needs. Ensure it’s about them and theirs.

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