Inherent in the phrase “news release” is the word “news.” There’s a reason for that. A news release should be newsworthy; it shouldn’t be a blatant ad for your business. Yet far too many businesses send out news releases without giving much thought to whether they’ve really got news to share.
Rob Nance, director of content marketing at Inovautus Consulting in Boulder, CO, said that if there’s any doubt that journalists and others will care about a news release, then you shouldn’t put out a release at all. Nance recalled that when he was working at an online media company covering the accounting business, he received a news release from an accounting firm announcing that it had a new sidewalk in front of its building.
“Funny, yes, but it’s not news or timely, useful information,” Nance said. “It’s a game of quality over quantity with press releases.”
Here are 12 tips that’ll help ensure your news releases win the game of quality over quantity.
1. Nail Down the News.
It bears repeating that to warrant issuing a news release, your business must have news to tell the world. If your business is opening a new location, that’s definitely newsworthy. If your business is sponsoring a major charitable event, then you’re probably wise to put out a news release. But not everything that happens at your business rises to the level of a news release.
“I would caution against putting out a press release simply to promote a special deal, sale or customer reward program,” said Gary Frisch, founder of Swordfish Communications in Laurel Springs, NJ. “That’s what advertising is for.” Treating a news release like a sales pitch “comes off as amateurish,” he said.
2. Cover All the Bases.
If you’ve determined that your business really does have some news, be sure your news release includes what all journalists look for—who, what, when, where, why and how. Crossing those six elements off your checklist will help boost the odds that a journalist will care about—and cover—your news.
Ignore those standards, and your news release becomes “nothing more than annoying spam,” said Melisa Tropeano LaTour, president of The MTL Communications Group in Cranford, NJ.
3. Tell Them Who You Are.
Frisch said your news release should include a brief description of your company—what it does and where it’s located. Remember to include a link to your website and a way for a journalist to get in touch with you (email address and phone number).
“Don’t make the rookie mistake of assuming everyone reading your release will be familiar with your organization and what it does. That’s seldom the case,” Frisch said.
4. Use Plain Language.
Bob Zeitlinger, managing director of B To Z Communications in Dumont, NJ, recommends avoiding jargon. Reporters and editors don’t want to decipher your industry’s terminology, and neither do readers, viewers and listeners. Frisch said useless phrases you should erase from news releases include “industry-leading,” “best of breed” and “solutions provider.”
5. Keep It Short and Sweet.
Megan Ingenbrandt, a PR specialist at Middletown, DE-based advertising search engine eZanga.com, said a good news release should be concise—no more than a page or two in a Word document.
“We live in an age of instant gratification—we want everything now, and that includes information,” Ingenbrandt said. “If a news release is too long, a reader may not even bother to skim it, because, let’s face it, ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that’.”
6. Toot Your Own Horn.
Don’t let a news release just float out there. Ed McMasters, director of marketing and communications at Crestview Hills, KY-based marketing firm The Flottman Co., said you should post the news release on your own website. This way, you’re adding fresh content to your site (which the search engines love), and you’re providing ever-present information about your company.
7. Use the Personal Touch.
Regardless of whether you’re issuing a news release, you should cultivate relationships with journalists. They’re more likely to cover your business if they already know you.
“Reach out to reporters and invite them in to see your business. Ask them to stop by for coffee. Send them a note when you particularly like something they have written,” said Kim Miller, president of Ink Link Marketing and PR in Miami Lakes, FL. “Reporters are people, too, and they want to have relationships with people they can trust and who are not just there to use them.”
8. Target Wisely.
If your customers don’t read The New York Times, then you shouldn’t aim for coverage there. “Go where your customers are,” said Nick Winkler, principal of “storytelling” firm The Winkler Group in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. For a lot of local businesses, that means local newspapers, TV stations and radio stations.
9. Don’t Overdo It.
Resist the urge to constantly churn out news releases. Journalists will grow tired of seeing them in their email inboxes. Marcia Golden, managing partner of New York City marketing company DJD/Golden, recommends that her clients send out news releases no more than every three to six weeks. “Otherwise, it becomes white noise,” she said.
Dustin Christensen, digital marketing manager at law firm JacksonWhite in Mesa, AZ, said: “The online PR sphere is so saturated with junk that sending out releases when they’re not of the utmost importance only adds to the clutter, and it won’t make your business stand out.”
10. Don’t Get Carried Away With SEO.
Any company that does business online wants to rank highly on Google and other search engines. That’s where the practice of search engine optimization (SEO) comes in. However, you can’t load up a news release with tons of SEO keywords; if you do, it’ll reek of spam.
“The SEO benefits of press releases have long been negated, and if your audience comes across a clearly SEO-focused release, they may see it for what it is—fluff,” Christensen said.
11. Avoid Fridays.
In the news business, Fridays are when companies and organizations deliver bad news, such as employee layoffs. Fridays are considered a black hole in the news business, as a lot of readers, viewers and listeners won’t be paying attention to news on a Friday or Saturday. Plus, many reporters and editors are distracted on Fridays, as they’re trying to get out of the office early for the weekend.
In short, your news probably will get lost on a Friday. Instead, you should aim to distribute a news release Monday through Thursday, when it’s more likely to be noticed. Of course, if you’re actually trying to bury some bad news, the reverse applies.
12. Be on the Up-and-Up.
You won’t win over a journalist if you’re deceptive or disrespectful. Here are four suggestions from Kim Miller, the Florida PR executive, for making nice with reporters and editors:
- Be mindful of their time. If you a call a reporter or editor, find out whether he or she is on deadline.
- Be fair. Don’t ask for coverage and then demand that your conversation be off the record.
- Be smart. Don’t call a journalist without having your facts at the ready.
- Be honest. “Don’t ever lie to make a story sound bigger. Ever,” Miller said.