Thursday, February 17, 2011

You're pleased to announce and I don't care.

The media release is the primary tool of the public relations industry.  At its best it is a tightly written, well-structured document clearly presenting the ‘who, what, where and why’ of the story you’re pitching right up front in the lead paragraph. 

Unfortunately, the art of writing a media release seems to have been lost.  Just check any news feed and you will see hundreds of releases where the lead says nothing and the actual news, if the release has any, is buried in the third paragraph.  It’s like the writer is trying to play a game of ‘hide the news’ with reporters, forcing them to call the public relations professional to find out what is actually going on.

Worst yet, the first quote features the CEO or some other company spokesperson saying, “We’re pleased to announce.” So what.  How does a quote like that add to the newsworthiness of a story?  The first quote, actually all the quotes, should feature good, newsworthy facts and figures.  Those are the quotes reporters can use.

In today’s world of communication overload and six hour news cycles, it is crucial that public relations professionals do not contribute to the noise, but instead help cut through the confusion. 

Following some simple guidelines will help alleviate the situation.  Only put out a release when it actually has news value.  Ensure the news is presented up front and all the details are covered quickly and efficiently.  Use quotes that are meaningful and contain facts.  And remember that a reporter receives a hundred of these things a day, so the better it is written, the better your chance of getting coverage.

Hugh Cameron

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