Are you in Media Relations? Do you write news releases on behalf of your company? Recently, we spoke to your peers to discuss two major changes to the external environment in which we operate, and what those changes mean for how we write the traditional news release:
- Traditional media (journalists/reporters) are busier than ever before. Their teams are smaller, their jobs are broader, and they have less time to recraft corporate stories.
- The visibility of news means that journalists are no longer the sole audience for our releases.
Although I highly doubt that these facts will be news to many people, based on my conversations, it seems that very few media relations folks have substantially changed how they write news releases, or adapted them to reflect these changes.
Doesn’t this seem strange to you?
A couple of weeks ago, I pointed out how HSBC and some companies have put stakeholders at the front and center of their news releases. This serves two purposes (among others); it saves time-pressed journalists from recrafting and repositioning company-centric releases for our intended stakeholder-audience, and it also makes our news instantly more relevant for the new stakeholder audience, who access our news online. Loads of the press releases we looked at open with ‘today, our company would like to announce x, y and z…’. By contrast, the first line of practically every HSBC release I read was about its intended audience.
However, the first line alone doesn’t make it stakeholder-centric. CEC members, check out our latest work on how to write news releases, and more on four simple changes you can make to ensure that your releases are optimized for the people they’re supposed to influence:
- Subject matter: before even sitting down to write, ensure that the news is actually relevant to your intended audience. What’s the desired outcome of your news release? If you can’t name one, you probably shouldn’t be writing it!
- Style: think about how you position your news. You can you make your stakeholder the star of your release, and not simply its object. Check this great example from State Farm, in which they used the emotional appeal of candlelit Valentine’s meals to get their stakeholders thinking about the safe use of candles!
- Format: more information has been produced in the last 30 years than in the last 500 million. To cope with information overload, human beings in any walk of life simply scan text instead of reading every word. As communicators, we intuitively know this – so why do we insist in writing block text in long paragraphs? CEC was amazed by how few PRs keep their releases short, snappy, and call out key information in bullets and sub-headings!
- Media content: print journalists no longer write solely in print. They blog; they use videos; they use audio content (see figure 6 of this journalist survey) . We know that our stakeholders are the same. So why do news releases typically only contain text? Make sure your release contains content that is malleable, that can be broken up, where a stakeholder can forward a video that they think their friends would like, or easily tweet a short section of text.
Looking for more information?
Check CEC’s work for Media Relations folks: