How to create a news release people will actually read

The final, final, final version. That’s how I jokingly describe a news release we distribute to media outlets after what feels like 100 revisions. Crafting a news release is a time-consuming process but a fruitful investment because weak (or sloppy) ones will never see the light of day. They drift into the dark corners of newsroom inboxes, left to grow mould before being scooped up and dumped into the virtual trash bin. It’s an unpleasant but apt analogy, given assignment editors often call timeless, quality news releases and story pitches, “evergreen.”

With that context, writing a news release that will grab the attention of an assignment editor - the newsroom’s information gatekeeper and guru – is a challenge, but not impossible. You just need to get that release right.

4 tips for writing a successful news release

The subject line matters as much as the headline

Much attention is given to writing a headline that piques the interest of newsroom producers and makes them want to keep reading, yet they won’t even see that headline if an email subject line falls flat. Too often, subject lines read “News Release,” “Story Pitch,” or “Hello” and don’t offer the reader anything detailing what’s in the release or why they should read on. As succinctly as possible, and like a headline, the subject line should demonstrate the gist of the release. If you’re short on time, you’re better off using the headline in its entirety than using a generic subject line.

Don’t bury the lede 

The first couple paragraphs of your news release are akin to the 30-60 second “elevator pitch,” you hear about in the business world. You have a paragraph or two to explain the very basics of your campaign or initiative and why the media, and the broader community they share stories with, should care. Don’t get too fancy; Explain the initiative, the problem it solves, and why it’s in the public interest. Assignment editors may read on but if they stop there, you can rest assured they’ve heard what they need to.

Find and include relevant research and opinion 

Writing about a campaign in isolation is a marketing exercise. When you include statistics, new trends, expert opinions, and other valuable context you have the components of a solid news release. Seek out research to support the narrative you want to share with the media and include it in your news release. When you simplify the data as bullets or infographics in a backgrounder, it will be that much easier for journalists to incorporate the information into their news reports. By including experts who provide their opinion in relation to your campaign, you save reporters the time-consuming slog of identifying the right subject matter experts for an interview.

Read, revise, and review

If you invite a local chef over for dinner, you’re unlikely to fire up a pot of KD. In the same vein, news releases are created for journalists who make a living writing and telling stories so your content should reflect this with gold star spelling, punctuation, and grammar. If you make spelling mistakes, a journalist is less likely to trust that you’ve nailed the more important details like statistics and proper names. Read, revise, and review. Then do that again and again. Eventually, your own final, final, final version will be ready. And with a little bit of luck, you’ll see or hear the words you so thoughtfully composed in an online article, a social media post, or a script on the evening news.

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