A while back, I saw a post from Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases, noting her 5 top traits of good news release writers. They’re pretty good, so I took some time to add some “how” to her “what”:
Trait #1: “They have a knack for identifying the news angle. The best press release writers are able to take all of the relevant information and pick out a compelling, newsworthy angle that makes reporters take notice.”
Actionable News Release Writing Tip: Consider your audiences. Your first “audience” is reporters, editors and writers. Know what they’ve covered recently so you can position your release as related but different to something they’ve already written about, or present it as a totally new topic relevant to their audience. Which brings us to your second audience: the media audience. Choose angles that are relevant to the readers, viewers and listeners your media contacts serve. And the best way to figure that out is to consider their needs, concerns and values. Don’t be afraid to point these out in your pitch letter/email, either!
Trait #2: “They don’t waste words. Great press release writers get to the point, cut the fluff, and deliver the story in as few words as possible while ensuring the major points are covered.”
Actionable News Release Writing Tip: Read over your writing and automatically cut 15 percent, at least. Easy marks are introductory phrases, qualifying statements, unnecessary adverbs, “helping verbs”, and over-wrought quotes that don’t sound like a real person, anyway.
Trait #3: “They understand the journalistic tone. The best press release writers know how to tell a story like a reporter, not a marketer.”
Actionable News Release Writing Tip: Your first task is to refresh your sense of “journalistic tone” by reading a few articles by some of the reporters and writers in your target audience. Note the traits of their writing so you can focus on them in your own. (Here are examples of quick analyses) Bonus tip: Jettison any language that sounds salesy, is unsubstantiated or that’s a direct cut-and-paste from your marketing materials (exception: your boilerplate). Remember those quotes I mentioned in #2? Ditching those helps here, too. Here are 3 areas to work on in your writing to improve voice.
Trait #4: “They possess excellent attention to detail. The best press release writers focus on the details, ensuring their press releases are accurate and mistake-free.”
Actionable News Release Writing Tip: Revisit what you’ve learned about your audience and choose details that address key concerns and support the most important thing you want the audiences to know. (Read more on the three kinds of details) Then re-read and revise your document and, super-importantly, get another person to review with a fresh set of eyes.
Trait #5: “They know how to make the reporter ask for more. …your press release needs to leave readers asking for more. Great press release writers know just how to do this.”
Actionable News Release Writing Tip: In truth, if you check off all the actions above, you’ll have a much better chance of achieving this goal. But it’s also useful to think deliberately about what you want readers (media and their audience) to think, feel and do after they read the release. Use the People-Information-Goals Strategy(c) to pull it all together. [download].