Grab Their Attention! Tips for Effective News Releases

I once had to send a news release that a new play was cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. The play was called The Invisible Girl. The title of the advisory seemed obvious: “The Invisible Girl will not be seen.” Every media outlet in the city ran the story, talked it up on the radio, and probably gave the cancelled play more coverage than the originally scheduled performance!

A news release can be an effective way to get your story out. Whether you’ve written many or none, these tips can help you get your best message in front of your audience.

  • Your first question needs to be, is it news?
    • (Clue: changing your menu isn’t news; hiring an exciting new chef is.)
  • Is it clear what the story is? Will it be clear to your audience?
    • Upgrading to a new software that allows you to collate inputs three times faster is not likely to make a clear story for your audience. That you’re now the only shop in town with same day service because you’ve invested in new technology, that’s a clear story that has relevance for your audience.
  • Answer the five journalist’s questions: who, what, where, when & why (and sometimes how).
    • Often answering some of these is easy, they’re obvious, and that’s why it is easy to miss an important piece of information because you missed one of the five (or six) questions.
  • Include a quote from someone involved that furthers the story. Please, please don’t use a quote that says, “We are very pleased to announce…”
    • Obviously, you’re pleased or you wouldn’t be sharing this news.
    • Instead, share your key messages in the quote. (Writing key messages is a whole topic of its own!)
    • The quote is a valuable part of the narrative, so make it worthwhile. (Writing good quotes is a whole topic of its own!)
  • Do you have a catchy headline? (See: “The Invisible Girl will not be seen.”)
    • Use this in your email subject line as well: it’s the first thing reporters and editors see, and if you want them to open your email, it needs to catch their eye.
  • Stay on topic: one newsworthy item per news release, please.

I’ve put these tips in a convenient infographic on the Writing Tips page. Have a look to download it.

There are many more tips for writing effective news releases. Please share your thoughts on what makes a good news release.

Communications isn’t about you

Crafting good communications is about… everything except you. It is about your audience.

It’s not about you. It’s not about your product or service or the information you have to share. It is about the person using your product or service or information. It is their story that unfolds. That is what you need to communicate. Help people tell their stories.

Which of these news releases catches your attention better?

“Company ABC is pleased to announce that they have donated 300 coats to kids this winter…”
“No child will go to school cold this winter. Every child who needs a coat now has one, thanks in part to Company ABC’s donation of 300 coats to kids this month…”

The first example is about the company only. It’s about an output (boring!). The second tells the story of the kids first—the outcome—as well as the company’s story (compelling!).

The donation of 300 coats is newsworthy. Is that why the company donated them, to get some PR? Or was it to ensure every child has a winter coat? Hopefully, it was the latter.

That’s the news you want to share. That’s the story that will get media attention because that’s the story that will resonate with their audience and with your audience.

Next time you start writing a news release, ask yourself, whose story am I telling here? And then remind yourself that it’s not about you.

Please share your examples of great opening lines for news releases that tell about outcomes rather than outputs.