Strategies that encourage journalists to actually use your story

Writing a press release isn’t rocket science, especially if you have the skills to write clearly. Yet, it’s done incredibly wrong, incredibly often. It’s more than just writing clearly, and no matter what anyone tells you, it’s more than just telling a story. Your job is to make the journalist’s job as easy as possible. You’re selling to them. Therefore, your job is to tell the news for them, so they will tell your story using their platform. And that’s really what you want access to – their platform.

Here’s what you can do to write a journalist-selling release:

Write a hard news headline.
Grab their attention and give them the news in the simplest way possible. No matter what your story is, no matter how many professors told you to write flowery to attract attention – don’t. Let your subhead have style and flair. You want your story to be told as clearly as possible in your headline so the reader can decide to continue reading or move on having gathered all the information they need. Your sub header is where you can add more language.  Once you become really proficient, your subhead can also tell your story from a slightly different angle, giving journalists more options about how to frame your news.

Write a short but strong lede.
Your lede, (a.k.a. lead) tells as much of the who, what, where, when and why in 25 words or less. It guides the reader into the supplementary information that follows in the rest of your release, but it also You would never talk this way. But your goal is to do two seemingly opposite things: 1) share your news so the reader doesn’t need to continue reading; and 2) entice your reader to continue reading to get additional supporting information. Your header and your lede are the most important parts of your release. You should spend the most time here when writing it.

Be as clear as possible and just state the facts.
Don’t use language that’s too verbose. You’re a communicator writing a press release (or you’re a small business owner that doesn’t have a communicator on staff). From what you know about public relations, you know that you have to frame your story in a certain light. A journalist spends all day trying to see through the lens communicators have placed on releases to get the facts. Make their job as easy as possible. If you actually have news to tell, your story will sell itself – not to every journalist, but to those that cover your subject matter or niche market. (If you don’t have news to tell, why are you issuing a press release? There are other ways to get your information out there. More on that’s another blog post).

Don’t forget the quotes.
I can’t stand reading a news release without at least one quote in it. Almost every news article will have a quote from a relevant person. A witness, a CEO, a spokesperson; someone endorsing, clarifying or supporting the story. Journalists need quotes. So your news release, should once again make it as easy as possible for the journalist to build their story. Give them a quote they can use. The benefit to you, is that you can craft your quote in any way you choose. Your quote is the best place to sell the benefit and the relevance of your news. If a journalist needs more (or doesn’t trust the quote you’ve provided) they’ll seek you out for more information.

Make it short.
Journalists are very busy, and generally as a species, we humans lack the attention span we once had. That means, your news release should not be longer than a page, and this includes your boilerplate about your company. It is likely that the journalist will not read past a few lines of the release anyway. It also shouldn’t be too dense. You’ve heard this advice when writing a resume, employers will look at the highlights, or empty space to find the information and the facts they are looking for. The same goes for a release. No one wants to read a full page of 1000 words with no spaces, no bullets and no call outs. Make it easy for the journalist and consider having facts that are easily identifiable/pulled out of your text. This information will support the story they write about your news. This info is also amazing for news tickers, social media posts, clickbait newsletters, soundbites from media personalities etc.

Give them everything else they need for their story.
Whether you’re on Twitter, watching TV, Reddit, listening to the radio or reading the good old newspaper, you must have noticed, there is always something to support the story. A photo, a soundbite, a video, a GIF – if you provide these items, they will get used. This helps journalists to build their story quickly and easily without having to search for these supporting items. This means, they are more likely to run with your story.

Support your distribution efforts with your info-bites.
Before distribution, when you re-read your draft release, are there any phrases or “info-bites” that catch your attention or are particularly compelling? If so, you’ve done something right. You’ve also generated great content to help support and promote your news. Consider using these bites on social media and in your e-blasts to boost promotion of your release. This is especially important if you decided not to use a distribution service to issue your press release.

I can’t guarantee that your news will get picked up every time, but I can guarantee that a journalist that reads a news release that follows these elements is significantly more likely to tell your story. As always, CONTENTEVENTS will help you tell and distribute your story if you don’t know where to start.

Talk soon,


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