Latest posts by Steve Callerame (see all)
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Newspapers and magazines receive dozens (if not hundreds) of press releases every day. To ensure yours gets noticed, you’ll need to get the title just right and make every sentence count. Here’s how to do it.
Forget stuffing your sentences with empty but impressive-sounding words. Resist the temptation to slide away from informative writing and toward the seductive trap of endlessly singing your own praises. These common ways of cutting corners may work – briefly – on general audiences, but when you try them on other publishers, it’s like trying to use cheap sales techniques on other salesmen. They just aren’t going to buy it.
They’re buying something, though, whether or not they like to admit it. Many years ago, PR Week estimated that, at least in Britain, the amount of “PR generated material” in the media was “50 per cent in a broadsheet newspaper in every section apart from sport”. The number may well have gone up to suit the needs of the internet age, as the world’s demand for new content is increasingly voracious and insatiable. Newspapers and other outlets will forever be on the lookout for new and fresh material. How, then, to make sure they get it from you?
How to Sell to a Salesman
The currency within media outlets is stories. If you’ve got a good one, lead with your story and you’ll grab their interest. If not, then you might want to re-think your reasons for writing the press release in the first place. If your message is “Our resort has a beautiful view of our island’s north shore,” then that might indeed be good to know, but it’s not a press release, since nothing newsworthy has happened.
“Sunshine Resort Celebrates Arrival of New Executive Chef by Giving Away Free Cooking Classes for All Guests” – now that’s newsworthy. You’ll have plenty of material to share, about that exciting new Executive Chef (where is he from? which famous restaurants has he worked for? what’s his style of cooking and presentation? has he been on TV?).
You can describe at length the new cuisine on offer, and put it in the context of the themes of the restaurant itself. The cooking class itself can be a big part of the story, with details about what the guests will learn to create. That promotion can also be presented as the latest in a string of promotions and special events at the resort, the implication being that new and wonderful things are always happening at your resort.
Now that the frame of your piece has been established, you can tilt the language of it freely in your favor. It’s your own press release, so you can get away with promoting yourself in not-strictly-objective ways. It’s here that a resourceful eye for adjectives will serve you well. Your cuisine can now be ‘mouthwatering’, your resort ‘luxurious’, your events ‘exciting’ and ‘much-anticipated’.
It’s best not to go overboard, for reasons we will see in a moment – but media outlets know that readers prefer colorful prose, so it’s a win-win situation if you paint your own press releases in the most colorful way you can.
Media Outlets are Understaffed. Help Them Do Their Jobs
We’ve all watched the seemingly endless reports of layoffs throughout the world’s news organizations, on both a local and national level. The ease with which anyone can publish content on the internet means that every media outlet in the world faces an extraordinarily saturated market, full of competition – and therefore must cut costs in order to tread water.
So, do them a favor and help them out. Don’t send them material whose only message is “Our company is great”, and expect them to reprint it for you for free. That’s called ‘advertising’, and it’s literally their business model to make you pay for it. And don’t go nuts with the self-praise; they’ll just have to cut those parts out anyway, in order to get to the genuinely interesting material.
Instead, give the media stories that they can quickly turn into publishable content. When you sit down to write a press release, your goal should be to write a story about your business that an actual reporter would be proud to have written. The more closely your prose resembles a real news story, the easier it will be for the newspaper or magazine to edit and recycle it as their own content.
Include quotes from managers and directors, and avoid all jargon. Use down-to-earth language to make your story as accessible and understandable as it can possibly be. Understand that the niche of newspapers and magazines is to be in touch with everything that’s happening in the world, and to communicate the interesting and important things to their readers in an educational and entertaining way.
Help the media do their jobs by doing it for them. Instead of making them go out and find the news, send it to them. Instead of making them interview your managers, supply them with the quotes they’ll want to have. Dress up the language all you want, but don’t stray too far from the way an actual reporter would write the story. End your press release with general background information, and a call to action for anyone interested in experiencing the new product or service you’ve been telling them about.
The happier the newspapers are with your press releases, the more they’ll pay attention to them – and use them – in the future. And when that happens, it’s good news for everybody.
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