DO I NEED A NEWS RELEASE?
Occasionally, my "several professions" overlap, and although today's post isn't about life design, it IS about communicating change...in a way. I work with an organization that needed to know more about when a "news release" is warranted. (By the way, we don't really call them "press releases" anymore, because the meaning of "press" has changed so much.)
So, in the spirit of sharing with readers of this blog, or anyone else interested in the run-down...here are my thoughts on the topic: "Do I need a news release?"
First, the definition. A news release is a brief document that shares something newsworthy you or your stakeholders have done with the press and other media outlets.
You usually send a news release to journalists and editors who may use your timely information to write a news article, or interview the subject or beneficiaries of the news.
News releases are important to journalists, bloggers, and influencers because their readers/listeners/followers are interested in YOUR NEWS.
Second, what questions do you need to answer in order to construct a usable news release?
AUDIENCE & TIMING
Who’s it for? What should the timing be?
Who is the news intended for?
Who is your audience?
Is this the best way to share the news with them? What do they read? Watch? Listen to? Who are primary influencers?
What other ways could you reach your intended audience with the news?
Is the information timely?
Are you using the information to inform audiences of a deadline or asking them to take action?
Are you allowing your audience enough time to respond?
PURPOSE & RESPONSE
Why is the news being shared? What do you want your audience to do?
Is the topic an achievement to provide recognition? Has any other entity or partner organization already promoted the news?
Does the news or topic support a goal of our programs or stakeholders?
Do we want the audience to DO something, or TAKE ACTION?
Some examples (these happen to be related to school operations):
A grant cycle is approaching, and we want to issue a news release to distribute
the deadline for applications widely through city and community (or other) media outlets AND Social Media. In this case you may want to direct your audience to the web page where the application is posted.
An assessment cycle is approaching, and we want to issue a news release to remind parents and communities that “testing time is coming.” In such a case, you may want to direct your audience to the assessment calendar web page.
Is the news release simply sharing information? If no action is needed or intended, what is the justification or support for the information in the news release?
CONTENT & QUOTES
News releases are written to be brief, accurate, and readable. They are generally between 400 to 600 words, and follow a specific format that journalists are accustomed to using. In the old days, journalists would still write a story from your news release. But these days, it is often the case that an editor could post your information as it is! Nonetheless, the typical news release is designed for use by media, such as:
Radio and TV stations
Online news sites
Community organization newsletters
Talk show hosts
News releases provide detailed information without the use of superlatives or narratives. A journalist, blogger or influencer wants to be informed, not SOLD. In addition, we must avoid the temptation to use our industry or sector jargon, or insider terminology. Acronyms can only be used after the first reference spells out the title in its complete, long or original form!
A news release can provide the base for other communications tools. It’s a good place to start to get the “Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why” in one short document, and then the details can be adapted for other forms of media, such as Social Media outlets, or a script, etc.
A news release must have all facts checked, and verified, by the sources of the information. The information must be accurate, approved, and not mislead or misrepresent any information or people mentioned. Your communications advisor/Public Relations professional can prepare a quote for you. It’s allowed! The quotes are helpful to express the tone, emphasis, and main message that is being attributed to the person for whom the quote is being written. In other words, we DO put words in your mouth, if you are the subject matter expert or program lead, but YOU can edit/approve the quote for accuracy and to make sure it “sounds like you!”
A news release is different than a Media Advisory. A Media Advisory is very short, generally is used without narrative or explanation, and includes the Who, What, Where, When (for example a notice or announcement of an upcoming meeting).
A news release or Media Advisory should always include contact information for the public relations professional who fields inquiries from the media. Include:
CONTACT: First Name Last Name
PHONE: (xxx) xxx-xxxx EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
POSSIBLE NEWSWORTHY ITEMS:
Program launches: new programs often make for good news pieces Events: these can offer reporters something timely and interesting to share with their audiences
Deadlines: program applicants or participants may need an announcement or Media Advisory to get information on their calendars or remind them of a deadline Partnerships: if you team up with another noteworthy organization, the media may want to know Research: unique data and original insights are helpful to people’s lives
Awards: these work best if you can tie them back to your work; your organization would not necessarily promote an award, especially if the granting organization has already issued their news release announcing your awardee