When I was studying Advertising in college, I believed Public Relations was used for covering up the negatives and exploiting the image of a business or public figure; more sensationalism than the facts. But now that I have tangible experiences to draw from, I find that I’m a journalist at heart and my quest for the truth comes out more than ever, especially when writing press releases.
Public Relations involves a more in-depth learning of the how’s and why’s. It’s storytelling at its finest, asking the writer to delve into the journey of a company or individual, and recount their path to success. I find it fascinating to uncover how people envision a dream and reach their goal.
A press release is just one Public Relations option a writer can use to get the attention of the media. And there are many reasons to write a press release for your client: the opening of a new store, the introduction of a new service or product, a change in management or a new hire. It’s a great way to get a company’s name/brand out to the public and receive more media coverage. If done right, your release will inspire a reporter to want to learn more about your client and cover their story.
My first press release was for a theater company. My love of the arts helped me in the writing process. I found it fairly easy to entice the audience, as I knew a lot about the topic and my excitement shone through. I envisioned it as a written episode of Behind the Music on VH1. But how do you write about something you know very little about, much less intrigue the media to cover it?
Here are a few ideas I’ve found helpful:
Talk to Your Client
Set up a time to have an interview. Do your research to get up to speed on the client and develop a set of questions prior to the interview. Make sure you record the interview and ask permission to do so. There are some nice recording software options that will convert speech to text, or you can always use your trusty smartphone voice memo feature. Truly, this step will increase the accuracy of your writing, and make it easier to put the puzzle pieces together post-interview.
Check your facts. It is best to research any statistics or statements of fact that could be potential missteps. Suppose you’re interviewing a client about the number of sales they had in comparison to others in the industry. You shouldn’t mention a competitor’s name, but you could write ‘leader in the industry’ as a way to set them apart. Ensure you’re not falsifying facts just to get media coverage. The point of a press release is to gain positive attention from the media or a journalist, and inspire them to help you create a buzz.
Make a Killer Impression
Infuse creativity into the writing and bring out the human-interest aspect behind the story. Presentation is key here. Just make sure you don’t get too flowery or lose the reader in jargon. Use everyday language.
Figure out what the main message is and why people would want to read it. Why does it qualify as news? Follow the journalistic format – inverted pyramid – using the most important information from the top down. Most journalists work in a fast-paced world, so many don’t get beyond that first line and will make cuts from the bottom up.
According to Tim Donnelly, freelance writer and Inc.com contributor, “If you deluge a news organization with unprofessional or uninteresting releases, your chances of ever getting favorable news coverage are zero-to-slim.”
Get permission to use a quote during the interview. Make sure it is a compelling statement, as well as one that summarizes the company goals or description of services. This is where the recording comes in handy so you can recall exactly what was said word for word.
Include your client’s contact information and get their approval on the text, prior to going to the press.
Feel the Buzz
A few examples of our recent, buzz-worthy PR projects include Thomsen Homes and Seven Sisters Spirits. I interviewed both company owners, wrote engaging releases and our media team placed it in the hands of the right people.
Thomsen Homes received media coverage from the local TV stations, newspaper and several magazines.
Click the image below to watch the coverage from WDAY-TV:
The media gets an astonishing amount of press releases each day. You have to stand out from the crowd. Add a graphic element to catch attention. Our design department created a stand-up wine bottle press release for Seven Sisters Spirits to inspire the media to open it.
Seven Sisters had a successful Grand Opening and has gained notice as the premiere liquor store in the Detroit Lakes, MN area on The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and DL-Online news websites. http://www.7sistersspirits.com/
Note: These articles require a press pass subscription to access.
It is a known fact that the power of Public Relations is far reaching and can have longer lasting impressions than any other type of advertising.