Forgive me for starting with a not-very-clever rewording of an old saying, but today “almost all news is good news” when you are trying to generate visibility for your company or organization. I’m going to tell you how to create valuable news releases from information that you might not think has value and get it published .
What do I mean by “almost all news is good news”? That just about any news can be turned into content for online and offline publications, gaining valuable visibility for your business or organization.
Traditional news releases — or press releases as they used to be called back when real presses were used by real news organizations to print news – had to vie for limited space on a printed page. Typically, that limited newsworthiness to stories about new products or services, new technologies, or major organizational news.
Today, however, the concept of “news” has changed dramatically. Publishing space is virtually unlimited and publishers hungry for content. The lines have blurred between so-called “real” news organizations such as newspapers, magazines, and broadcast news outlets and “new media” such as online citizen-journalism sites, blogs, e-letters, and news aggregator services. Today, many of the stumbling blocks have disappeared that were once between people generating news and the outlets that published it. It’s easier than ever now to get your news published in a variety of places. The trick is writing something that will be of enough interest for someone to pick it up and publish it.
Picking a topic
There are more things to write a news release about than you might think, starting with the obvious: a new product or service, openings and closings, restructurings (partnerships, mergers and acquisitions), and employee/staff news. These topics generally can be considered “hard” news and worthy of broad distribution, when possible.
There are a host of other topics, however, that many people don’t think to promote with a news release, but that make ideal “soft” news releases. These topics include trade show and conference appearances, awards, business anniversaries, new client wins, capital equipment purchases, and new capabilities. While a business publication editor may consider these topics too self-serving to warrant publication, there are still good reasons to write a release on them, as you will shortly see.
Creating your own news.
Don’t think you have enough news, hard or soft, to write about? Then think about creating your own news. Develop a simple industry or customer survey, publish the results on your website, and write a news release about it.
Write a report. Interview key personnel in your organization and your industry trade association about your market or industry and publish their insights. Then write a release about the key findings, announcing the availability of the report for download on your website. With a little thought, you should be able to come up with several ways to create your own news.
Writing a news release
Now you need to write about your topic. Remember that this is news, not advertising, and an editor is going to judge whether it’s worth publishing. Avoid jargon and using phrases such as “industry leading”, “number one”, “unique”, and any other terms that smack of self-serving advertising.
Lead with all the important information in the first paragraph, starting with the topic, the company, and why your news is important. Traditionally, this is known as the “five W’s and the H” – who, what, where, when, why, and how. Keep sentences simple and paragraphs short.
Add the details to the middle portion, or body, of your release and finish with what’s called the “boilerplate” – the standard information about your company or organization, including basic description, locations, and web address. If your company is big enough it can even include the number of employees, subsidiary information, and stock ticker symbol if it’s publicly traded.
Distributing a news release
Here comes the fun part – getting the word out so the right people see it. If your market is fairly small, you might be able to put together your own distribution list based on trade publications and industry organizations (here’s a tip for finding the right people on their websites: drill down to the Contact Us section, often a button in the footer at the very bottom of the page – key personnel and their email addresses are often listed there). It takes a little legwork, but it’s worth it because you will have a concise, up-to-date list of exactly the people you need to reach. Just remember to update it periodically.
If your company has important news with wider appeal, consider using one of the many paid news distribution services such as PR Newswire, PRWeb, or BusinessWire. These services can charge several hundred dollars or more per release, depending on the distribution you need, but they are worth it. Thousands of on- and off-line publications subscribe to these services to receive news releases, increasing your chances of getting seen by the right editors and audiences.
There are also many free online release distribution services that are worth looking into but too numerous to list completely here. Some of the more popular ones include PR.com, Webwire, PRZoom, Clickpress.com, and 24-7 Press Release.com. These types of distribution services are especially useful for distributing “soft news” releases such as business anniversaries, tradeshow appearances, and survey or report availabilities; releases designed to get your organization’s name in front of a wider audience of e-letter editors, bloggers, and other publishers with news that may not be “newsy” enough for, say, a trade publication or business page editor.
Soft news releases also make ideal content for your website. They provide significant, search-engine-optimizable text and other features attractive to search engines and potential customers. They are also a great way to refresh your site content on a regular basis. Even if you never distribute your company’s tenth anniversary release to a news service, you should definitely write one to put on your website.