Gini Dietrich

Three Ways to Help Your News Release Really Stand Out

By: Gini Dietrich | August 8, 2017 | 

Three Ways to Help Your News Release Really Stand OutIn the PR Dream Team, we had a conversation about newswires and their role in today’s communications activities.

To help the community member, we discussed the goals of the organization, why the CEO thought it important to distribute news that way, and other tactics that might be more effective.

It then evolved to whether or not it’s a good strategy to write and send news releases multiple times a month.

This is what drives me crazy about public relations.

First, what we do is not just media relations—it’s one (small—tiny—itty bitty) part.

Second of all, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

NO ONE cares about your internal promotions, latest awards won, or some one-off announcement you have.

It makes having a media relations only program extremely difficult.

You can only have so many “hits” at once.

The strategic stories that show a real return-on-investment are few and far between.

You have to have an integrated program that fills in the gaps between the true news.

Your News Release is Not News

Later this week (Thursday, I believe), Colleen Martell has an article running here on the very topic.

Without giving away too much, what I love is when she talks about what makes a trend.

She says:

One company with a new technology isn’t news; two companies with the technology is a coincidence; three companies represent a trend.

Your organization distributing a news release about your latest and greatest does not news make.

It doesn’t even make a trend.

In fact, today your news release is a tiny part of any successful PR effort.

I always say media relations is the backbone of what we do, but it does not work alone.

To see your campaign and activities really take flight you need to invest in creating engaging, shareable content.

Start by Providing Value

The best way to stand out from the hundreds of other news releases journalists scan through each day is to provide something of value.

This can take the form of starting with a proprietary survey on a timely topic, having a thoughtful perspective on an issue in the news, or providing free educational (not promotional) content of interest to the journalist’s audience.

Many brands equate proprietary surveys with $100,000 spends and a multi-month process with a market research company.

And, while that certainly is an option for brands with large budgets that are looking to create a statistically valid piece of research, any brand with a decent-sized email list and a free survey account can obtain valuable—and eminently shareable—insights that merit publication.

Similarly, newsjacking can be an excellent way to gain attention for your PR efforts, when done well.

And by done well, I’m talking about a security firm sharing tips on securing your household IoT devices so they don’t contribute to the next distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.

Not “Three personal branding lessons you can learn from today’s dead celebrity.”

Supplement Your Campaign With Visual Assets

No matter how compelling your written content is, however, if no one stops to read it, you’re out of luck.

That’s why creating color visuals—photographs, infographics, SlideShares, videos—is so important.

Research from Xerox on the effectiveness of using color in business documents found color increases readers’ attention spans and recall by 82 percent, and increases readership by 80 percent.

A few ways to easily and inexpensively add visuals to your PR campaigns include:

  • Filming 15-30 sec smartphone video snippets with executives or customers quoted in your text materials.
  • Designing social-friendly quote cards with visuals by using Canva or similar tools.
  • Creating visual representations of your data by using Venngage or Piktochart.

And the best part is all of these pieces can have your logo on them.

They also can include calls-to-action that lead visitors back to your website.

At this point, their return-on-investment becomes trackable.

And that return is all thanks to you, and your PR efforts.

Have a Comprehensive Distribution Plan

If your distribution plan is posting the news release on social media and distributing it through a release service, you’re missing out on significant opportunities.

When planning your program, and deciding who to work with to create your content, you’ll want to keep distribution in mind.

  • Is there an industry thought leader who would be willing to weigh in?
  • Are there influencers who don’t mind sharing a link or can provide extra insight or advice?
  • Are some of your customers more active on social media than others?
  • Do you have journalists who are willing to share your news? They may not want to write about it, but they may share it.

When you create content that includes contributions from people who have a built-in audience, they’re very likely to share it with their networks, as long as it’s not a promotional puff piece.

You spend countless hours on crafting the right PR program to meet organizational objectives.

But augmenting your traditional tactics with creating compelling content can take your programs so much further, and help you show that PR is a vital part of your business.

It’s not just a nice-to-have luxury.

We have a real opportunity to keep our organizations top-of-mind without sending countless “who cares?” news releases.

Consider additional opportunities the next time you begin to write CITY, STATE (DATE) — XXX is excited to announce.

A version of this first appeared on the PRSA blog

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Howie Goldfarb

    i would add…..try to make your news release not a piece of biased fluff reeking of flimsy advertising and self promotion. So many are just that. If your story doesn’t benefit the media outlets readers and the outlet themselves you are wasting your time.

    Lastly if you are a Brand who isn’t paying a flat rate careful your agency isn’t creating billable hours doing nothing of value for you. Some charge per Press Release……which means they will always care more about volume vs quality. Maybe pay them based on placements and readers. Then more is actually win-win vs win-lose.

    • It also isn’t fair to pay them on placements and readers. They have zero control over that.

  • Brian D. Meeks

    Nicely done post. I enjoyed it and chuckled when you wrote “Not… Three personal branding lessons you can learn from today’s dead celebrity.”

    I would, admittedly, read the dead celebrity branding lessons.

    • LOL! Andy Crestodina and I made a very similar joke yesterday. Great minds…

  • I really need to embrace and use video more. Snippets of video via your smartphone make a lot of sense. We (the royal we) already do it with snapchat, facebook and IG stories, but we seem to balk at it from a professional point of view. A little video snippet is a great opportunity for more (and longer) engagement.

    I struggle with video myself. My head always tilts a weird way, and I really have to read the prompts (hence why I went through the magazine track in j-school, rather than broadcast!).

    Audio could be a fun alternative so I can avoid any head-tilting, prompt-reading anxiety!

    • I’m with you, Mike. I don’t love doing video at all.

      • I don’t understand you people. I keep trying to think of a good reason for me to do a video or podcast for us every single day. Not there yet, but have faith, I’ll find one.

        • Here is a question: Since when do you need a reason? :)))

  • This could also be titled, “How to be a better PR pro.” We all have deadlines and pressure from clients, but that’s not an excuse to do a crapy job.

    Do a bit of research. This very blog is a GREAT resource of knowledge. You just have to read and apply it! That’s it!

  • So does this mean the release I was preparing about my four year anniversary here is a no go? What if I include video? Maybe a Venn diagram?

    • If you include a video and a Venn diagram, we’ll send it.

  • Debbie Johnson

    My biggest complaints about news releases are poor writing and templates that cram in a bunch of boiler plate nonsense that no one outside of the company cares about. Not to mention that they aren’t usually newsworthy, either.

    I spent several years as a journalist before switching to PR, which is why I don’t use boilerplate in my releases. That’s wasted real estate. I tend to write mine so that they look more like news copy, and as a result, they often get published verbatim on our local media websites. Producers don’t have much time and they need content. That’s why this works for me.

    When I speak to PR students, I always advise them to work at their student newspapers or radio stations or intern at a news station so they can learn how a newsroom works and how to identify newsworthy content.

    • My poor husband sent me a news release about something they’re doing at his company. It started with, “The National Democratic Training Committee is excited to announce…” I ripped it to shreds.

      • Debbie Johnson

        LOL! How did he take that??

        • I’m fairly certain they still sent it out…and got zero results. It’s not like I know what I’m doing or anything.

    • This is one of my biggest pet peeves, especially when wire services charge you for the entire word count. The problem, of course, is when you’re working with a public company their legal/compliance team insists on a boilerplate that’s longer than the release itself. At the time, we were using one of the major wire services (and had been for years), who finally consented to give us an “all you can write” dissemination rate, but they still fleeced us (and wouldn’t include links unless we paid for that too) based on the typical word count of the releases. I think the boilerplate was 400 words…

      • Debbie Johnson

        Sigh. I wrote essays in freshman composition that were 500 words. That’s ridiculous.

        How do we get companies to see that these boilerplates are not effective?