Hello everyone! here is the latest in our #BareNecessities series.

The press release is dead, long live the press release. And so begins the perennial debate – is the press release still relevant in today’s digital world? But speak to journalists as regularly as we do and they’ll tell you straight. They still work and they make their life easier. It takes longer and more effort to watch a video, listen to a pitch or plugin a USB stick. A journalist can scan a press release in seconds, read it on the move and sell the story to their news desk all very quickly and easily. So, Bob’s your uncle then? Well, you’ll still need to have rich media content ready and follow up the journalist with a friendly reminder phone call. But to get your foot in the door, you really can’t beat a good press release.

Cut through the noise

The press release must work harder than ever before. We want news 24/7; we increasingly expect video, opinion, live interviews and more. And journalists across local, regional and national media are responding to this demand. You need to put yourself in their shoes.

Journalists often use the TRUTH acronym to test a story’s newsworthiness:

T – Topical; of the moment, timely, new and something people are talking about
R – Relevant to a specific audience
U – Unusual; not what people already know or expect. Something which will surprise the audience. Is it the first? The biggest? The smallest? In the world of social media it is something which will make people click through to the story (clickbait).
T – Trouble. Show how you are solving a problem. If your story is not strong enough a journalist will look for the conflict angle.
H – Human interest. What is in it for people? What impact will it have on your customers or wider community?

If you’ve got at least 4 out of 5 on this list, you stand a good chance.

Follow the 5 Ws

All news rooms work on the same basic principles – the 5 ‘W’s’. Who? What? Where? Why and When? Every press release must address these 5 key points in the first paragraph. This method of writing is common in journalism and is called the inverted pyramid. It helps the reader get to the key facts as quickly as possible. You can build on the story further into the press release.

Keep it simple

It’s crucial you avoid jargon, abbreviations, technical terms, or anything other than plain English. Make sure your sentences are short, syntax and vocabulary are straightforward. In short imagine you are telling the story to an 8 year old. No need for fancy words or long winded explanations. This is something that everyone should grasp quickly.

Add the human touch

The human interest angle is probably your strongest card. Why does your story matter to people. What is its human quality? A key way to achieve this is via a case study and a direct quote within your second or third paragraph. A quote should do more than state the obvious. It should provide insight, energy, perspective or opinion from someone of influence. Consider providing two quotes with different and distinct angles. If your organisation has a relevant connection with a local celebrity or figurehead use this relationship to your best advantage.

Think about your audience

Have you thought about your audience and targeted your press release around this? Your audience will determine the newspaper/magazine/website/TV channel you target but should also inform your content.
Who are you trying to inform/educate or influence?
What are your core objectives?
If it is the general public or specific groups?

Let’s say for example your product or service is designed for busy mums. Think about the kinds of challenges they face, your solutions and the benefits for them and the whole family. Include a quote from a mum who’s benefited from your organisation. Consider surveying local mums to provide context and back up your claims.

Stand out from the crowd

A lot of press releases are unopened because of poor headlines. There are a few ways to tackle this. Short and succinct is the key thing to aim for. This is particularly important for it to be online and social media friendly, as well as good for SEO.

Think about a front page story and write a headline that YOU would want to read. Use the active voice and try and inject a sense of curiosity. Emotion is also a useful tool to use, whether it’s humour, fear or surprise. You can also take advantage of topical phrases and trends. And remember to avoid being too vague. You don’t want a headline that is completely ambiguous or worse misleading. Leave the clickbait to other people!

Here are some examples of headlines we like, that leave you wanting more.
United airlines wants to power jets with your leftover dinner
Are shops charging ‘fat tax’ on clothes?

Offer a little bit extra

Being helpful to journalists will always serve you well. Make sure you have some spokespeople lined up who are available for interviews. Also consider some industry experts who can bolster your story and are willing to help out. Make sure there is some space cleared in their diary to step in when your news is released.

Provide some strong images and even better a short video clip. If this is outside your budget write a case study to illustrate your story. You could even consider hosting a visit from a journalist so they can get the pictures they need.

Include some original data or statistics in your story that you have sourced. It could be FOI data, survey or questionnaire results or independent research.

Do your homework

Don’t send your press release to a generic email address. Find out who you need to target and go straight to the horse’s mouth. It could be the person covering news in your region, the technology editor, environmental reporter etc. Whoever it is they should be the most relevant to your subject area or business.

We recommend phoning up and finding out who that is. Have a chat with them and find out how and when they prefer receiving emails. When do they have their daily or weekly planning meeting, and when is the best time to get in touch. Building a relationship is really important and increases your chances of success. Any why not do some extra digging and see if they’re on social media in a professional capacity and what kind of stories they are interested in. Nothing wrong with a bit of harmless stalking!

Writing a good press release really is a tricky thing to get right so we hope you find these tips useful and inspiring.

If you are planning a media campaign, got some news to share or want to raise your profile long term , Bare can provide you with some expert support and advice. We have over 20 years’ experience working with the media from local newspapers to mainstream TV news channels.

See you soon for another #BareNecessities Blog.