Creating a News Release for the Digital Age
What’s different about writing a news release 5-10 years ago and writing one today?
Not too long ago, doing a press release (or news release) meant writing your text-only news in a release format, proofing it, then sitting down with a long list of fax numbers and spending an hour or more punching the numbers on the fax machine. Then, you waited for the transmission reports and re-sent to (or made calls to confirm fax numbers for) any media outlet whose fax number showed a “transmission failure” on the report.
That process has changed drastically over the past several years. It has evolved from simple text on paper into a digital online experience. In this digital age it’s not a matter of merely “writing” a press release. One must “create” a news release. We now have to consider our digital audiences and social network exposure. Crucial features now include sharing photos, links (videos, links other relevant information, Twitter handles for sources that you quote, etc.) and hashtags are all part of an effective news release.
The difference between then and now is distribution method and presentation style:
- Modern news releases are digital as opposed to paper.
- Releases are sent electronically via email, social media sites and/or media outlet website uploads as opposed to faxing to a printer, snail-mailing or hand-delivering.
- Adding photos, video links, downloadable reference files and website links are all expected as the norm.
- Modern releases can be viewed in real-time, which was not possible with paper releases.
Some even say that the press release, as we’ve known it, has evolved so much that the old school release is no longer an acceptable format. Ashley Brown, Coca-Cola’s director of digital and social media, would like to “kill the press release” according to a recent PRDaily article. His point being that today’s version of the “news release” barely resembles the text-only “press release” of yore. Mr. Brown refers to the fact that the news release is now created specifically for electronic distribution and use. It is no longer just a series of paragraphs on a piece of paper. Rather, it takes the form of stories in photos and videos on the Internet. In fact, Coca Cola has created a digital “newsroom.” The world’s most recognizable brand has gone as far as to promote a new product, successfully we might add, via their online digital magazine, Coca-Cola Journey.
We don’t all have the resources to hire a team of digital news gurus. However, we can utilize our digital resources to spread the word about what our organization is doing. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, the top three most utilized social networks, are a good place to post news release information. If you have a blog, be sure to share your news there, as well. And, of course, if you’ve got a website, then you want to be updating it on a daily, or at least weekly, basis.
Be sure to include the basic ingredients of a solid news release:
- A “grabber” headline
- The 5 W’s (Who, What, When, Where and Why first paragraph)
- A call to action (for the intended audience)
- Contact information
- Your organization’s description
So, is the evolution to digital news releases good or bad?
It’s good because of:
- Quicker delivery
- Links that make it easier for the reporting media outlet to research and vet your information
- Photos that can attract attention like a good headline
The challenges are:
- There is a high level of pressure to acquire, create, edit and publish news in real time.
- Media outlets expect more details and immediate access to relevant information.
- There is little or no time for proofing and editing; it must be perfect the first time around.
How can the new, digital news release benefit your business?
Obviously, the more compelling and informative your news release, the more likely it will garner a call from media outlets. This hasn’t changed. The surefire way to, at the very least, get your release some attention is to: 1) Have your most pertinent facts clearly positioned in the first paragraph; 2) Have the supporting facts in the following paragraphs; 3) Include a photo (with a link if possible); and, 4) Include other links to relevant information in the form of articles, bios on people that you quote in your release, related articles and videos regarding your news.
Here are some tips for giving your news release a better shot at being noticed:
1. Make the information relevant to your audience. Let them know how it will benefit them.
2. Be sure to begin with a compelling headline and photo.
3. Include links to pertinent information.
4. Ensure that it is social media-friendly, i.e., it has share buttons for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn; make the format ‘smart phone’ friendly.
5. Post it to, at least, the three most widely used social media networks (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) and make sure that the heading and subheading stay within the 145 character limits of Twitter, so that it can be widely shared.
6. Include important contact information in case the media representative has additional questions regarding your news.