Writing an Effective News Release
Newspaper and television reporters should not be approached the same way when it comes to press releases. The two mediums face different time constraints and deadlines with their stories, which will dictate how long or short you should make your pitch.
Let’s begin with television where white space is always good. The more white space on the email news release the better. No one wants to open an email and see eight, long, single-spaced paragraphs. Your initial pitch should never have more than four paragraphs. This is a stereotype but television moves so quickly that no desk assistant, reporter, producer or news manager will take the time to read a release that resembles a novel. They might make it to the second or third paragraph, but they are not going to read three pages of single-spaced sentences, which is why you need to keep your press release focused and tight.
Here is a formula that seems to work with my peers and me. Try to think of a catchy headline to put at the top of the release, then follow-up your pitch with one paragraph explaining the story. The second paragraph should tell the reporter why viewers would be interested in your idea. This might seem like a challenging task for the rookie publicist, but by applying the five W’s (who, what, where, when and why) you will be able to narrow down the focus of the story. The third paragraph should be devoted to explaining what you bring to the table or why you are the person to tell this story. If you have more statistics, articles or research for the reporter, tell him in the email you can provide it upon request.
Why not give the reporter all of the research at once or send it as an attachment? It can be intimidating for any reporter to open an email and see several attachments because he won’t know which one to open. When time is of the essence, no one wants to waste time opening useless attachments. However, if a reporter asks for a specific request, you will know which attachment to send.
Many publicists make the mistake of trying to cram everything into one press release. The purpose of a release is to get the reporter or producer interested in the story. You are only trying to make them aware of the idea, and pique their interest. Don’t worry if the release doesn’t answer all of the questions. If it is a good story, the reporter will give you a chance to answer those questions later.
Your approach should change when pitching newspapers but you should still start with the same principles cited for pitching television: begin with a catchy headline, apply the five W’s to narrow the focus of the story, and explain why you are the person to tell the story. Your email release should be more in-depth, depending on the topic and news outlet you are pitching, but it should not exceed one page. You can add credibility to your idea by attaching recent journals or studies that support your idea, along with a paragraph that explains what knowledge the attachments will provide.
Finally, remember writing a news release is an art. It’s value depends on the person who is reading it, so learn to adapt and adjust your release based on the news outlets and reporters you are pitching. The more you can personalize a pitch, the more success you will have at getting your news release read.
Want to get publicity for your business? Click here to get a free copy of our white paper that reveals tactics and strategies for any business.
If you are in need of publicity, MaciasPR.com can help. We’ve gotten our clients media placements with the New York Times, Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News and others. The owner, Mark Macias, is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and author of the book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. You can learn more about our media strategy at MaciasPR.com.