Your name in lights...

17/10/2017 16:08:52
We were recently invited to talk to York Science Park residents about how to write press releases journalists will use, and give advice on increasing the chances of getting a news story published. We got great feedback, so we thought we’d share our top ten tips here on the blog, too.
  1. Read your target publication(s): It might sound obvious, but a lot of people don’t do it. If you’re targeting the York Press, buy a copy and see what kind of stories they run. Will they feature a story about a new contract win or a new starter in your team? If it’s a local news outlet you’re targeting, they’ll be looking for a strong local angle. Again, it sounds obvious, but we know from conversations with local journalists that they regularly receive stories without even so much as a hint of a local angle. So what’s the local slant on your story? If you’re creating jobs in the city or preventing a previously disused building from falling into disrepair, well then you’ve got yourself a local angle.
  1. Know your audience: Who’s reading the publications you’re targeting, and what matters to them? You need to understand this, and then tell your story in a way that will engage them whilst also appealing to the journalists who will be filtering that story and putting their own slant on it. Yep, you read that right. Journalists can - and will - alter the copy you send them if they think if makes the story more relevant to their readers. And, as long as it’s still factually correct, there’s nothing you can do about it. The truth is, if a story is well written, the chances are a journalist won’t edit it (too much!). But the fact remains: if you want something to appear exactly as you’ve written it, book an advert.
  1. Do the ‘so what?’ test: What makes your story newsworthy and why would a) anybody care and b) a journalist publish it? It needs to be genuinely new/different/unique/ground-breaking/include big numbers or a big name. To you, the story might be a huge achievement, but put yourself in the reader's shoes and ask yourself 'so what'?
  1. Look at your story from every angle: To you, 95% customer satisfaction might be a major achievement but, if you have two million customers, that same story could be spun by a journalist to say that 100,000 people are unhappy with your customer service. It can – and does – happen, so be wary.
  1. Tell your story in the opening line: Who, what, when, where, why? Then use the rest of the release to expand on the key points. Editors tend to crop stories from the bottom up, so get the most important and newsworthy information in good and early. Often, we find the real gem of the story tucked away in a throwaway line at the end of a briefing note from a client.
  1. Don’t waste quotes: Including a quote from your MD in your press release helps profile your business as the voice of authority in your area of expertise. But make it count. So often, a quote is someone from the company being delighted about something. That’s just fluff, and it can be very easily cut out. A quote is a great opportunity to keep your company at the heart of the story, so why not have your spokesperson saying something valuable or explaining a key part of the story, which will make the quote integral to the overall piece and far less likely to be cut.
  1. Statistics: If you’re targeting business editors, make sure your story is furnished with statistical info: financial, staff numbers, years etc. (especially if it’s a growth story). If you don’t include the value of that new contract win, you can be sure that will be the first thing the business writers at the Yorkshire Post will ask for – either that or they just won’t bother using the story. And get your facts right, too, because you will be challenged.
  1. A picture paints a thousand wordsA picture says a thousand words: Do you have a photo to accompany the story? A great photo can make the difference between a story being used or not. A former business editor at The York Press said he would open the photo first, without fail, and if it was a fantastic press shot then he’d find a way of using the story.
  1. Call first: If there’s one thing journalists REALLY don’t like, it’s a call saying “Did you get my press release…?” Far better to speak to them before you hit send, run through the salient points of the story with them and see if they’re interested. If they’re not, sometimes they’ll tell you what you’d need to give them to get them interested, at which point you might be able to go away and put together a stronger story that’s more likely to be used.
  1. Think beyond media coverage: A press release used to be one-way traffic. Send it to a newspaper or magazine, and they either run it or they don’t. Now, it can do so much more. The press release is no longer operating in a vacuum. This means that press releases are issued far less in isolation and have become a vehicle for sharing digital content through the inclusion of links, images, infographics and multimedia. By including links to resources that add value to the overall message, a well-crafted press release picked up by high domain authority websites influences search rankings and can achieve wider online visibility for your company or brand.

For more advice on shaping your story and getting it to the right people, contact us today.

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