5 Myths About Today’s News Release (and 5 Truths)

Public relations professionals are thoroughly trained in the art of writing a strong news release. Countless classes, workshops, presentations and articles have instilled in me the tried and true factors of a successful press release. Traditionally, your audience when writing a press release is the media, or maybe a public target audience. You want the public to act on the release- whether that’s donating money, attending an event, or some other call to action. Your goal when addressing the media with your press release is to catch their attention and intrigue them with your oh-so newsworthy information. Bottom line: you want them to cover the information in your press release.

As a young professional in the world of Internet marketing, my background in journalism and public relations has proven to be immensely useful. However, am I writing the same style of news release I wrote for all those classes and projects I completed in college? Most definitely not. Sometimes, I think people get the wrong idea about writing press releases today. Maybe it’s because people are so used to the “old-school” style, maybe they don’t think new formats are successful, or maybe they just don’t know times are a changing.

Regardless, here are 5 myths about news releases that every PR pro should know.

MYTHS:

1. You should always have the company name in the headline.

2. The media are waiting for your story and you should write as many company releases as possible.

3. The release should flow easily for the audience to read, with strong, relevant transitions.

4. Subheads are not necessary.

5. Vary your vocabulary and word usage.

    REALITY:

    1. You should always have the company name in the headline.

    Of course, it’s OK to use your company name if it’s a company that people will be searching for. However, most people are not searching for your company by its name. Let’s say you are “Benny’s Pizza” in Marysville, Ohio. If someone is looking for a pizza shop, do you think they’re Googling “Benny?” Of course not. Your headline should include the words “pizza shop,” or something similar.

    2. The media are waiting for your story and you should write as many company releases as possible.

    The media are NOT waiting for your story. In fact, they likely don’t want your story unless it’s relevant and timely. Don’t bombard the media every week with releases that are not newsworthy; you will diminish your credibility as a PR pro, and the media will stop caring about what you send them.
    If you do have something to promote to the media, try to be creative with your outlet. Maybe a press release isn’t your best option. Consider a video clip, a Twitter hashtag or even a viral competition. There are countless ways to get your news out there- a news release might not always be the best fit.

    3. The release should flow easily for the audience to read, with strong, relevant transitions.

    No longer does your news release need to read like a little story. It’s OK to have a strong lead paragraph with your key information, a quote, a few links, contact information and a boiler plate. The media online are looking for quick, easy-to-read information. The more concise and the easier it is for the reporter to pull your information, the better.

    4. Subheads are not necessary.

    Subheads are absolutely necessary and serve as an excellent way for search engines to pick up your keywords, and help you rank on page 1 of Google or Yahoo or Bing. If your headline includes several keywords, and you have an equally keyword-strong subhead, chances are good that the search engines will find you. Use subheads!

    5. Vary your vocabulary and word usage.

    Keywords, keywords, keywords. It’s crucial for you to understand what keywords people are searching to find information about your release. If your release is about a new club opening in Marysville, do your research and find out what people are searching to find things to do in downtown Marysville. Maybe they are searching “Marysville,” “Marysville happy hour specials,” “dance club,” “bars in Marysville.” Whatever it is, use those words; don’t try to get fancy and impress the readers with your ability to say the word “club” in eight different ways. Bottom line: use the words that people are searching to find the information in your release.

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