For starters, let us begin by saying that while press and news releases are different terms, concepts and media items in general, as an entity of information, the two are almost always used interchangeably. That might be due to the fact that both of them perform similar functions; both are intended to be used for information dissemination. The topics of said information might change from format to format; consider news releases having the content as would their name beget, while press releases in today’s times are more or less a marketing tool. With that being said, we’ll get into the question of how to write a news release that stands out amongst all competitors. And while this may sound and read all very technical, press release or news release writing really is a way of writing to attract maximum attention to the writing, which can be achieved through a number of ways.
Before we get into the writing part, let us first differentiate and understand the difference or similarity between press releases and news releases.
Press Release vs News Release: Alike or Different?
Press releases are something that are pretty common, and even if you haven’t known about them, chances are, you’ve interacted with them in some way. A good example of people not knowing about press releases but them being in widespread use would be the fact that the news of every iPhone launch is disseminated via press releases (the digital ones), and yet when you ask people about them, you got blank stares.
And this example perfectly encapsulates what the modern press release is supposed to do: disseminate information about a product, service or really anything you might want your customer base or the general public to know about. As such, press release marketing is an important aspect of digital media distribution and still continue to be an inexpensive option for businesses and corporations to use for all of their digital marketing purposes.
On the other hand, we’ve got news releases. Again, the purpose of a news release is similar to that of a press release; as the name implies, the news release will inform people of any newsworthy item like an important political event, international occurring or anything else. Which makes it something of an interchangeable term with press release.
So, are press releases and news releases alike or different. Let’s look at it this way: both serve the same purpose; both have a singular format and both are used for news dissemination. The only place where they differ is for application: news releases are mostly reserved for media houses and news stations, whereas press releases have found a wider use as digital marketing and digital media distribution tools. Even the content and intent are similar, so for the purposes of this passage, lets assume that these two are indeed interchangeable.
Let’s get now to the part of writing a news release that stands out from the competitors.
Writing a stand-out news release
Let’s start with the basics. Of course, writing a press release requires finesse to a certain extent, but that will not be all that will be required for writing; be it a press release or a news release. A lot of other things are required, so let’s get into those as we proceed ahead.
- Know what your release is all about
The first step to writing a good news release, or a news release that will stand out from the rest is actually knowing what the issue is that you’re writing on. With a news release, it is something that has just happened; for a news release, it would be better if you know all the details that are available, as it would allow for you to be less pedantic with the details already at hand. Preferably a little bit of history over the matter, something that developing stories usually don’t have, but news releases usually don’t deal with that. So, for a story that you want to project outwards with a news release, try to first get all the relevant information, so you know what you’re writing about. Once you have all that, we can then proceed onto the next step.
- Be concise with the information
Now that you’ve got all the information you might require for the news release, its time to put it down on the news release. But raw information or news cannot go on the news release, which is to be picked up by relevant media houses and news agencies. Of course, when we mentioned finesse, we meant writing and editing finesse. Because oftentimes, not all information that you have needs to go on the news release; even if it does, you need to be concise. With an ever-shrinking attention span and a media that’s bent on visuals; videos and pictures, text is all the more difficult to get people to interact with. And so, you might want to keep the news release concise and to-the-point. Don’t put in extra information, or filler news that is usually used to fill the pages or stories wherever the page looks empty. There is a difference between a newspaper and a news release; they can get away with putting extra information or filler news; you cannot.
- Be accurate; don’t exaggerate
Accuracy within the news industry and the media (as a pillar of the state) is something that is crucial. Along with the fact that while sensationalism does sell news, it does not sell news releases. Let’s focus on the first part of this: ‘be accurate’. Accuracy with your information is key. If you can’t get reliable information or can’t seem to verify the news, you might be taking a big chance with your news release. Because there’s only one ‘DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN’ moment in a news person’s life, and for news releases, accuracy and speed are key. So, for your news release, try to be as accurate as possible and try to rely more on vetted news. Secondly, media sensationalism is something that is actually looked down upon, so try to avoid that as well. A straight-forward news pitch, with complete and relevant information in a no-nonsense way is a sure-fire way to get your news release picked up by major publishers and used for distribution purposes. Stray even a little bit and the chances of your news release getting picked up also go down.
- Journalists will be reading your release, not just yourself
Again, a point that often gets overlooked when people start writing a news release. This is particularly common in news releases that cover a specific stratum of a specific community. You see, when writing about a news you want to share with the people, you have got to keep two things in mind: a, the people it’s going to get read by are not all CEOs and CFOs so keep the technical lingo to a limit. And b, the news release is going to distributed primarily by media persons and journalists, so they will look for something that reads well and interests them, not just some release that sounds pompous about making someone a CFO. Writing it in such a way that it goes easy on the eyes of a journalist or a media person is the one way you can really make sure that the news release gets picked up and used for distribution purposes. Keep this in mind: your primary source of distribution is the journalist that reads the release, so don’t just write it for the investment gurus in your audience. Throw a bone to the journalist as well and keep it light in the terminology department.
- Go extra-creative with your headline
On the topic of discussing ways to make your news release something of a ‘journalist-magnet’, don’t forget about the headline, the shoulder, you know, the things that are basically the things that attract a reader towards your news release. This same principle is a basic one in press release writing, so you know it is of substance. Because a headline is basically like a hook; if readers, journalists and people who interact with your press release are hooked, they’ll continue to read it. It will evoke interest in the body text. On the other hand, if the headline reads like something a kid would write, you can bet your bottom dollar its getting tossed out into the garbage can. Because in an industry where literally thousands of news releases are released every day and journalists have to sift through all that, it is not humanly possible to read the entire contents of a news release. So, journalists do what any of us might do: read the headline, and gauge the importance and newsworthiness of the release from there. So, the real meat-and-potatoes are the headlines. Spend some time on it, and make sure it reads blissfully.
- What’s a news release without newsworthiness?
Which brings us to our next and equally important point. Of newsworthiness. As the heading so clearly puts the importance, what would be the importance of a news release without it being newsworthy? What we mean by newsworthy is that the news release ought to be of a topic that is considered news, attracts attention towards it, is obviously new, and has an angle of newsworthiness towards it. Because without it, all you’re left with is just an information release, and that is of significant importance to a media house. People define newsworthiness by the sense of urgency it creates; if its relevant topic, the news has just happened and is still in the cultural zeitgeist, well, it has the potential to be a good, newsworthy story and a story that could go on a news release. Even if it isn’t particularly newsworthy, you could always find an angle to present to the audience, and present it in such a way that it becomes newsworthy. Its not a science, this thing. It’s an art.
- Address the 5 W’s, 1 H
The whats and hows; you have got to address all of them. In journalism, people call them the 5 W’s, but the one H is equally important and serves as a basis of a great news release. Addressing all the questions means that no information is left behind, and the reader or the person interacting with the news release gets all the pertinent information regarding any newsworthy happening. What, why, when, who, where and how are some of the basics of journalism and information-gathering; they also help give your story relevance and credibility as an incomplete news release that details only part of the news and skips something else isn’t going to fly much higher. On the contrary, a news release that has all the right information in the right place, in the right sequence (don’t throw the information around haphazardly) and addresses all the pertinent questions is a news release that stands out from the crowd; not in a bin, but in the ‘to be published’ list.
- Be structured
Your news release needs to be structured is a point that goes hand-in-hand with the addressing questions point. Because what good is release that has all the pertinent information which is scattered around like confetti after a birthday party? Its no good. Again, the issue of oversaturation of content comes in. With hundreds and thousands of news releases a day for journalists and media houses to sift through, an unorganised news release is not among the winners of the day. It will be just tossed out despite its newsworthiness or other virtues, because many times, a news release goes straight to publishing without any major edits. A news release without any structural integrity, and coherence will read bad, and make the publishing house look bad, so they don’t bother with it. Which means that you need to bother about it, writing it in such a way that the news release is coherent, connected and makes sense with a structural flow to it.
- Including media contact
Your news release is your effort. It is your product, and this will be credited to you. So, you need to make it your own. How do you do it? By including your information on the bottom or top of it. So, it can be attributed to you, or credit where credit is due could be given to you. This is an important point as many people feel the need to just write their name on it and be done with it. No, include your phone number, email and any other relevant detail if necessary since it not only helps with their filing and recording, it could also help you, theoretically, with news scoops that you could get from them. Consider this: if you regularly publish news releases from the financial world, and you miss something, the publishing house can always get you news scoops about things that they’ve heard and they share it with you. It’s a win-win, always.
- Spare the readers the technical lingo
It is important for you to know and understand that not everybody who will be interacting with your release is going to be a financial graduate; a person qualified to be a CFO with a degree in business management from Harvard Business School. Your news release should be evident of the fact that it serves to educate and inform the masses, not serve as some secret coded message to another CFO. In the world of news releases, any release that ahs a neutral language, a reader-friendly expression and does not make too much use of technical jargon and industry-specific lingo is considered a news that will engage readers and wont sound too complicated at all. You need to do the same; spare the technical lingo and instead opt for a language that’s easy for the reader.
- Use search engine optimization practices
Modern news distribution utilises a lot of what are called the modern search engine optimisation practices. These SEO techniques help your news rank higher within search engines and show on top of the search results against any relevant keyword. So, for instance, if your news release is about Tesla stocks going up, a good optimised news release will be written and optimised as such that whenever somebody looks up Tesla stocks or Elon Musk, your news release will be among the top results, prompting the user to click on it and give it a go.
- Use visuals to your advantage
Finally, we have the most important part of the news release that is in the end because well, this will only serve to make it better, but does not have any direct effect on the quality of the news release. We’re talking visuals; pictures and videos that make the news release more of an event, more likely to be published. Keep in mind the ‘pictures speak a thousand words’ quotation if you ever find yourself questioning putting visuals in your release. You can write a thousand words on a topic and hope that people will read it, or you can just include a picture, know that people will look at it and call it a day.