By Jim Gregory, James Gregory Consultancy LLC
As a former daily newspaper reporter, I have formed some opinions about what makes a good press release and what doesn’t. It is interesting to note that the Twitterworld and social media have not yet totally replaced the press release as a communications tool for PR types.
Short, 25-30 word leads still work best in press releases. And leading with the “news” works, too. In that regard, one approach really bugs me. That’s when the press release writer’s first sentence says, “XYZ Company announced that” it did something momentous. Hey, the news isn’t that it “announced” something big; the news is that it did something newsworthy.
Also, I get bugged by so-called PR pros that don’t adhere to the most accepted style guide out there – the AP Stylebook. You know, AP puts a lot of work into that, and every worthy journalist pretty much knows its twists and curves. If you want the publication to run your news, then don’t give them the extra work of conforming it to AP style.
Another thing that bugs me (OK, there are a few) are when first names are used in subsequent references instead of last names. Most any publication that picks up a press release will be using last names, so why make them go through the annoying process of having to change the first name to a last name? Also, why put Mr. or Ms. before a name. Only the Wall Street Journal does that, and not consistently, especially on its (not their) website.
Oh, and another thing: When a press release for XYZ Corp. says something like “XYZ Corp. announced today that “their” first quarter was a record-breaker, I nearly choke. Really, “their or they?” How about, “XYZ Corporation set a record with its first-quarter performance”? Despite some recent politically motivated proclamations, companies (and organizations) aren’t people.
The inverse pyramid style of writing is still best for retention of the main points in the release. And press releases that are shorter are better. Not Many editors are going to read more than a couple sentences (or the headline) before they make a decision whether a release is newsworthy.
And, whatever else is in a press release, make sure it contains dates in the text. The Internet and websites are timeless places where articles can last forever, so it’s always nice for a reader to know whether they’re reading something new or stumbling across something from 2006.
Jim is expert in public relations, marketing, public affairs, economic development, crisis communications, and communications counsel. He has executed professional programs for large and small companies in addition to non-profits. He has guided corporations at the highest levels and delivered superior results. He can help you with Web development, newsletters, press releases, strategic planning, advertising, social media and precise communications counsel.
Jim knows you can tell much about his work from the clients he has been proud to serve. Clients like American Medical Response, Forbes Magazine, Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Chamber of Commerce, MultiState Associates, North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, Salina Chamber of Commerce, and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. In aviation and aerospace he has helped the Berlin Air Show, CAV Aerospace, Cessna Aircraft, International Aerospace Consultants, Oriental Publishing, Piper Aircraft, Professional Pilot Magazine, Salina Airport Authority, Groom Aviation, Raytheon Aircraft, URS Corporation, Wall Street Journal and others.