TOOLS OF THE TRADE 2: WHOSE NEWS RELEASE IS IT ANYWAY?
Last week two friends asked for guidance on news releases they had written. One was just beginning to do public relations consulting work, the other was more in the marketing field. Both made common mistakes that even seasoned professionals can make: They missed addressing to whom the primary message was for in the release.
The first release was about a fundraising event for a heart clinic. First, the headline was kind of flat: Like a good media savant, I advised, “Go back and find a pop song that uses the word “heart” and work that into either the subhead or the headline. That will make it catchier and more memorable.” Second, there was no quote from one of the heart doctors about why this event was important — and this particular clinic is renowned for its five-star cardiologists and surgeons. But even more importantly, there was no comment from a past or current patient at the clinic.
“If you have some case studies or testimonials in the media kit or on the website, work a patient quote into the release.” That is ultimately your target market for this news and even though the media is getting it, they will be asking the same thing: “Who is this really about?”
The second release concerned a new innovative plastic surgery technique. Whenever I think of plastic surgery I think of the mother in the Terry Gilliam movie “Brazil” who had her face stretched so many times she looked like she was wearing a rubber Halloween mask (go ahead, Netflix it). But I digress. While this release was fairly well written, again it lacked a salient quote from someone who experienced the procedure and was crazy about it (and didn’t look like the mother in the movie “Brazil” at all).
Turn the tables when writing any release and ask, “Who is this news ultimately for?” Not the organization you are writing it for, not the news people who read it but for the people who will benefit from the service, product or news.
Ideally, I like to pull key messages from every aspect of the Media Kit — the Bios, the company backgrounder and testimonials — and work those into the news release. That helps create critical redundancy in your presentation and reinforces your messages to media and your target market. A news release should capture everything succinctly that you need to communicate. If you do it right, no one will notice how neatly you’ve nipped and tucked everything together.