When writing press releases, read them objectively afterwards word for word through the eyes of those you are hoping will read them. Ask “So what?” after each sentence and make sure this question is answered from the readers point of view. Then test the content against the following criteria:

  • Is it a good story – or just puff?
  • Will the content interest the target audience?
  • Is the article constructed properly?
  • Does the story line flow?
  • Are all the facts there?
  • Does the content make sense?
  • Is the content relevant?

If your press release is published in the media, read it objectively and take note of how the editor has changed it from the original you submitted, even if these changes are minor, and use this as feedback to improve your writing skills. It will also help you understand the style of the publication better for next time you submit a press release for that target audience.

Reasons press releases fail:

  • Company puffery, posturing and self-gratification.
  • Lack of useful information.
  • Not enough value for the target audience.
  • Lack of focus.
  • Too many ideas in the story.
  • Superficial views stated.
  • Disjointed or fragmented content.
  • Waffle.

News releases

A news release implies that the content is newsworthy and if it does not live up to this expectation it is just another form of spam. The editor will be looking for the facts and perhaps some comment on the business impact the announcement is likely to have on the market.

Before embarking on writing a news release, first ask yourself:

  • Is the announcement newsworthy?
  • Will it have any impact on the economy, a specific industry or market segment?
  • Is the announcement of interest to anyone except the company issuing it?

Authoritative articles

An authoritative opinion article should contain strong, informed views about the trends, issues or opportunities being discussed and what these mean to the target readers.

So first ask yourself:

  • Is the topic relevant?
  • Will the topic grab the reader’s attention?
  • Will the views discussed enlighten the reader?
  • Are the views forward thinking?
  • Is the spokesperson an authority on the topic?

Authoritative articles can be affective for driving trends and issues in the media and championing viewpoints that create a pull-through for a company’s products and services or merely promote it as the expert in a particular area. But all too often they contain superficial views, the content is vague, fragmented, ill-informed and generally lacking in substance.

This is an exerpt from A Perfect Press Release – or Not? – a guide to writing press releases by business and technology journalist Jennigay Coetzer. More article writing tips and media spokesperson tips can be found on her website at: www.jennigay.co.za, which also contains details of the article writing skills and media training workshops and coaching sessions she runs.

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