Are you experiencing a media coverage drought?
If so, it’s time to put to rest the Ivy Lee, 1906 version of press release writing and adopt a style that appeals to today’s journalists and their diverse audiences.
While journalists and media outlets still rely on releases for story ideas, more than half of distributed releases are never used. Why?
Journalists are overworked
- Employment in the field is down 30 percent
- 60 percent of journalists have added web duties
- Today’s news cycle is 24/7
- 50 percent of journalists receive more than 50 releases a day
New goals in a technological age
- Journalists are now evaluated on page views, social response, unique visits and comments
- More than 80 percent of approved releases are published on portals or other websites
Gone are the days of the inverted pyramid
Readers’ attention spans are short. They are now looking for more than just broad facts boiled down to specifics. The inverted pyramid was not designed to keep readers’ attention, and while it may get the facts across, it has no place for engaging storytelling. To help journalists keep readers interested and engaged, we must dissect our press releases and reprogram them from the top down.
Headline: Now, headlines should lead with the topic, cover a single point, have a strong verb and be short and sweet. The decision to continue reading is almost always based on the headline. Studies show that it takes people less than a second to decide if they will continue to read a story.
Deck (Sub-headline): The deck, or sub-headline, is an opportunity to reveal the benefits or consequences of the situation presented in the headline. It should serve as a second layer of information. While the deck may go into greater detail than the headline, it should still be simplified with specific points to answer the questions posed in the headline.
Lead: As with the headline and deck, the lead should be short, limited of fluff and background, and void of traditional press release 101 techniques. Try to lead with a benefit, human interest, or interesting facts and statistics.
An engaging lead can be the difference between standing out and getting lost in the Google shuffle.
Body: This is your chance to present key facts relevant to the story, and the body should demonstrate the key details. It must support the information present in the headline, deck and lead. Bullet points, in moderation, are a good way of presenting these key facts.
Quotes and sound bites: Give journalists choices; put together a list of quotes, a la carte style, so they can pick the one best suited for their readers. Quotes provide important commentary and a human element to your release. With that being said, it is important to avoid the clichéd “I’m so honored/excited/happy” sound bites.
As engaging public relations professionals, we must help media outlets and journalists do their job and write for their particular audience by making our releases easier to read and use. While the classic press release may accomplish these goals to an extent, the new, mobile-focused audience is looking to interact and engage with the stories they read. Add some interactive elements, such as links to more information, pictures or embedded video, to your press release format.
How do you format your press releases for the new age of media? Tweet us @DEVENEYMKTG and let us know your tips.