Jon Clements, founder and director of Metamorphic PR, explains why storytelling is vital to a brilliant press release.
While storytelling is really nothing new, it’s getting a re-appraisal through consumers – whether B2B or B2C – wanting companies to talk to them differently and being able to share good stories instantly via a multitude of online channels, aka social media.
But how does a company take its story to the world?
The old faithful company press release has taken a beating in recent years for being too dry, corporate and disengaged from those – usually journalists or bloggers – whose co-operation you need to get your story told.
But while the death of the press release has been exaggerated, it’s vital to understand that a press release is only a tool – a delivery mechanism – to get your story heard; in other words, putting some words down and sending them out does not guarantee a result. So, before you open a new document and start typing, you need to engage your brain (alternatively, a good PR consultant!) or risk wasted time, effort and a load of disappointment.
What do you want to communicate about your business and is it supported by a genuine story? The eventual press release you write needs to satisfy those two demands: conveying memorable and compelling messages about your business while providing the journalist or blogger with what they believe to be a bona fide story.
2. Target media
You don’t have to be a journalist to understand what makes a story in their publications. Read them carefully, see what stories other companies are getting published and be honest with yourself – does your story idea have what it takes to make it? Is it relevant and of value to the readership, listeners or viewers?
What news values are present in your story and therefore can be injected into your press release? Think “S” factor:
- Size – how significant is your story within your marketplace (are you creating one new job or 250 new jobs)?
- Superlative – can you claim to be the first, the fastest, and the cheapest within your story?
- Simplicity – you need to explain your story in a way the journalist can quickly and easily use; so ditch the jargon and get to the point!
- Strangeness – is there something unusual or unexpected about the story you want to tell? It can certainly help to get it noticed as competition is fierce.
What is your competition saying in the media? Sometimes, leaving a time gap between your story and a similar tale from your opposition will avoid media fatigue with the same topics.
4. The written word
A well-written press release that conveys an authentic story
Has every chance of being copied, pasted and edited only slightly by the journalist or blogger to fit the tone and feel of the medium, so pay close attention to grammar, punctuation and spelling. Get another pair of eyes to review it before it goes anywhere.
Today is doing two jobs: catching the attention of the journalist and being optimised with keywords that your customers might be searching for online. So, avoid the clever puns (though amusing, no-one’s Googling them), write simply and focus on the highlight of your story; if it includes some knock-out numbers about your business, use them!
The opening paragraph
Should include the fundamentals of your entire story. So if it’s the only section that ever gets published, it communicates the key points.
Build the story: beginning, middle and end
Take the reader on a journey to understanding the who, what, why, where, when and how of your story. Check and double check your facts and figures as they will be in print or online and the media won’t correct inaccuracies that are your fault!
Include a quote that means something
Your managing director might well be “delighted”, but do better for him or her within the quotation marks: what does your story mean to your customers, prospects and the wider world? A quote from a real person is a great vehicle for conveying company values, messages and emotion that otherwise sound contrived.
General background to the company
Unless your company has a truly low profile, keep the general stuff lower down the press release. It’s a hygiene factor.
Give readers a reason to visit you
If your story is supported by something readers can download from your website, include the link. Embed a hyperlink to your site anyway – some media will retain it.
Contact names and numbers for follow-up
Includes names and contact numbers for people who are both available and willing to handle further queries from journalists who are likely to be in a hurry, impatient, and even rude. It’s wise to anticipate what extra questions might come – not only what you’d like to be asked, but the questions you fear like the Devil himself. Be prepared!
5. And finally…
And don’t forget to get approval from everyone in your business who needs to be involved with external communication, as frantic calls to stop the media using a press release once it’s out there will do nothing for your blood pressure or credibility with journalists.
But once you build a reputation for providing great – or at least usable – stories via your press releases, media relations can become more of a conversation between the two halves of the news process.