My 4 News Release Tips

By First Sgt. Kevin Hartman

As a former broadcast news producer, I often find myself looking at public relations through a different lens. It would be fascinating to see a graph on the number of “news” releases distributed each year and compare that to the number that were published. Now, I’d only want to see the graph, someone else can do the analytics because I’m going to guess that a majority of the releases would lack newsworthy content and that informational bit.

Now I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. This isn’t a “News releases are dead” post. In fact, I believe news releases have a very important role in communicating business or organization updates to the public. The problem is that most of the time releases announce something that doesn’t line up with what the target audience cares about.

All-too-often organizations forget to step out from their vantage point and into the smartphones or local papers of their key publics. Sure, your recent training exercise is something you want to announce to the world, but ask the question — “Will your key audience understand or care about the news?”

Here are four tips to ensure your news release is not dead on arrival when it hits a reporter’s inbox.

Quality not quantity. Is it news? Will your audience care? Does it impact the majority of your audience, or just a few? These are a few questions you need to ask to determine if a release should be created in the first place. I’m a firm believer in the less is more approach. Fewer, spot-on releases that meet your organization’s needs and have a wide reach are much better than dozens of useless fluff pieces. Do better, not more.

Share before you share. If your news is really big news, tell someone you trust and respect and gauge their interest. Take criticism in stride and make note of any questions or info you need to clarify since you may discover holes in your release that need more detail. You may start over. You may even toss it out. But it’s better to know if you have a watered down release before you release it.

Tell a story. It’s time to put your news to paper. No one wants to be overwhelmed with too many numbers and jargon. Tell a compelling story and include that ever-vital piece — the human element. Not just quotes, but why or how this news will impact people. After all, people tell stories, not things. Let your people shine and tell the story to connect with the people in your audience.

Practice your pitch. The release has merit and is ready to ship out — what next? Before you fire it off to the entire world, write 1–2 sentences that concisely relay what the news is and provide a call-to-action to read and/or publish the news. Now, read it out loud. If you can’t take yourself seriously, why should someone else? This is how you’ll get your target media to read that release you’ve worked so hard on and, ultimately, publish it.

Now, go share your story. Even if you end up shelving some along the way, keep writing, keep creating content and keep engaging your public. It’s the only way your story is going to get out there.

Kevin Hartman is the 1SG of the 115th MPAD, Oregon National Guard. A strategic planner trapped in a creative thinker’s body, Kevin has a degree in broadcast journalism, nearly three years as a TV news producer and more than 17 years of Army Public Affairs experience. He is a public relations account manager in his civilian career. Follow him on Twitter @KevinCHartman