Daily Writing Tip: The Press Release Isn’t Dead

press release isn't deadThe press release isn’t dead…yet. But, sadly, many press releases hardly ever get noticed for one simple reason: they look like press releases. The odds don’t seem to be getting better says the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer report. Surveying a 30,000-sized informed public from 25 countries aged 25-64 revealed that trust in newspapers dropped 16 points from last year; TV lost 26 points while radio and magazines slipped 13 points each. Collectively, though, there was a 10% increase in trust in traditional media.

So, what does this spell for the future of praise, er, press releases in corporate communications? Change needs to happen at the core. It needs to evolve with the societal culture of the times and, please, we don’t mean simply morphing into sponsored posts on blogs.

Now, if a tree falls in the middle of a forest and no one hears the thud, does it make a sound? Just because a press release gets published, and there are metrics in place to calculate its PR value, it doesn’t necessarily mean people actually read it.

So, how do you make sure that you don’t get overlooked the next time you put out a story on paper? Here are 4 simple steps you can try on your next masterpiece.

Be creative. Don’t stick to the run-of-the-mill inverted pyramid format of a story. Try telling a story like you would in a creative writing class. People might find it refreshing. Of course, this might entail a little more convincing for the editor to publish, but at the rate printed news is getting ignored, they’d be willing to give it a try. Try your best to have a distinctive hook.

Be relevant. People generally don’t care if your company made a killing in sales last year, unless, of course they’re shareholders or mandated to do so. But if your only purpose in publishing the story is to make the competition look bad, try squeezing in an angle that would make people care. A CSR activity, maybe, to tug at the heart? A month-long discount for consumers to celebrate a milestone? Oil prices skyrocketing? Share how your new product can help the public lessen oil consumption. Earth Hour’s coming up, too, so it’s good to align your message. Just something to answer the reader’s question: “What do I care?”

Be straightforward. Capture readers with the all-important first paragraph by simplifying your message. Speak to your readers in a language and tone that they would understand and appreciate. Jumping out of the page sounding like the voice from News of the World shorts is a sure way to get passed over. Ditch the fillers, too. Remember: SPACE is precious so junk the unnecessary prose.

Now, if you think you’re big enough to BE the news more than being IN it, by all means, give the performance of your life.

Be strategic. Make sure your story comes out on the page and section that suits it best. Just because you’re chummy with the business editor doesn’t mean you can influence them to publish your lifestyle story on their page. Know the ins and outs of your community and the principal media contacts to tap for the kind of stories you’ll be churning out. This means familiarizing yourself with their writing styles, the topics discussed, and, at the very least, which publication genre they’re in. They will appreciate the effort and will be great assets later on.

The essence of a good read lies in its ability to draw the reader in and keep their attention up to the last punctuation mark. And this is where press releases leave much to be desired. While the most obvious snag in writing a press release is to make it palatable to the editors for it to see the light of day while creating a positive image and conjuring positive emotions associated with a brand, the foremost object of a press release writer should be to make it palatable to the reader. If no one hears the thud…