It’s no surprise that when writing a news release, the basic questions should be covered: who, what, where and why. These are the essential questions are that journalists will look for when determining whether the topic is newsworthy enough to pursue. Journalists put their readers, views and listeners first, which in many cases can be very specific. We had a refresher on this in a recent article in PR Tactics.
PR professionals realize that writing press releases require the skills and patience in order to concisely convey their message yet must be able to include the most important details. Although this seems like an obvious tactic, sometimes PR pros can get stuck writing in their own specific style, instead of a journalistic style reporters will be more receptive to. Aside from the basic questions mentioned, Assistant Professor of Public Relations and Social Media at Eastern Michigan University, Regina Luttrell, Ph.D. has developed five alternative questions that every practitioner should answer when drafting press releases:
- What is being announced? This may seem like a straightforward question with a definitive answer, but it is a question many PR pros oversimplify. The announcement can be used to announce something new or different, but the release must be able to inform your audience of the message you are trying to communicate.. “Newsworthiness is based on how, if and to what extent the story will affect a specific audience,” says Luttrell, “Something isn’t news just because we, as PR professionals, say that it is.”
- Who is the target audience? Who is it we are trying to reach with this press release? With endless industries, it’s hard to reach everyone, especially in an ever-changing news cycle. By targeting audiences based on specific regions and demographics, you will not only get more relevant responses, but journalists will be grateful for the time saved sifting through endless releases.
- What are the impacts or benefits? This question not only relates to your personal benefits, but the benefits to your target audiences. Audiences are more interested in information that is relevant to them, whether it be times and the background on an event or the explanation of a new service. Keep in mind how the announcement will impact or benefit customers, examining the positives and negatives of the message you are sending.
- When and where is it available? If a new product or service is being launched, it is important for PR professions to lay out timeline. It is always best to put the needs of a consumer before yourself, making them aware of an availability date. A good rule of thumb is to answer audience questions before they have to ask them. Taking the time to detail the times in a release can save you, reporters and consumers repetitive communication headaches.
- Who will be the spokesperson? It is up to you, the PR professional to gauge who will pack the most punch. Luttrell advises that this doesn’t have necessarily be the CEO. A spokesperson needs to be able to quote the press release, and there are many non-executives, as well as consumers, that would make for excellent candidates. It is also wise to research prospective spokespeople to see which are media-savvy enough to speak with the media.
The key to a successful press release is to include as many details as possible but still keep it succinct. By using some of these unconventional questions, journalists will be more receptive to your pitches and future news releases.