When developing a press release in the hopes of attracting local news media coverage, many individuals or organizations make the mistake of writing for the wrong audience: potential customers.
While this is certainly the way you want to approach most other forms of marketing writing, it’s important to keep in mind that the audience changes when it comes to press releases. Rather than your typical consumer, your press release needs to be written for the reporters and editors who make the final decision on if and how your news gets shared.
First, let’s look at how a journalist decides what to cover. Newsrooms typically receive hundreds or thousands of press releases each day, so there is no shortage of story ideas coming across a reporter’s desk. The key is to make your news stand out.
Analyzing your news
When determining if a press release has the potential to make for a compelling story, reporters ask themselves one question: “Is this important to my readers?” To make this decision, they consider the following:
- Timeliness. This is an important factor as to whether or not something can be considered newsworthy. Stories about a business expansion or the hiring of a new executive are only relevant if they’ve recently occurred. Journalists are under strict deadlines and are always concerned about making sure stories are timely.
- Magnitude. This is the impact that the story will have on people, especially in the media outlet’s local market. If you plan on opening a new business location in a community, for example, it might have a significant effect on the people who live there—especially if it will create jobs.
- Audience. The main audience (or market) of the publication or media outlet is another major factor. A small-town weekly newspaper’s audience will likely be older people and families who live in a certain area, while a hip urban publication will have a much younger demographic. Make sure your press release writer takes this into account.
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- Locality. Reporters often try to localize stories, especially if they are regional or national in scope. If a corporate headquarters announces a major change that will impact local offices across the country, reporters may seek to find out how those changes will impact their local community.
- Prominence. Stories that feature a prominent person or organization are often more interesting to readers. It’s why celebrity news continues to be so popular, even though the Kardashians don’t have a direct effect on most people’s lives. Thus, partnerships with prominent companies or endorsements by well-known individuals are often considered newsworthy.
- Conflict. While no organization wants to send out a press release highlighting conflict, this is another key element of newsworthiness. If there is a hot-button issue that your company can solve or at least weigh in on, it might make for a compelling news story.
Despite all this, the decision to run with a particular story often depends on the journalist’s personal judgment and the other news happening that day. While having a skilled content writer develop a sound, well-crafted press release goes a long way, it sometimes comes down to luck. Keep these concepts in mind, however, the next time your company or organization sends out a press release.