In our textbook, Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques, chapter 5 discusses the importance of the news release. It referred to as the “backbone of almost every publicity plan” Unfortunately not all news releases that are written will be used and there is a huge competition for reporters and editors attention.
The chapter continues to explain how to set up and write news releases. Then it explains the different kinds of news releases which are announcements, spot announcements, reaction releases, bad news, and local news. Announcements are a good type of news release but the highest ranking person in the organization or business should make the announcement. Unless you are trying to localize the story, then it should come from the local manager. Announcements include events, awards, mergers, contests, legal actions, anniversaries, etc. Spot announcements are used to announce things due to some outside action or influence happening to organization. These are things such as hours changing due to storm damages or fire; an outside force. Reaction releases should be used when an event or situation has an impact on the organization. The book gave the example of when the oil price went to a record high in 2008 and airlines, trucking industries, and delivery services sent out news releases to explain the prices of their services rising. Bad news press releases is when an organization had some kind of bad press, then they need to confront the issue instead of ignoring it. Or giving bad news buried within a story is unethical as the book mentions. Local news should be for local significance information. This is the most common reason that releases get used.
There are six basic components to the traditional news release. These components include letterheads, contact information, headline, dateline, lead paragraph and body of text. The text added in a seventh element that is used if there is enough room and that is a summary of the organization at the end of the release. The headline always needs to be in present tense and focus on a single subject. A single message is better than two. The lead is extremely important because it is the first few sentences at the beginning and gives the reader a reason to continue to reading the article. In the lead the writer needs to include the most important of the 5 W’s and H but not all of them. You do not want to clutter the lead too much. There are several types of leads. They include the straight summary, the informal, and the feature.
When writing the body of the news release writers should follow the inverted pyramid style. This is important because if the editor does not see something interesting in the first few lines more than likely it will not be used. It is also important because editors will usually cut from the bottom of the story so it is important to have the least important information towards the end just in case it does get cut. Another reason the inverted pyramid style is important is because the public usually won’t read the full story. It is important to get them to want to read the full story so you need to pull them in at the beginning. News releases should be short and to the point. They need to be fewer than 400 words or 1-2 pages in length. Emailed news releases need to be fewer than 200 words and only 4-5 paragraphs.
Now there are smart media releases. These are included on business wire, PR news wire and Market Wire. These can include photos, graphics, videos and audio components. Smart media releases have expanded the audience of news releases beyond the traditional media outlets. Popularity of social media has also been incorporated into smart media releases. These include blogs and online newsrooms.
I think this chapter was important because writing a news release is an important skill to have. It has been said that recently college graduates have not been able to produce great news releases due to their lack of communication skills since the internet and social media outlets. It has been said that recent college graduates are not great writers and that it is hard to find those skilled enough to write news releases that can be used in the media. This is something that I would like to see change for people my age. I want to be able to be a skilled writer when I graduate and I think that through blogging and practice we can be improved and become even better than those before us. I think that if we pay attention to the textbook and take all of the tips and guidelines into consideration we will be able to be great news release writers. If we pay more attention to our writing skills we should be able to change and turn around the recent stereotype.