Writing a News Release? By Don Baumgart

When you’re writing a news release for a client, you should be thinking like the reporter who will eventually read and use the information. What will help him or her write the story? If you make the writer’s job easier, there’s a better chance your message will make it into publication.

The most important thing for you to identify and feature is: The News Hook. Of course your client would like to see his business in the local paper, a regional magazine, or business journal. But, there must be a news hook: a new product or service being introduced, an industry award won, special training classes attended, business space expansion or a new staff member. Those things are news, of varying degrees of importance. But by far the best news hook is when your client says something important about his or her industry. A commercial real estate agent says fewer store fronts are vacant than at this time last year. That’s news.

One thing in a news release that’s golden is the quote. If your client says something about, for instance, the current state of his business climate in general, the chances are very good the statement will make it into print. It’s right there for the taking! Quotation marks in a news release are permission given to run the words. The quote is the part of the release most likely to survive rewriting.

Of course, I always put a line at the top of the release directing the reporter to more information about my client.

EDITOR: For more information or to arrange a photo or sound bite for broadcast, CONTACT (name and phone number).

I make the client aware that calls from media may be incoming and will need to be handled within a very short time.

A value-added feature I always give news release clients is a media list for submission of the piece, complete with editors’ email addresses. I have several such lists, local, regional, and business-specific trade publications, from which I can assemble a tailored list for the client. I also take a good look at relevant trade publications as a place where a rewritten and expanded version of the news release might be accepted as an article. New product information is often easy to place in the trades.

(I urge clients to submit their own news to media outlets, to avoid confusion. I was once identified as an employee of my client’s competitor in a news roundup on solar energy – just because my name was on one of the news releases jumbled together for the story. Small town papers often employ reporters just out of journalism school who mostly don’t get it yet. They fail to understand a professional writer’s third party involvement in the process, so I like to keep my name out of the mix by having the news come directly from the source.)

Another added value feature I provide to clients is a cover note. Something like, “Here – attached – is important news about the local home improvement market from one of this area’s most successful materials suppliers. See what he has to say about the future of home remodeling in our current economy.”

Finally, you should also attach a photo relevant to the article you’re presenting to that underpaid, overworked reporter. A picture of the person quoted, at work, is a good bet. Have one taken, digitally and high-resolution of course. If the picture is right there on the reporter’s screen, it’s easy to use. If you don’t attach a photo, the paper may not send a photographer of their own to get one.

Don Baumgart is a skilled business writer providing promotional services to local and national business clients. His services include news releases, newsletters, ad copy, brochures, radio spots, and speeches for corporate executives. A former daily newspaper reporter and Associated Press editor, Don also has a strong magazine writing background, with dozens of bylined publications to his credit.