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Adding The Right Foundation To Successful News Releases :

Adding The Right Foundation To Successful News Releases

To some degree the process of attracting media attention can be compared to a multi-stage rocket; each stage has a particular function, but place the stages in the wrong order and the rocket becomes unworkable.

A news release can be seen as the first stage in a promoter’s effort to gain media interest, but what works well in stage one is often inappropriate later.

No matter how well-written, informative or interesting, a proper news release is a physically-brief document and thus, by definition, its contents are limited. And although the notion of being to-the-point bodes well when initially competing for a reporter’s time and attention, being concise can be something of a liability further along in the story selection process.

For journalists, the first efforts to screen story ideas often involve rummaging through bales of email, letters, releases and phone messages. In this environment brevity is important.

But in the second go-around, when only plausible story ideas are being considered, conditions change. While there are fewer competitors, the competition that remains is far tougher. All the releases and letters say something of interest to the reporter, but not all will result in coverage.

Releases in the second go-around wash out for a variety of reasons. Some are simply less significant than others. Some are victims of poor timing, a condition that often arises for reasons well beyond the promoter’s control, such as a heavy news day or conflicting journalistic schedules.

But many releases are unusable for a curious reason: They don’t provide supporting documentation. In effect, the brevity that made them attractive in the first sorting causes them to fail in the second.

The solution is to recognize that if you want coverage then something more than a basic news release is typically required. Rather than a news release, a news package is needed, a package that includes both a release and supporting materials to substantiate claims and validate ideas. The news release gets the promoter through the first sorting while the supporting materials — longer, more detailed information — clarify issues in the second go-round.

The case for supporting materials and information can be demonstrated in three common situations.

Suppose the reporter is a generalist. He or she may receive 30 wildly different story ideas in a day. Since no one can possibly be an expert in so many fields, it’s important to have supporting information to document a story idea.

Alternatively, the reporter may be a specialist, in which case he or she may be an authority in a given area. It’s unlikely that a news release will contain enough detail to satisfy a reporter’s interest and so more information will be needed.

The third case simply reflects common sense. Journalists are busy people. If they have a choice of two equally-valid story concepts and one requires ten hours of research and the other three hours, which story will be pursued?

There are an endless variety of additions that one could plausibly include with a news release. Here, with admittedly elastic definitions, are the most common and useful items to include.

Fact Sheets: In essence a fact sheet is often nothing more than a stark news release, a listing of basic information. For example, if the Tick & Tock Clock Company has just developed a new wristwatch, one that plays top-40 hits, a news release might discuss the watch and what makes it unique.
A fact sheet could describe the company and its size, production facilities, annual sales, work force, other products and industry rank or market share. A second fact sheet (yes, there can be more than one) might look at the watch’s technology, how its production is automated, and how new songs are added each week.

Question and Answer Sheets: Q&A sheets are effective because they allow promoters to first frame and then answer selected questions. The information is presented in a format that’s easy to absorb and a wide range of subjects can be covered.
Histories: Capsule histories are particularly useful since they provide background and show the relationship between the subject and a given industry, idea, community, etc.

Documents: If your mailing list is either short or selective it can pay to send entire documents such as reports, studies and even books. If you send a document it also pays to mail a brief summary. Anyone who then wants to read the entire document will have it available for study.

Although supporting materials may be costly to assemble and produce, they should never be sent out on a widespread basis with the expectation that they’ll be returned. It won’t happen.

A History or Background Sheet: Gives perspective to a story and explains why it is important.

Photos: Include as attachments as GIFs, JPGs and PNGs. Check with local TV stations for individual requirements.

Web Sites: Because they are constantly accessible, Web sites are terrific resources for reporters. It can make sense to include Web site information, including URLs (online addresses) and specific content. In particular, if the site includes a regularly-updated feature such as polls or statistics, journalists will want to keep the address for future stories.

Video Disks: Often developed by professional producers, disks can be very useful, particularly for electronic media. Beware: Long items are unlikely to hold someone’s interest. Go for three to five minutes of pithy material.

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