30 June 2011

What It Takes to Be Good At Writing Press Releases

Even after studying journalism and PR it might be challenging sometimes to apply what you know into the actual job environment. I’m sure there are many people/graduates who would agree with me on this one, and think I’m not the only one who could serve here as an example of confused and frustrated starting-up PR professional with broad knowledge and little experience. Let me tell you a PR story, it won't have a proper plot, but you might find that there is a lesson there, who knows. Here it goes.

I worked on a release for a while now, which perhaps some people might laugh at (press releases can be written in half an hour, they might say). But to write a good PR is not at all easy. Anyone can write a press release, squeeze in all promotional texts and start with company’s name in the headline announcing a launch of a product, and make it into a story that no one has interest in.

It takes the whole process similar to a campaign planning to produce a good PR. Like in preparations for the campaign, you first brainstorm and come up with various, even most silly, ideas. Then you select the ideas and angles that you think will work best for your objectives. After you’ve started gathering information necessary to putting the press release together, you start writing it all up and only then it occurs to you that there are too many messages in your PR. Then again, you try to shape it, and re-shape it again, and suddenly you realise that your release resembles more an article than a PR, so you start changing it again. After a while your focus fades and it’s very difficult to have clear image of what it is that you’re actually trying to say in your release.

I know that press releases should be newsworthy and relevant. I know that there must be proximity and timeliness kept. I know that the first paragraph should have all the who, what, when, where and how answered; and that there should be a quote or two in third or forth paragraph, that it’s best to avoid adjectives and the content should be factual. I know all these. 

Today I discovered (and yet not for the first time) that while believing that I nearly finished my release, and despite the fact that I know and applied all the rules of a good PR, I focused more on what journalists might want and drifted away from my ‘client’s’ actual messages. 

Only when I asked someone more experienced for a feedback, who actually gracefully offered his advice although he wasn’t involved in the PR process, I’ve learned how genuine working knowledge of the media (at both ends) is important.

It’s very easy to forget about the messages you set up for your press release, especially when there’s time pressure on you and great expectations from the ‘client’. It’s easy to overcomplicate them and as a result you might work hard and get nothing.

I wish there was someone who could give us, fresh beginners, a recipe to writing a perfect press release (when I say perfect I mean something that will get picked up and re-written by reporters in a way that suits you). But, as my experienced PR adviser (let’s call him that), said: ‘Public relations takes time. It’s about building communication, and it doesn’t happen over one story.’ 

For those interested in what journalists want , here is a video by a reporter, where he's giving a few tips on how to approach journalists. 


Anonymous said...

I've met people who think that PR job is easy. But it's much complicated than most people believe it is. Yeah, it might be easy to just rewrite the information someone puts under your nose, but it's more challenging to find good angles. An ec-journalist told me though that comming up with angles comes with experience, so head up :)

Post a Comment