By Katrina Olson
This article originally appeared 10/5/2015 as an Exclusive Feature on tedmag.com.
As a marketer or public relations practitioner, you have more tools than ever to communicate with your target audiences including snail mail, email, newsletters, blogs, websites, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to name a few.
News releases give readers useful and relevant information while helping you achieve your PR and marketing goals. But before you fire up that template and start typing, you should answer these six questions.
1. Why am I doing this?
Every news release should have a strategic purpose or goal. (Getting exposure is not a strategic goal—it’s merely the function of a news release.) How will it help you achieve your PR, marketing or communication goals? Why do you want that exposure? Will it reinforce your company’s position in the marketplace? Does it communicate or reinforce one of your key messages? What do you want to happen as a result?
2. Whom do I need to reach?
Determine your most important audiences. Who, strategically, is important to your company? Is it the financial community, the local community, your shareholders or your customers? For example, if you’ve hired a new salesperson or you’re offering a revolutionary new product, your audience is probably your customers—in which case, an email or newsletter article may be more appropriate. If you’re releasing sales or profit figures, your target audience is shareholders, or possibly the financial community.
3. What do they need to know?
News releases should answer questions and supply only the necessary information. What can you tell existing and potential customers to motivate them to help you achieve your sales goal? Can you provide proof, research or testimonials that show how the product will save them time, money or effort? What would you like them to do—visit your website, come to your location, or request a sample?
4. Where do I post my message to be noticed by those I want to reach?
Consider what media your audience is consuming. Most of the time, your subject matter is not so unique or universally appealing that it warrants mass media attention. Would your message be more effective if it were published in a trade publication or targeted regional medium? If the subject does warrant mass media coverage, will you release it to major metropolitan newspapers, women’s magazines, talk shows or national news programs?
5. When do I make my move?
Proper timing is essential. If you’re responding to an accusation, you may want to downplay your response by releasing it in time for the noon news when viewership is lower; or quietly and immediately post a response on your website. If you know a story will be published in a magazine, you may want to time your news release to coincide with the publication date.
6. How do I package the story?
There are several different types of releases (which we’ll cover next week). Is there a human-interest angle that would lend itself to a feature news release? Or is the subject matter more appropriate for a straightforward, just-the-facts, traditional news release?
Maybe a news release isn’t the best way to share the information. Could it be written as a feature story? Is the subject so controversial or forward thinking that it would make a good op-ed piece? Is the product so technologically advanced that it requires a video news release or another medium to illustrate how it works?
After working through these questions, you may decide not to issue a news release at all. And that’s fine; because when you submit sales pitches, fluff and non-newsworthy stories, it could damage your credibility with journalists and editors.
You may want to release the information in a different format, like a feature story in your newsletter or a Facebook post. In the end, the goal is to use the tool that will best reach your intended audience.
Next week: All news releases are not created equal.
Olson is a marketing and public relations consultant, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She has written for tED magazine’s print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine’s Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via her website at katrinaolson.com.