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Tips on writing an engaging media release

01 Jun, 2020 Media relations

Thought I would share with you some comments from public relations practitioners in a recent forum on effective media relations. These tips are very practical and their application has produced great results:

Use more images in media releases

‘A picture is worth a thousand words’. There is no doubt that our culture is moving rapidly towards more use of visual images in communication. A large part of this is due to the impact of social media. YouTube is the ultimate creator of images and is hugely popular. You can use many stock images, as long as they aren’t too corny.

PRWeb conducted some recent research that found, on average, readers spent about 30 seconds longer reading news releases with images.

Tailor your material to the key news media you are trying to reach

One of the huge lessons in PR is that effective media relations is labor intensive – it requires detailed effort. When people run off a standard media release and shop it around in bulk, it usually gets limited attention, even to the point of being totally ignored. It’s pointless to tell a client or a boss that many releases went out if there was no result. Quantity doesn’t necessarily create results.

A better way is to look carefully at the key media targets you want to reach and get a feel for their treatment of topics similar to yours. Then write your material to align with the style and angle used by each of those media outlets. This is intensive work, but unless you put in the homework you are not going to get the results you want.

Avoid corporate buzzwords and clichés

PR people are often pressured by management or clients to send hyped-up material to journalists. These people have no idea of news. They think marketing or corporate clichés will do the trick. Over and over again this happens – and journalists just junk the stuff. Yet the marketers don’t ever seem to learn. They keep expecting PR people to run their buzzwords.

Adam Sherk went to the trouble in 2010 to do his own research on such terms. He burrowed into the press release archives of PRWeb to find the most overused terms, buzzwords and marketing speak using a “site:prweb.com” search on Google. Then he summarized them in a list of the top 100 words and phrases here.

Sherk grouped together phrases that are sometimes hyphenated with the non-hyphenated version (e.g. award-winning and award winning). The lesson is that we should try to find fresher terms in our material destined for media consumption – we should avoid clichés like the plague! The top 20 results are listed below, along with the number of times they were mentioned. The winner by a long way is ‘leader’, which, when combined with the next common buzzword, “leading,” was mentioned 5 times as often as the next most common buzzword:

  1. Leader 161,000
  2. Leading 44,900
  3. Best 43,000
  4. Top 32,500
  5. Unique 30,400
  6. Great 28,600
  7. Solution 22,600
  8. Largest 21,900
  9. Innovative 21,800
  10. Innovator 21,400
  11. Award winning 11,800
  12. Exclusive 11,000
  13. Premier 10,700
  14. Extensive 10,500
  15. Leading provider 10,100
  16. Innovation 9,570
  17. Real-time 8,030
  18. Fastest 7,420
  19. Easy to use 6,850
  20. Dynamic 6,460

Another light-hearted commentary from UK PR pros in 2014 about more cliches and jargon to avoid includes:

  • Leverage (verb)
  • Groundbreaking
  • Synergy
  • Disruptive
  • Turnkey
  • Delighted
  • World’s leading
  • Next generation
  • Rarely
  • Further (as in ‘further enhance our position as…’)
  • Passionate
  • Leading provider
  • One-stop solutions

Incidentally, Sherk gives a plug to a book, Better Than Great : A Plenitudinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives  by Arthur Plotnik, which is basically a thesaurus of alternative terms used for describing superlatives. You can buy through Amazon or the Book Depository. Just ordered a copy for myself 🙂 .

Tips to cut out buzzwords

Translate your terms

In writing drafts of material to print on paper or in emails, take the time to explain the concepts in words that your audience will easily understand. Explain what a term really means. Instead of saying ‘innovative’ or ‘unique’, briefly describe what was original about it.

Edit, edit, edit

Many buzzwords are unnecessary. Think whether common phrases really add value to what you’re trying to say. Find alternatives instead.

Give examples

Rather than relying on buzzwords, use specific examples to convey your thoughts. For instance, instead of discussing your fully ‘integrated’ marketing strategy for a product launch, describe the various elements and how they work together.

Great newsroom

Many newsrooms are just not very helpful, and so going there can be a frustrating experience. In contrast, Intel have developed a top newsroom. Go to Intel’s newsroom to see their style, content and helpful layout. Look closely at the way they write their media releases. It’s an instructive experience to see how they do it all. Highly recommended.

Article updated in 2020.

About Kim Harrison – author, editor and content curator

Kim Harrison, Founder and Principal of Cutting Edge PR, loves sharing actionable ideas and information about professional communication and business management. He has wide experience as a corporate affairs manager, consultant, author, lecturer, and CEO of a non-profit organization. Kim is a Fellow and former national board member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia, and he ran his State’s professional development program for 7 years, helping many practitioners to strengthen their communication skills. People from 115 countries benefit from the practical knowledge shared in his monthly newsletter and in his books available from cuttingedgepr.com.

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