You know the drill. Your corporate communications department or PR agency emails you the first draft of a press release and asks, “What do you think?”
It might be an easy task.
If you’ve been working with one writer for a while, the release won’t require many revisions. Yet most of the time, it’s hard to know where to begin—especially if you don’t have a public relations background.
News releases are tricky to write … and to edit.
Remember how you organized the essays you wrote in college? We structure news releases in the opposite way. Communications professionals write media releases as an inverted pyramid, with the most substantial information at the beginning, and other details following in order of diminishing importance.
The “inverted pyramid” is how journalists report the news. Understanding this structure will make you a better news release editor.
Here are 11 additional steps on how to edit a press release and ensure your next release achieves your objectives.
The Marketer’s Guide to Editing a Press Release
Step #1: What’s the Objective?
When you edit any writing, you need to understand its objective. The same goes for a news release. Why are you creating it in the first place?
While several reasons come to mind—you may be posting it on your website in the What’s New section—for the purpose of this post, I’m assuming you have news to announce. And that you want media, either legacy journalists or bloggers, to report on it.
The press release, and how it is written, must help you meet this objective: earned media coverage.
If the writing is overly promotional, focusing too much on your product or service, the media tunes out. If it focuses too much on the news, your brand message is lost.
Step #2: Key Messages
When writing a press release, especially when the objective is editorial coverage, begin by drafting key messages. Key messages are the 2 or 3 points you want to communicate. They are the foundation for not only your news release, but for spokesperson interviews as well.
When your spokesperson gives a 20-minute interview, and provides the media with 100 sentences, only a handful of those sentences actually make it into the finished article. As the journalist writes their article, there’s an editing process. You must make every sentence count and focus on your messages to ensure they make it into the final edit. If you don’t, you won’t communicate the points important to your brand.
In order to make it into the final article, your messages should focus on the news, not on your brand benefits or features.
Step #3: Agree on a Format for Changes
If you want to avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary drafts (who doesn’t?), agree on a format for suggested changes. Many writers (me included) find it easier to understand feedback when it is embedded right in the release.
Before you begin your edits, establish the ground rules. Use track changes for copy the writer must make. Use comments for suggested changes the writer could make.
Step #4: Read the Entire Media Release
As a starting point, read the release from beginning to end. Get a feel for the entire piece. Notice how it flows from one paragraph to another. Don’t make any edits yet, just read. Make some marks in the margin to indicate where you want to return and focus.
Step #5: Don’t Rewrite
If you’re not a trained copywriter, don’t rewrite the release. Instead, provide suggestions on what you don’t like or highlight the inaccuracies, then leave it up to the experts to make the necessary changes.
If the number of changes you’re suggesting are overwhelming, and you’re unhappy with the writing, ask your PR agency to put someone else on the job.
Step #6: Accuracy
Review the release for accuracy. Are there any mistakes? Are the facts correctly stated? Did your agency use the correct language to talk about your products or service?
Step #7: The Proper Order
Has the writer used your key messages and presented them in such a way to interest media? Did he or she use them in the correct order? Is the flow logical? Do the transitions make sense?
If you made many suggestions in these initial steps, send the release back to the writer for a second draft. Then move onto steps 8 to 11.
Step #8: The Quotes
Spokesperson quotes are your golden opportunity to get in the news, my colleague (and writer friend) Marcia Ross reminded me. “Make them pop,” she suggested. “Be specific, show the impact, and sound like a human.”
Here are a couple of examples Marcia shared with me:
“TalentWise will help people get the jobs they’ve always dreamed of. It’s a simple, efficient, time-saving way for HR departments to support employee career tracking.”
“Farmers love this new technology – it helps increase yield in a way that’s entirely sustainable and earth-friendly. We think it will be a game changer.”
While the rest of your release should stick to the facts, your spokesperson quotes are the place to offer an opinion and provide some context about your announcement. How does it impact your industry? What does it mean for the customer?
Step #9: The Headline and Sub-Head
Many reporters get hundreds of news releases every day. The headline and sub-head are critical to capturing their attention. Did your writer keep them both short? Do they communicate your announcement in an interesting way? Did he or she use action verbs?
Step #10: Style and voice
A news release should read like something a real businessperson might say. The style and voice have more media appeal if they avoid jargon or complicated sentence structures.
In other words, keep it simple.
A news release should steer clear of superlatives and hype such as “revolutionary,” “unique,” or “paradigm shift.” What it should do is stick to the facts and avoid superfluous information or padding.
Step #11: A Single Point of Contact
The more people who review your release, the higher the likelihood the final version will be a jumbled mess, lacking proper flow, style or newsworthiness. Ask for input from your boss and legal department, but be specific on what you want from them. Ask them to identify controversial or sensitive information—rather than word-smithing.
When a number of people provide feedback on written copy, they often don’t agree on the direction. Appoint one person to quarterback the changes and provide consolidated feedback to the writer.
What Would You Add?
This post is by no means exhaustive on the topic of editing a press release.
What other suggestions would you add to ensure your next press release helps you generate earned media coverage?
This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: How to Edit a Press Release: 11 Suggested Steps for Marketers
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