Sitting on both sides of the divide – both as a journalist/foreign correspondent as well as a public relations consultant – I think I am in a position to make some value judgements. The fact that I have been a journalist for the past 40 years perhaps gives me some insight into what constitutes a good press release as opposed to the ones that ends up in the dustbin.
For starters, it has to be a news story that can compete on an uneven playing field where news editors and news directors get bombarded by literally hundreds of news stories from around the world. Your release has to be so well written that it is the one that is chosen over the many other good stories.
A hard-hitting press release about the company, product or service will get your client out into the public eye at a fraction of the cost of advertising.
News stories carry a far greater weight in the public eye than advertisements. People believe what they hear aired as news stories on the electronic media and what they read in the form of editorial in the print media. In contrast, most individuals are highly sceptical about the content of advertisements. Surveys have shown that it takes many repeats of an ad before it builds any credibility.
Many times readers see an ad and they know that what they are reading is just overblown hype. Most readers are more likely to trust independent authorities such as reviewers, columnists, reporters or broadcasters. A well-written press release has the power to radically influence public opinion and our experience over the past 17 years has proven that beyond a doubt.
Over the next weeks and months we will share with you some of the tricks of the trade that get press releases used in the print media and clients on radio and TV. In the meantime, browse my website at www.mediaservices.co.za for some more background information on who I am and what I do.
One issue that I was not going to raise because at first it seemed petty but now seems a lot more important, is that of press releases being sent to me in my capacity as a foreign correspondent servicing a number of news organisations in the United States. They are almost uniformly poorly written, riddled with typos and spelling errors as well as grammatical errors and appalling syntax.
In this day and age of spell checkers and even an elementary grammar checker on MS Word this is simply unacceptable.
These musings are not going to teach you good English – for that you have to go back to school. What it will hopefully help you do, is to write a story as opposed to a scrappy press release that will get published.
I’ve had the privilege of working with some major South African and international clients and have helped many of them grow and prosper by positioning them as leaders in their field.
More next week……