November 25 2012
A 5-point checklist to write better news releases
Online: A Five-Point Checklist for Better News Release Writing
by Chris Pilbeam at vocus.com
Millions of potential customers are searching online for businesses like yours.
For best results and the biggest return, all you need to do is make your story clear and engaging. This simple five-step checklist will get you there.
1. Is my headline specific?
A headline that accurately summarizes the content of the news release does more than tell readers what to expect. Search engines will rank a piece more highly if the headline matches the content. Use specific descriptors - e.g. “search engine friendly news release” rather than just “news release” and skip flowery adjectives or hyperbole.
2. Have I used the active voice?
Passive voice uses three or four words where only one is required, and slows down the impact of a great headline. Replace a passive voice phrase like “K-12 school Lincoln Academy has been selected for recognition of achievement by ABC” with an active voice phrase like “ABC selects leading K-12 school Lincoln Academy for recognition.”
3. Can I chop three words from my headline?
Brief is best for headlines, both for readers and search engines. So when you’re done writing your next headline, cut it by three words. It may seem hard at first, but it’s easier than you think. ‘A’ and ‘of’ can be eliminated easily (this is doubly good because search engines stumble on these words). Be ruthless without being unreadable
4. Does my release answer the five W’s?
Tell your story like a journalist by answering the five key W’s within your first paragraph: who, what, where, when and why. Your two or three following paragraphs should contain additional detail about your story, plus a quote from someone involved in the story explaining what this piece of news means to your business or customers.
5. Have I done a five-step proofread?
Spelling and grammar errors in your news can turn readers off, fast. Take five minutes to work through these proofing tips for a flawless news release:
• Read your release out loud. Any patches that are difficult to get through probably need breaking up.
• Solicit a second (or third) set of eyes.
• Read your story backwards. Because your brain knows what you meant to say, it’s easy to miss errors when you read it conventionally.
• Focus on the numbers: all percentages should add up to 100 and all phone numbers could use a quick Google search.
• Print it out. You may focus better if you’re not staring at the same screen you wrote your release on.