Words matter… especially when trying to grab the attention of journalists.
The average journalist is inundated with news tips all day, every day. Here’s what the Fuseworks PR newswire looks like on a typical weekday:
That’s an average of over 20 releases an hour from 9am-5pm and peaks at more than 30.
It makes it just a wee bit tricky to stand out from the crowd.
Based on Fuseworks data, the most common lure comms professionals will use when crafting a press release is to lean heavily on popular buzzwords.
Turns out it may be more effective to avoid certain words altogether. It’s hard to say exactly why, but the news tracking we do strongly suggests that there may be an inverse relationship between the use of certain words and the likelihood of a media release being picked up.
It could be that certain words and phrases just don’t pass the ‘sniff test’ and as a result undermine the credibility of the statement. Or more simply that some words are just so overused they get filtered out when we read them.
What words are we talking about? Here are a few examples:
World leading … and it’s slightly less grandiose cousin ‘leading’
> 17% of all business media releases
Is it really world leading? Surely almost 20% of all business media releases can’t really relate to leading companies/products/solutions. Perhaps put it through this filter – if the journalist you send it to uses the same word you did, are they going to look silly to an informed audience? A press release should be facts that are presented well – so it pays to avoid exaggeration. Media are bombarded with press releases claiming something to be world leading all the time… so the phrase unfortunately, doesn’t do much to capture the imagination of journalists..
Based on a quick skim through recent media releases added to Fuseworks, it seems anything from ice cream, to beds, or virtually any commercial partnership can be groundbreaking – at least according to the person who wrote the statement. Does the word transition across to the resulting media coverage? Virtually never.
The word ‘groundbreaking’ has become anything but groundbreaking in its predictability. Press releases do have great value as a promotional tool, but they are not advertisements. The risk is that you undermine the credibility of what you’re trying to say by treating them in that way. This also applies to words such as ‘original’, ‘the best’ and ‘innovative’ (especially all three in the same sentence). If you’re aiming for maximum impact in your press release it’s better to avoid fluff and to stick to facts.
Ready to spurn the generic and overused?
Here’s how to craft a beautiful and unique lure for your story…
1. The first thing the media see: The Headline.
Yup, coming up with a unique and creative headline can be tricky, especially when trying to keep it within a recommended 60 characters. So, what can you do to make a headline alluring?
We love novelty – it is immediately interesting and stimulating. That’s also why it’s super easy to be ‘click-baited’ by misleading headlines commonly found on your Facebook news feed. An unexpected or ‘surprising’ headline stands out from the busy 9am to 5pm crowd and can capture a journalist’s attention.
Highlight the most exciting part of your release and save the where, who, when, what, why (the less exciting) details for the body of the text.
What about a question headline? The beauty of a question headline is in its ability to inspire curiosity. That’s why questions that don’t even have an answer are powerful in the art of headline craft, but is also why you should avoid simple and yes/ no questions (e.g. Are vegetables good for your health?)
2. Include visuals where you can
Why? Images grab attention easily and so incorporating multimedia extras can help get your release used more broadly. We’re talking things like photos of who or what is mentioned, even company logos (if you haven’t got anything better).
3. If your headline was successful in capturing attention then what comes next has to keep it.
Sum up your story in the first paragraph by getting the 5 W’s of the way – then expand on it. The opening paragraph should be simple, yet compelling to create more interest.
4. If possible, include quotes!
They give journalists a ready to go starting point to build their story around.
True, there is no certainty that the little touches you add to your press release will reach the public. But something that stands out from the crowd has more of a chance of grabbing the attention of a journalist in the first place.