The Difference Between Press Releases & News Stories

Published by Alejandra Zilak in Content Marketing on January 2, 2020

When it comes to making announcements about your business, you want to go big —  you want to reach your target market, create a buzz and excitement about your products or services, and leave people wanting to find out more. But in this day and age when there are so many platforms, it can be confusing to decide what would be the best way to go about it. Should you schedule a social media post? Publish a press release? Call the media for a news story?

What is a press release?

A press release (also known as a media release) is a brief written statement announcing an upcoming event — such as a grand opening, product launch, or something significant about an organization or business — that you pitch to journalists for publication in media outlets. Essentially, press releases are releasing news to the press. Its purpose is to get attention and generate publicity. Done well, they’re an excellent component of your marketing strategy. Done poorly, they will end up in a reporters’ trash folder — unread.

For a press release to be effective, follow these steps:

1. Personalize the subject line. Journalists receive thousands of emails a day. They delete most of them. Do a little research on who you’re sending the message to, and personalize both the subject line and the email. Only send it to journalists whom you know typically write stories related to what you’re announcing. Congratulate them on any recent accomplishments — “Congrats on that Emmy! So exciting!” Make sure to be genuine. No one likes a brown noser.

2. Hook the readers with a killer headline. In this day and age, most people have the attention span of a gnat. Think three seconds, at most. If you want a readership that’s larger than your immediate family, be snappy, be funny, be trendy — both when drafting a headline and the subject line when you email the release to reporters.

3. Write it in third person. Avoid using first and second person, unless you’re including a direct quote. And when you do use a quote, include something insightful or inspirational — don’t make it all about you. If, when you reread it, it screams buy something from me, rewrite it. Stick to reporting the facts of the event. The goal is to make it look like a short announcement.

4. Stick to one topic. Have you ever been part of a conversation where the speaker just couldn’t stay on their subject? Your mind starts to wander and you look for ways to get them to their point. The same applies here. Don’t make things confusing — and unnecessarily long — by jumbling together all topics that come to mind. If you have an event coming up, stick with the facts of the event: date, location, time, and guest speaker(s).

5. Get to the point. A well-crafted press release will have no more than 400 words. Use the first paragraph to tell the audience about the upcoming event. Use the second paragraph to summarize how the event will be helpful for your target audience. Include a third paragraph providing your contact information, and bid adieu. You can make it longer if you have additional relevant information to share — but don’t make it longer than five paragraphs. Use short sentences and write in an active voice. If you want to get chatty, do it when people show up to your event.

6. Use proper punctuation. Listen, grammar matters. Too many people rely on spell-check — or straight out fail to proofread a statement — at the expense of their own credibility. You only have one chance to make a good first impression. Don’t botch it over something that’s so easily preventable.

What is a news story?

Even though journalists publish press releases sent to them by individual companies, the bread and butter of their work is to write news articles — a written statement discussing current events. They research the background facts, interview individuals involved, eyewitnesses, and experts on the subject, and relay the facts.

As opposed to press releases — which are marketing tools announcing an upcoming event — news stories can be about any topic a community would find relevant or newsworthy. They could be based on politics, heartwarming stories of good samaritans, crime, or scandals — to name a few. Their purpose is to inform readers about what’s happening around them in an objective manner.  They answer five basic questions:

  • What happened?
  • When did it happen?
  • Who was involved?
  • Where did it happen?
  • Why did it happen?

To keep the reader’s attention, know your audience — their age, geographical location, income bracket, education, and interests. News outlets that target Millennials tend to use a different format than those targeting Baby Boomers — especially when it comes to politics.

The Symphony Agency Provides You With Quality, Well-Written Content

At The Symphony Agency, we have a team of wordsmiths who write content for every digital marketing platform — website content, landing pages, blogs, brochures, flyers, and press releases. We take into account your target market and tailor our voice to sound like yours. Whether you want it to sound conversational or scholarly, we’ve got you covered.

Contact us or email your success manager to talk about creating a press release for your next event.

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