Every year, my editor rewrites his once-a-year rant about “how to tell your story to the news media.” It’s a comprehensive missive about how to properly write a news release and the consistent mistakes almost every business makes in writing (or not writing) them.
As the first paragraph from Phil relates: “As editor of a business journal, I’m in a unique position to observe the juxtaposition of two truths. Nearly every business has a compelling story to tell. Very few businesses tell their stories well. And it all begins with a news release.”
From this paragraph on, the article explains what should be obvious to businesses, but isn’t. Axioms such as know the particulars of the media outlet you’re looking to send the news release to so the outlet might actually be interested; don’t put pricing in the release because that would make your release an ad and ads require payment; and make sure you know the timeliness of your event and the media outlet you’re choosing.
While the above might seem obvious, they’re actually the main reasons we don’t publish some of the releases we receive, even though we truly feel those releases would add to the content in the Business Times. This phenomenon isn’t limited to small, individually owned businesses. This happens all the time with the big boys as well, even those who hire and pay marketing firms to handle releases professionally.
My summary is literally more to the point when I give a presentation to businesses about news releases. I simply state, “I’m not here to publish your story” — much to the dismay of my listening audience. Let me explain.
I love news releases. I think they’re great. As a matter of fact, it’s where the vast majority of our content comes from.
A well-written, timely news release can result in a phone call to the company that wrote the release, and viola, a story is born. This is what we do the best in the Grand Valley. We cover stories in ways that all the other media outlets simply can’t devote the time or space. That’s not to say the other media in town aren’t doing their jobs, just that their business model dictates they cover the stories inside their templates. We all have our professional specialties. Don’t blame me if I think we do ours the best. But what it all comes down to is communication.
The good news is that we receive quality news releases that enhance the stories in our paper from hundreds of businesses and organizations every year.
I’d like to think that because we go above and beyond in writing our stories — to the point of allowing the subject of the story to review it for accuracy — our stories are more than just filler for our pages. It’s my sincere hope the stories we create as they relate to the information we receive makes for good reading for you and a quality publication for our advertisers to use to reach their clientele. So, in these cases,
I guess I am here to publish your story!
But what it all comes down to is communication.
And communication is most important when the news release you need to write is to get the facts out on a particular story as it relates to your business or entity. When these kinds of situations occur, timeliness, accuracy, truth and communication become paramount. Because it’s the reputation of what you do, how you do it and how you’re perceived in the community that’s at stake.
The story of the management issue at the Pinon Grill comes to mind when I look at how being timely and accurate in what is being relayed to the media is of utmost importance. First off, the city called a council meeting for public input on the matter with barely two hours notice online and on its bulletin board at city hall. Now I know I’m a stickler about timing, but this doesn’t even allow for any time!
Of course this led to more inaccuracies in the local media with its follow-up pieces, including ours, which we decided to shelve for the time being. The fact is, even after talking with city management several times, we just can’t seem to get the story correct for how it wants its version presented. According to the city, the local daily and business newspaper simply can’t get the story straight. Upon hearing this final revelation, we recommended the city send over that ultimate version of a news release, a letter to the editor. The city did just that — to the local weekly newspaper (although it was under the guise of a weekly column). The city then took another step to get its story straight. It ran an ad in the local daily to explain its position on the Pinon matter. At least the city didn’t tell the daily what to write or not write, it simply took ad space it had paid for and used it to promote its version of the story — obviously with no questions asked — in the manner it saw fit. Of course, to this day, we’ve heard nothing. Then again, we still have questions.
I guess I should be pleased that at least the city knows the difference between an ad and news release.