Press Release v. News Release, There Is A Difference

Jun 15, 2011 by

Cover of "The Associated Press Stylebook ...

Cover via Amazon

There are two options in the public relations world: 1) Go with a traditional and expensive PR firm that writes “press releases,” or 2) go with a company that’s focused on delivering “news releases” to reporters that will get attention and increase your odds of making it into a news cycle without winding up with a stack of reprinted press release copies no one read by a traditional and costly PR firm’s interns .

A Press Release

Traditional and expensive PR firms love to write press releases.

Once you approve of a glowing, acronym-laced two or three paragraphs of big words that mean nothing, “innovative, world-class, integrated, one-of-a-kind, first-of-its-kind, cutting-edge;” They add a boilerplate of more of this gibberish; and then they want to put it out on Business Wire for an exorbitant amount; Charge you for writing and publishing, and then at the end of the year; Send you a clip book full of how the same meaningless releases were reprinted verbatim on dozens of Websites neither you nor anyone else in the world have ever visited.

They love to write news releases full of technical jargon: We found this gem the other day:  “Automated Business Process Discovery (ABPD)” Not to mention that AP Style years ago said stop putting acronyms in parenthesis.  And take a look at the Business Wire page on “Submitting A Press Release.” Seriously, you’d think someone at Business Wire would know to write AP Style, too.

A News Release

A news release is an entirely different creature.  (We could add EDC here for the benefit of some and the amusement of others.)

Having the mindset that you are writing and issuing a news release takes your content to an entirely different level.

First of all, you’re focusing on what’s going to get a reporter’s attention, not what is going to get the C Suites’.   A news release includes, wait, it’s coming — NEWS.

Acronyms like ABPD are apparently used by a very small population, so it needs to be included in the release so search engines will find it.  We get that.  But why not try to explain what your software or product does in layman’s words so someone can actually understand it?

If you’re also going to publish a social media release on your site or into circulation, you’re also going to want to include three or four “knock-out, holy cow, I’ve got to get one of these” sub-headlines/bullet points to support your release.

  • Eliminates the need for boring staff meanings using jargon no one understands by 50 percent
  • Does everything automatically, you can spend 35 percent more time at the watercooler
  • Independent firm verifies that new product is 75 times cooler than sliced bread

A news release must have news in it. Just saying it’s going to save time and money doesn’t get it anymore, if it ever really did.

Second of all, it should be written in AP Style as most news organizations worldwide use this agreed upon writing convention.  In journalism classes around America, if you so much as get five stylebook errors in one project, it’s an automatic F.  (Bonus: That means there’s no such thing as a “second annual” anything.)

Third, a news release should be written in pyramid format with the most important information at the top and the least heading toward the end.  This gives an editor/reporter the opportunity to see what you think is most important and decide whether they agree with you or not without having to go on a goose chase.  (Bonus: They get dozens of “press releases” a day, they’re already on a goose chase as it is.  Don’t add to it.)

Fourth, make sure you have a very succinct and attention getting headline on the release.   A headline that says,QPR Software to Offer Business Process Optimization with Automated Business Process Discovery Software QPR ProcessAnalyzer” isn’t going to get the same attention as “Independent Study Shows New Product from Helsinki Company 75 Percent Cooler Than Sliced Bread.”  Maybe not the best example of a rewrite, but it’s more likely to get a reporter’s attention than what was offered to the world in February 2011.

Fifth, while your traditional and expensive PR firm likes to use Business Wire, (They’re not paying for it so why should they worry?) there is nothing in the world better than calling/emailing a reporter and saying in the Subject line of your email: “Do You Like Sliced Bread?  What Till You Hear About This.”

One Last Note About Business Wire

We’re not saying you should not have your news release circulated on Business Wire.  In fact, it has meaningful use if used correctly.  But your odds of what you released being read by more than a traditional and costly PR firm’s interns goes up considerably if you’re writing for reporters and traditional readers and not the white shirts in the C Suite.

To execs at QPR, we think there are much better ways to tell your story than what was done in February 2011.  We’d love to help do that.




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PR Resume Tip Number One–News Releases

Apr 26, 2011 by

Do not send us a resume that says you have written “press releases.” If you do, it’s going in the trash.

We have a hard and fast rule in our company.  Our activities are geared toward getting our clients news coverage.  It’s that simple. We do not write fluff and stuff information to clog up a reporter’s inbox.  This is a mind set and a very important one.

So in this spring time and as college students are preparing to send out resumes suggesting that they’re ready to enter the public relations marketplace, here’s one very important point: Do not send us a resume that says you wrote “press” releases.

Anyone can write a press release.  And frankly, if you’re not interested in writing news, then why should we be interested in your working for our company?


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Who Owns Your Social Media Strategy?

Feb 13, 2011 by

This morning’s ClaxtonCreative .li publication (Please click on it and subscribe) hit on a very interesting topic we’re going to go a little further with. From the Website, Chris Lake of London poses an interesting question: Who should own your social media strategy: Your PR firm, your Ad agency or YOU? (BTW Econsultancy, one word of blogging advice: PERMALINKS.)

Mr. Lake goes on immediately to say he can’t see the value of either the PR firm or the Ad agency owning YOUR social media strategy.  Thinking that might be a controversial subject, he goes, but we agree with him whole heartedly.  It’s like asking the question who should own the garden of your home, your landscaper or you?

He then goes on to intelligently outline the fact that there is no way a PR firm or Ad agency can do what needs to effectively be done to run the daily operations of your social media strategy.  They should support it, help you get it set up, but they can’t, in good terms, become the voice of your company.  For one, most firms don’t have the staffing to do this or if they do, they’ll charge you as many billable hours as there are in a day times 10, and while you as a client might argue you don’t either, what a PR firm or Ad agency can’t do is respond in the same terms, emotions or with the same empathy as you or one of your employees.

Social media is about relationships.  Letting a PR firm or Ad agency be your voice means there’s going to be a disconnect from the get go.    As Lake writes: “Your people are your best asset, you cannot fake it, and you need to share the workload when it comes to having a social media strategy.” 

He’s right.  Just how we at our Dallas Public Relations firm Claxton Creative insist that product development and design can’t just be done by the engineers of your firm, neither can social media just be done by the marketing department.    If your engineers are the only ones designing your products, you’re probably making things that people don’t necessarily need or want.  Some engineer just thought it would be cool if you had this widget or that one and then they sent it over to marketing and said, “Here,  now go create some demand.” One of the premises of selling is that unfortunately, people don’t need what they don’t need.

The same goes for social media.  What if customers are complaining about a characteristic of your product online and only marketing is engaging them and simply giving them the party line?  Think of how much better your responses might be if customer service was helping craft responses, and what if the engineer who designed the widget in the first place–most likely without customer feedback–hears the complaints and suggestions and says to all, “Hey, we can fix that in our next version update.” How do you think your customers would react to that message vs. “We’re sorry you’re not enjoying how our product seems to blow up in your kitchen when you plug it in.”

You can see the opportunity for a disconnect here.  If the PR firm or Ad agency get this, it’s going to be one step further away from even the marketing department, let alone customer service or engineering, and up goes your opportunity for losing customers or alienating them. And if the account rep at your PR firm or Ad agency is insisting that they be the ones to own your social media strategy, we strongly suggest you get another PR firm or Ad agency, and one that gets it, like ours.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about strategies for responding to complaints on online platforms like Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.   That’s another entirely interesting conversation.


Our Dallas Public Relations firm has a unique protocol we work through with your company to establish your social media strategy.  We help you decide what platforms would be the best for your company, get feedback from you and potential customers, and then help build a system for you and your company to use.  We will be there to support and guide you into the future, but we don’t believe in becoming your online voice.

Now seriously, would you sign the deed over to your landscaper just because he put the rocks, trees and grass in place for you to enjoy at your home?   We didn’t think so.

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