Archive for September 14th, 2011

A well-written media release could be printed AS-IS.

In a recent post, we reviewed tips for writing a news release. Our focus was the traditional use of a news release: getting your information to the media in a succinct, interesting way that will trigger them to follow up with you for a story. In doing some further research, I came across an interesting post by the good folks over at copyblogger. They make an excellent point that I rather neglected: the stronger the writing in the news release, the better a chance it has of going into a blog/publication as-is. No editing; no rewriting.

A great press release is NOT something that prompts a journalist to write an article; rather, a great press release is published AS an article. While that may be an abstraction outside of the most time-strapped of reporters, many times the better your press release, the more of it ends up verbatim in the resulting article.

So stop writing press releases, and start writing news stories.

For good or ill, this is one of the new aspects of modern journalism. Reporters are stretched thin in newsrooms across America, so they’ll sometimes take shortcuts, such as printing a media release verbatim.

I do want to say that this is not always a good thing. A Guardian.co.UK post from 23 February 2011, sheds some light on the above-mentioned practice of printing news releases verbatim, describing it with the unflattering term, “churnalism.”

A new website promises to shine a spotlight on “churnalism” by exposing the extent to which news articles have been directly copied from press releases.

The website, churnalism.com, created by charity the Media Standards Trust, allows readers to paste press releases into a “churn engine”. It then compares the text with a constantly updated database of more than 3m articles. The results, which give articles a “churn rating”, show the percentage of any given article that has been reproduced from publicity material.

[The site] revealed how all media organisations are at times simply republishing, verbatim, material sent to them by marketing companies and campaign groups.

What’s the problem? you ask. It’s in those nine little words: “sent to them by marketing companies and campaign groups.” Think about campaigns, political ones, for example. Do media releases sent on the candidates’ behalves always espouse facts, or does an opinion or two or three sneak into their news releases? Likewise, with a marketing company. Now, I’m on your side – my whole reason for including the post about media releases in the first place was that I believe they are a stellar marketing tool. But I’d be a lot more comfortable knowing the media outlet that was generating an article due to my release was also fact-checking all their third-party information.

That being said, if I were given the choice between having my release run verbatim or not run at all, I’d obviously take the former. So do your homework, fact-check your own material, and write a release you can be proud of. That way, if it does happen that your news release is printed verbatim, as an article, you won’t have any excuses to say, “I was misquoted!”

Happy pitching!



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