By Katrina Olson
You’ve probably written, or at least seen, a traditional news release. It starts with “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “why” and sometimes “how” (the five Ws and the H), includes a few quotes and some background information, then wraps up with a call to action. Done.
Not so fast. Depending on the purpose, you may want to consider writing a particular type or style of news release.
Public relations resources such as PR Newswire, PRWeb and Cision commonly recognize seven types of news releases (announcement, launch, product, human resources, expert positioning, event, company report), while the remaining types (feature, hybrid and social media) are more about a style of writing.
Answering the five Ws and the H and supplying only the most necessary information, the announcement news release is written to recognize an occurrence within a company or organization that may be of interest to the media. The goal is to pique the media’s interest in hopes of getting more coverage. Topics may include a contest, a company’s investment in the community or an attempt to create awareness about an issue.
A feature is often longer than a general news release and features “soft news”—that which is less important, less immediate and often has a human-interest angle. After opening with an intriguing lead to draw in the reader, it tells a story in an objective and unbiased manner. This type of release often ends dramatically, providing closure to the story. A few examples are how-to stories, personal profiles or seasonally themed stories.
Starting with a short attention-grabbing lead, the hybrid starts like a feature by telling a story. It then becomes more like an announcement, continuing with the five Ws and the H. As the name indicates, it’s a hybrid of the announcement and the feature. The hybrid is good for hard news with a human-interest angle.
- Human Resources
Companies send a human resources release to publicize staff changes, especially in upper management. The primary difference between a human resources (HR) and announcement news release is that the HR release contains more biographical information to support or justify the staff change and introduce the new staff member.
A launch press release often reads like an announcement but with a greater sense of urgency or timeliness. They’re written to provide information and generate buzz among corporate buyers and consumers about the launch of a product, company, website, organization or initiative.
This type of release introduces a new product highlighting its merits and advantages over the competition in an objective and unbiased tone. It may include photos, specifications and even a sample. Product releases can overlap with launch releases when a new product is launched; but they’re also used when a product wins an award, reaches a sales milestone, or is recalled or upgraded.
- Company Report
The company report may be short and simple or long and detailed, depending on the goals of the company and the subject matter. This type of release is usually focused on building the corporate image to attract investors or those wishing to acquire the company. It’s often focused on the company’s current status or future plans and may correspond with their annual report, highlighting financial success or sales growth.
- Expert Positioning
The expert positioning news release is less urgent and may focus on a research study or report issued by the company or by a third-party organization, offering statistics and results with supporting quotes or information from the company or individuals. Not surprisingly, this type of release demonstrates the company’s or individual’s expertise in a specific subject and positions the company as a future resource for the media.
An event news release announces the five Ws and the H, sometimes as a list or in outline form. They’re issued in hopes of convincing the media to announce event details to the public. This release may also include quotes, photos and background information on the organization.
- Social Media
In 2006, Shift Communications released the first social media news release template that incorporated multimedia features and links to related information. The format has evolved but the goal is the same—to make information easy to scan, provide elements (text, multimedia, etc.) that are easy to share, and offer links to related and relevant information. Today, most news release distribution services provide templates or formats designed specifically for online media as well as offering tracking systems and other enhancements.
Some argue that the social media release (also called a digital or interactive news release) is unnecessary because the information can simply be shared via social media. Others claim the format provides a wealth of information and access to more in a format that corresponds with the needs of today’s web savvy audience.
If you’d like to learn more about any of these news release formats, conduct a quick Internet search for tons of examples, templates, guidelines and tips.
Olson is a marketing and public relations consultant, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She has written for tED magazine’s print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine’s Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via her website at katrinaolson.com.
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