How to turn vapid news releases into tantalizing stories

How to turn vapid news releases into tantalizing stories

As a PR pro you need pickups, real pickups. None of those crap newswire syndications created to take up space in the dark, sketchy alleys on the web where nobody goes.

Radio, television and newspapers used to be the only forms of mass communication…that’s no longer the case. So why think like that when putting together news releases? We have to broaden our sense of the word 'news' in order to take full advantage of it. There’s blogs and social media, the Internet itself has become one large news generator that thrives on one main thing—stories!

Before I continue with the essential elements of a great brand story, I want to distinguish that this is a different kind of news release. The short, down to the point, hard numbers release is still essential to the PR toolbox. I’m not replacing it. I’m simply adding a new item (think, screws and nails).

Genre: Frame your story to focus on a group of people with similar likes or worldviews and draw them to yourself like fangirls to a fantasy fiction novel.

In order to reach readers who would care about your story, you need to find the right avenues. This could be through a specific blog or journalist. However, don’t forget about the channels you own as possible placement.

Example: Microsoft’s The Garage

Problem- Solution: Also known as a hook or the So-What factor. It’s a critical element that ties your product or service to the story. Most news releases contain this already but it’s presented in such a boring way that nobody cares.

One of my favorite billboards is by a pest control company and it’s a great example of how to do this correctly. 

Boring Problem-Solution: Bug infestation? We can eliminate them for you.

Story-style Problem-Solution: They Hide, We Seek.

The Tie-In: The billboard above was able to tell a story in just four words. How? They tapped into a pre-existing story—one we all have played a role in as a little child bundled with excitement and fear from a simple game.  

The easiest form of a tie-in is with popular shows and movies. KBG law firm created an infographic about office safety and workers’ compensation through the plot of the popular TV series The Office.

Visual Elements: You won’t get many words to tell your story so you have to use visuals to get the message across effectively.

Hootsuite’s Game of Social Thrones is one of my favorite examples of visual brand storytelling this year.

By now, you’re wondering if I’m even talking about news releases anymore. I’m walking a fine line between content marketing and PR. But they share the same line for a reason. The end goal of both is to get your company known, better yet favorably remembered. Both use pickups on news channels to do it.

Sensory Words: You don’t read stories, you experience them.

Think of the latest book you read. Do you even remember the words on the page? What transported you to that place where you felt your blood boil in anger and the hot suffocating air break from your lungs after being punched by a fictional character? Sensory words and the ebb and flow of good writing.

If you need an example, just look at the headline of this post.

As you sit down to write your next news release, remember to lead with a story idea not your company, be personal as if you are talking to a close friend, and don’t forget strategic keywords so your story can be found.

The most effective pitches aren’t those perfectly formatted news releases stuffed with corporate talk at all….they’re stories that fall into the hands of journalists who feel so compelled by it they share with everyone else. 

Have other ideas for making press releases and visuals more exciting? Share below!

Alicia Lawrence is a content coordinator for WebpageFX and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land. Her work has been published by the Association for Business Communication, Business Insider, and Spin Sucks.
Photo credits:
Main header photo: Open book via Shutterstock
Home Paramount ad: Photo from Lamar Advertising
Storytelling photo: Photo by Shift Communication, Designed by Sarah Muscarella

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