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Make Your Utility’s Press Releases a Useful Tool

image credit: D 22654803 © Wendy Vote |

It never ceases to amaze me about the number of lousy press releases that come across my desk each week.

Whether they’re filled with indecipherable jargon and general wordiness or they’re chock-full of boring corporate-speak quotes or they’re just way too long, the value of many a press release is diminished by the content itself.

To keep things simple, remember that the meat of your press release should generally be limited to a single page. Sure, the utility’s boilerplate and required language, especially if you’re a public company, will take up a chunk of a second page, but keep the actual new information to a page.

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And remember to use the “inverted pyramid” practice that’s common in journalism. Get to the point in the lead, with information declining in importance in each subsequent paragraph.

Journalists are likely to only read the lead paragraph before deciding whether to continue on or trash your release. So keep “who, what, where, when and why” in the lead. “How” can be included in the next paragraph or two – known as the “nut graf,” which explains why your news is important.

As always, write simply.

When it comes to quotes, less is more. Yes, I know, everyone in the executive suite wants to talk about how great whatever it is you’re pitching, but keep quotes to a minimum – no more than two or three. More than that and you’re just going to be saying the same old thing again and again.

Besides, interested reporters will want to interview your key people and get their own, non-canned quotes.

One other note about quotes: Use them to clarify a prior point, not repeat it or offer unwarranted platitudes.

Now, let’s consider photos and graphics. In short, include them.

In your press packets, include hard copies of photos of quoted people or mentioned places, and also send them electronically. Electronic photos must be high resolution and in a format such as JPEG or TIFF. Be sure to include photo credits (and make sure you have the photographer’s permission to distribute them).

Along with photos, graphic depictions of complex topics make it easier for reporters to understand what a utility is doing. That’s especially true for reporters not familiar with your utility or the energy industry in general.

Some other points about press releases:

● Keep the headline short. Get to the point.

● Reporters like numbers, especially specific ones.

● Paragraphs should be short so they are easier to read.

● Stick with “said” instead of “remarked,” “replied,” “explained” and words of that ilk.

● Proofread carefully. Typos and bad grammar make a utility look foolish. You don’t want to end up on a “bad press release” bulletin board somewhere.

● Include numerous methods for contacting a spokesperson should a reporter have questions.

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Thank Andy for the Post!
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