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What to Do, and Not to Do, When Writing a News Release

Steve Kerekes's picture
Consultant Strategic Communications

Seasoned strategist with expertise in media relations, crisis communications and content and message development. Experience includes supervisory positions at the nuclear energy industry's policy...

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  • Mar 16, 2019 4:45 pm GMT
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Even in the digital age, news releases matter as a means of shaping and articulating key messages. And especially in the digital age, one could argue, message prioritization matters more than ever.

Not to pick on the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, but the March 14 news release on its latest Reliability Leadership Summit strikes me as a prime example of what NOT to do when writing a news release.

The lede (sic) states, in essence, “We had a meeting; X number of people attended; we talked about stuff.”

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Accurate. Noteworthy. And not the message-centric construct that invites the reader to delve more deeply into the subject matter. For those who do, the news release’s second paragraph compounds the problem with a chronological listing of speakers. No driving of a specific theme; no identification of a major achievement; no highlighting of a key hurdle to overcome.

Deeper in the news release, we gain insight into one likely reason that it’s constructed as it is: there’s a bevy of meaty and complex topics on the table, including “current and emerging risks to the reliability and security of the grid; the rapid shift in generation resources; accelerated technology deployment; regulatory and policymaking in an era of unprecedented bulk power system change; reliably integrating record levels of renewable generation into electricity markets; and assuring adequate fuel supplies for power plants.”

I get that. Still, a key responsibility of the communicator drafting the news release is to sift through the complexity and find the theme or two that aligns with the organization’s brand (even when the organization is a not-for-profit regulator). That’s the information that needs to be in the lede. That can be a challenging task, particularly under a heavy work load and tight time constraints. In my view, however, it’s a must-do, not an option, to effectively enhance the organization’s reputation and provide journalists, if not others, with the substance on which you’d like them to focus.

In fairness to NERC, its Dec. 20, 2018 news release on the 2018 Long-Term Reliability Assessment is a better product. This Feb. 5th news release from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce similarly strikes me as one that effectively drives key messages.

Getting eyeballs on a news release is enough of a challenge these days, and a topic for another day. That makes it all the more important that the news release prioritizes information that actually makes it newsworthy.

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