There is nothing I like more when going through emails than getting a press release that’s been written by someone who understands what news is all about.
One of the first things you learn as a trainee journalist are the words WHO WHAT WHEN WHERE HOW.
Who was in the news? What happened to them? When? Where were they? How did it happen?
Once you’ve got those basics out of the way, you can go on to build the rest of the story.
Really good press releases not only provide those basics, but also add a few paragraphs of extra information to bring some colour to the story, and a couple of quotes from key players that humanise it. They tempt you with news; they lure you with descriptions; then they hook you with quotes.
This doesn’t just apply to big news stories – but every story, whether that’s about a new face-cream that’s been launched, or a fabulous new hotel that you’re hoping a journalist will review. A picture of a face-cream and a little sentence about it won’t lure any decent hack. But if you give us reasons why it’s been launched, who it’s been made by, why they’ve made it and the science behind how it’s been made, we might make our ears – particularly if there’s decent colour about the processes or the plants utilised and quotes from the leading scientist about why this is seriously going to change the (beauty) world.
The same thing applies to hotels. A hotel, really, is just another new building in an already crowded market. So if you are going to try to get me to review it, tell me about its architects and interior designers (not just their names but what they have done before that’s noteworthy) and provide gorgeous photographs. Tell me why this is going to be the hotel that everyone is going to want to go to in the area (will it be the foodie destination/the new art hub/the best place for cocktails?). Give me descriptions of it that make me want to see it with my own eyes. And then give me quotes from people who understand this area – and why they are excited about it – and no, that doesn’t mean a bland quote from a GM about why it’s an exciting business proposition for their corporation.
We’re hacks. There’s nothing we like more than tasty little titbits of news. Particularly when they are served to us on a plate.