A client recently asked me what’s actually involved in creating a news release for his business. He was surprised when I said it could take half a day or longer to do it right. With research and interviews, add a day.
The writing part is only 30% of the job of creating a story that the media finds interesting. But the other 70% of the assignment – the hard part and the more time-consuming – is developing the right message. You need to take into account the target audiences and the message. The message should include unique selling propositions (USP) – factors that differentiate a product from its competitors, such as lowest cost, highest quality, first-ever.
In the early 1990s, a dental practice client was the first in New England to introduce laser tooth whitening. Because they were the first, it was easy to differentiate their otherwise “typical” practice. We created stories about laser whitening and scientific studies, and ran a series of print ads. Once the practice had a group of satisfied laser whitening patients, I created a new wave of news stories featuring real world, local patient testimonials. Even people who made appointments but didn’t go for the whitening became long-time patients. The USP drew them in.
Many companies sell CPAP devices to help with sleep-apnea, a condition that causes some 20 million Americans to regularly miss a proper night’s sleep. Most sufferers don’t know they have sleep apnea, but it’s important to treat since, if left untreated, can cause more serious conditions. When the company owner bought several SUVs to ensure his Respiratory Therapy staff would be on time for house calls, that became the news story: Your therapist and a fully-stocked van is 30 minutes from any patient’s home. It was a novelty and that’s the USP we used to build the brand.
When a commercial real estate client attained 100% occupancy in a mall he represented – fully leased for the first time in 30 years – the USP wasn’t only that he had done it, but that he accomplished this feat despite the competition from online retailing. The story was carried by several general and business papers, and caused WCVB-TV to do a feature segment on its popular Chronicle program.
News editors receive scores of story pitches daily. How do they choose which ones to use? Stories must be well-written and properly formatted. More important, there must be something that stands out enough to be interesting but not too far-fetched, commercial or exaggerated. And it needs a great headline and solid opening paragraph. Getting you the right attention is what a true PR pro does best.
Stanley Hurwitz is the founder of Creative Communications, Stoughton, Mass.