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News

News Releases are Invitations to a Story Party

This is a true story. The organization’s news was announced in a news release, but when journalists began calling to schedule interviews, leadership wanted to know why reporters weren’t satisfied with just the news release.

You’re Invited!

The news release is like an invitation to a party. When you send it, you’re inviting the media to cover your story. Because it’s your version of the news, most journalists will treat it like a tip sheet that requires follow-up, more than a report ready for publication or broadcast.

Given the hundreds of news releases journalists receive each day, and their instinct to ignore almost all of them, follow-up calls should be a welcome result, even if it means people will have to spend extra time preparing and practicing talking points, digging up background information, and granting media interviews.

Let’s Be Clear

While it makes little sense, the pushback on interview requests most often comes from those who wanted the news release written. Before you begin writing, make sure those involved understand that interviews are a possibility and a necessary step to achieve story placement. Get their agreement to grant interviews as a condition for moving ahead with the news release project.

While the news release is working its way through the approval process, use the time to prepare team members for interview requests. This will allow for a prompt response if a reporter calls your office looking for comments. Delays could cost the chance at a positive story.

Use every successful media outreach as an opportunity to educate internal audiences about the importance of positive news coverage to the organization. Share the resulting media reports with the team as evidence that the time spent on a news release can be rewarding. It also will encourage others to share their news ideas and invest the effort required to develop a positive external narrative.

Lastly, if the subject matter experts involved don’t want to grant interviews, it may be better to drop the idea and spend your time on other initiatives. Don’t announce a party if you don’t want to welcome any guests.

Robert Johnson is the Strategic Communications Officer at Riester Public Affairs in Washington, D.C. He also is an adjunct professor of communication at American University. This article is excerpted from a new book he wrote for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, “A Communications Playbook for Public Officials,” due for release Summer 2022.