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By Steve Turner

Young public relations practitioners do it. So do many industry veterans. They create and distribute one general news release to a multitude of media and then hope for coverage in newspapers, television, radio and online.

Stop the presses! Newspaper editors, beat writers, television producers and online editors all have different goals, needs and deadlines. Your writing needs to be tailored to meet their special demands if you hope to improve your chances for coverage. Here’s how they work…

Newspaper. Editors and writers are most interested in trends and timely stories that impact their readership. They are usually juggling five or six stores at a time in hopes of getting something done by an early evening deadline. So to grab their attention your writing needs some impact and the data to back it up.

If you have a new product, a new service, or spent a lot of money developing one, you are on the right track. Ask yourself, what makes this product so important and how many people in the area, regionally or even nationally, will be impacted by it? Then you can take the space to back-up your findings with a right mix of data. Print reporters need projections and evidence to solidify the story. They have the space to write about it. Ensure you have some numbers in your release or pitch letter.

You can also create a meatier release for print than you can for the electronic media. Though one page should suffice in most cases, you have the option of adding a page if the story is interesting enough.

Television. TV news is much different than print. Any news producer or reporter will tell you that television is a visual medium, so you need to think visually. That new product launch, which might work well for print, better have plenty of moving parts if you hope to land a spot on the 6pm news. Tieing it to an event with local celebrities, dignitaries, children and/or pets is usually a good method to generate some type of coverage.

Just like the news product itself, releases for TV need to be short and concise. If your ideas can’t be confined to one page they won’t be a good fit for television. Many producers will tell you the shorter the news release, the better. If you can keep it to less than a page, you score more points. In fact many reporters would recommend utilizing a Who-What-When-Where approach to the release with the main facts easy to find and read.

Radio. While TV stations have two to three key newscasts a night, news/talk radio stations have a report at least once an hour. Just like television, writing for radio also needs to be short and sweet. While there is no visual element involved the opportunity for a good sound bite with a key newsmaker or decision maker always enhances your chances for coverage.

Online. The online news “monster” is an entirely different story (pardon the pun). News may be updated not only hourly but also by the minute. Stories are quickly posted, digested, and archived. Therefore releases need to be extremely concise and well packaged. Words should be punchy. Sentences should have some impact.

Articles written expressly for online magazines and web sites should be as brief as possible. Paragraphs should be easy to read. Thoughts broken down into logical order.

In some cases your writing will need to have some “legs.” Perhaps it will be published a month or two down the road. No need for short-lived releases here. Instead concentrate on a trendier approach and provide solid information.

Tailoring your release to each medium may take more time and effort, but the results will be well worth it.

Steve Turner is a Principal at Solomon/Turner.
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