PR Newswire's Storytelling Guideline

News releases are becoming an increasingly important element of any communications strategy, as nearly every company has seen their need to communicate continue to grow in recent years. The number of news releases distributed through PR Newswire's network in APAC has increased by 15 percent on average annually. Yet, poorly planned and poorly written news releases distributed by companies who lack the experience, skills or knowledge in communications will only serve to confuse the media and the intended audiences. An unsuccessful news release may even have a negative effect on your communications efforts.

PR Newswire has developed its Storytelling Guidelines for news release distribution in a move to help companies plan and write their news releases, improve the quality of the releases, disseminate the message in a timely manner and open up opportunities to engage audiences. In addition, PR Newswire will also conduct training programs on the basis of these guidelines with the goal of improving the quality of the writing that goes into a well-constructed news release. The overall program aims to help companies improve the quality of their communications and amplify the messages of their news release. Thanks to clients who have become conversant with the content of the guidelines, PR Newswire can provide the media with high quality content that meets the growing demand from audiences.

Section 1
Why a good quality news release needs to "tell a story"?

 

Communicating a message through storytelling can leave a long-lasting impression on the reader and goes a long way in assuring that the reader has properly understood the content of that message. Among the vast number of corporate news releases delivered every day, those whose content is well planned and organized through the application of a flexible and interesting storytelling approach will see the value of the content improved for their readers, attract more attention from the media, and strengthen the target audience's trust in the company's brand, as well as produce sustainable visibility in search engines. Most companies have already realized that good PR is the result of continuously engaging high quality and compelling stories with their audiences.

Section 2
PR Newswire's Storytelling guidelines for news release distribution

Source

Offical News Source

  1. A news release has always been regarded as an official statement and is a part of a company's permanent and public record as well as a key component of the company's branded content. A news release should always be clear about referring to itself as the official source and a company should only distribute news information about itself or about a topic directly related to the company.
  2. In a fragmented communications environment, unambiguous references to the source will contribute to the transparency and perceived reliability of the company as well as help the company establish its brand or brands as professional, authoritative and trustworthy. Furthermore, clear reference to the press release source can link important topics to the industry back to the issuer of the release.
  3. A news release with references to an official source displayed on a company's official platform or distributed through a newswire ensures the reliability of the content delivered to the media and serves to protect the company's proprietary brands from infringement.

Timeliness

Catch your audience at the right time.

  1. Timeliness is the vital essence of news. Press releases need to capture the audiences' attention at the right time by distributing in a timely manner.
  2. With the rapid growth of online media, search engines and social networks, consumers who are used to reading news on-the-go now have a higher bar in terms of the timeliness of news, further emphasizing the importance of getting your news out as close to "real time" as possible.
  3. Corporate news content combined with the timeliness of delivery, a unique selling point and topicality are the ingredients that allow a news release to receive the warranted attention and to enjoy an extended life cycle.

TIPS:

1. Future tense - will: for a story that is expected to take place in the future, companies need to plan the scheduling of the release in advance.
2. Progressive tense - ing: stories that are evolving over a period of time can be reported "as they happen" in the form of a newsletter and a live webcast or through social media and mobile platforms.
3. Past tense - ed: stories that have already taken place should be released as quickly as possible to ensure timeliness.

Original

Unique and authentic

  1. Original content with unique news elements can provide readers more value, for instance: facts, statistics, detailed information of interest, anecdotes and/or other third-party information should be included. Content needs to be novel and authentic. Platitudes and clichés, as well as content that is repetitive and timeworn, should be avoided.
  2. Search engines will prioritize search results based on the freshness, location, relevance and diversity of the content. For media outlets, original, unique and authentic content are elements that make the content attractive and of value to journalists.

Readable

Reader-friendly and avoid promotional stories

  1. A news release needs to have a clear topic. Overly self-congratulatory terms and assessments or terminology that reads like an advertisement should be avoided in order to ensure objectivity. Avoid obscure terms that may decrease the reader's interest. A news release should be written from the standpoint of the target audience as well as from the perspective of the media, and in natural language in order to be relevant to the intended audience. Beyond the selection of content matter, the format needs to be sized so that it can be easily read on mobile devices and digital content readers, providing an enjoyable digital experience.
  2. For journalists, the content needs to contain factual details and be absolutely unbiased, so that journalists can recreate their own rendition of the news without feeling that they are writing a piece of advertisment.
  3. A news release should contain the following elements: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How (5W1H).

TIPS:

  1. Avoid absolute words, such as “best” and “biggest” and self-congratulatory descriptions laden with adjectives and adverbs.
  2. Avoid advertising information, such as product price, in the headline.
  3. Avoid obscure terms, special symbols and English abbreviations without explanatory notes.

Yes by law

Do not violate local regulations and customs

  1. Make sure to observe restrictions on certain topics and any related laws and regulations in countries where the release will be distributed when writing a news release. For example, in China, news releases must not contain information violating the country's policies and regulations, including infringing on third-party intellectual property, defamation, false or unproven facts, celebrity endorsements (excluding material personally signed by the celebrity), stock commentary, political commentary, gambling, pornography, violence, drugs, and euthanasia.
  2. Companies must be sure to include only images and videos to which they hold the property rights. As the media likes to quote from the content within a news release and/or use the accompanying rich multimedia elements, only content for which re-publication rights have been granted should be used in order to avoid the potential for a dispute over intellectual property.

Topical

Topical and appealing

If appropriate, considering writing news releases to respond to a trending topic and incorporate your brand's unique angle into the story, especially if the topic is related to the industry of the issuer. The media prefers fresh, informative and original content that is likely to generate an immediate response from the intended audience. Such releases invariably receive better play in search engines.

TIPS:

  1. Creating a media-related PR editorial calendar on your industry can help you to find news angles and to plan content, allowing your brand communication efforts to produce twice the results with half the effort. View our PR Newswire's 2015 Calenar (June to December) here.
  2. Train yourself at using relevant tools to help plan your content, for example, using relevant monitoring tools, such as PR Newswire’s media monitoring tool CMM, to monitor media trends and access industry market intelligence in real time. Learn more about PR Newswire's Media Monitoring services here.

Exhibit

Enriching the news release with multimedia elements and encouraging actions

Content presentation by media, search engines and social networks is becoming more visual. As a result, releases limited to text will perform less effectively in comparison. Add more visuals and/or call-to-action elements in your releases, including:

Photos, videos, infographics, PowerPoint presentations, data, charts, use of bold and italic fonts as well as downloadable links, all of which can generate more interest from readers in addition to making the content richer, more vivid, easier to search, and share through social networks.

TIPS:

  1. A news release should contain at least one photo, which can be the company logo. Do not forget to include the company's website address in the text.
  2. The selected photo or image should not be or resemble an advertisement or a piece of marketing, as such a photo or image may be labeled and treated as advertising content by the media and the search engines.
  3. Photos should not be less than 300 dpi nor larger than 10 MB to ensure proper and sufficiently clear resolution. Avoid a collage of multiple photos.

Length

Concise headline and reasonable length for the content

A news release should have a short and concise headline accompanied by a factual subtitle of reasonable length. Concise wording, to-the-point sentences and short paragraphs serve to deliver an enjoyable reading experience to the intended audience.

Depending on the content, the text of the release should be neither too long nor too short. Clearly delineated paragraphs and a reasonable overall length of text are more conducive to the type of brief reading experience that has become the norm within the new media communications environment. The same rules in terms of conciseness apply as well to readability on social networks and mobile devices.

TIPS:

According to statistics developed by PR Newswire based on the thousands of news releases that are issued through PR Newswire annually, the ideal length of a news release in most cases is between 400 and 800 characters. The length of the headline should be less than 120 characters (including spaces), with the most import content leading in the first 65 characters (including spaces).

Links

A reasonable number of backlinks

When issuing a news release, it is recommended to observe the guidelines put out by the search engines and to make sure to follow all “white hat” rules when including anchor text. It is better to be fully transparent, even if that seems on the surface to be less effective, than to have the search engines judge your actions to have lacked transparency.

According to the latest search engine algorithms, as a result of the Google Panda 5.0 update, text that contain an excessive number of hyperlinks are often rejected by media websites and search engines, denying the issuer opportunities for communication that might have become available as a result of a good search ranking. Companies need to become fully cognizant of and follow SEO rules, and to tailor the use of anchor texts so that the issuer remains within the guidelines.

TIPS:

Don't use more than three hyperlinks in a press release. Providing relevant links can help increase your search visibility.

Section 3
Are you employing these strategies when crafting your news releases?

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The Golden Rules of writing great releases

With the advent of the online world, news releases have evolved greatly over the last 20 years - you are not only targeting your story to journalists as customers are also constantly looking for trusted sources of data to inform their purchase decisions. Here are some tips and guidelines to help you reach the various audiences or personas that are important to your brand, from media to bloggers to the end consumer.

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Section 4
Why is Storytelling important?


No one really likes to be lectured, but everyone loves a good story. Storytelling in marketing, undoubtedly, is an essential technique to breathe life into your brand and allow you to engage with your audience. In this digital era of everything faster-bigger-easier, it is critical for marketers to find ways to set themselves apart from the crowd. When you tell a story that is authentic, entertaining and informative, it encourages people to think, act and be engaged.

If you would like to learn more new tactics to employ for your press releases to be shared, read and engaged with, download the New School Press Releases Tactics eBook.

Section 5
Are you ready to write a high quality news release?