You’ll notice that press releases issued through PR Newswire or Business Wire or MarketWire or pretty much “anyWire” follow certain conventions. Some are legal requirements in order to protect the issuing company against claims that, for example, they included copy which might have misled folk into the belief that the good news story meant the entity was worth investing in. This so-called forward looking statement is always there, tagged on the end and probably rarely read, but a requirement nonetheless.
What we’re talking about here is not the statutory bits, but the way the copy is written. And the reason we feel liberated to opine on the subject is because so many releases are so poor.
When to issue a press release
This is global medtech, so avoid “Jim in the office has immersed himself in a bath of baked beans for two days for charity”. But by the same token, don’t miss opportunities to tell tales which support your marcomms goals. We’ve been there, believe me. You think you have no news, but if you put ten minutes aside with your front-line people, or whoever’s relevant, that blank piece of paper will fill up, giving you more of a problem of what not to write about. The key is to keep it to important stuff. Surgeon uses product for first time in country. First patient in clinical trial. Clinical trial complete. That’s all fine. What isn’t fine is; Customer says new device is good. Customer likes new widget. That’s meaningless twaddle. The idea is to issue a press release only if it conveys a message that supports your marcomms goals and then put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re trying to influence and say only things that support the message you’d like them to get.
Title and headline
I’m wrapping these up together for the simple reason that most readers won’t get past them, so they may as well convey as much of the message as possible, as snappily as possible. If you can get the company and product name in the title, do it, unless that makes the title three lines long. Sometimes being a little less explicit in the title works well, the teaser of; “No more high blood pressure”, being enough to get folk reading down.
The headline bit should expand a little. “Company X has announced that such and such has occurred” is OK, but so much better when followed by “…which means that…”
We’re all in medtech, so we expect to see jargon and acronyms, but sometimes it needs a bit more spelling out than is the case. Don’t make it Janet and John stuff, but there’s no harm in your message being readable by a slightly larger audience is there, so follow your hypertension with (high blood pressure).
Sometimes the most boringly anodyne part of a press release, and sometimes the most interesting. Try to make them the most interesting because this is the opportunity for a senior person to expand a little on the core message with a little emotion and even dare I say a bit of hyperbole… after all, this is only an opinion.
If you can get a physician to comment too, that’s great. More releases do include a physician comment, simply because it looks like (and indeed may be) third party validation for the message or the product.
Read pretty much any press release and you’ll see a template, so I’m not going to rehash that here. All I will say is, put time and effort into writing it, be brutal in the edit, cutting it down to the bare minimum. Pare it down so the core message is clear and try to repeat that underlying message two or three times, especially near the end, usually in the boss’s comments.
Oh, and don’t “speak” to your audience like they’re idiots any more than you should speak to them like they’re all rocket scientists. Get the tone of voice right by testing it on someone. This is important stuff and may be seen around the news-hungry world, so get it right.