Writing for Mass Media: Advertisements and Press Releases
● Besides routine messages, occasionally you will be tasked to write content for mass media. Large companies often have a dedicated team to handle media relations. But, if you work in a small organization, you will have opportunities to collaborate/communicate directly with the media-newspapers, magazines, and television.
● It's important for your company to have a good relationship with the media because it can help you promote your company, products, and services to a lot of people. When you have a good relationship with the media, they are more likely to write positive stories about your company, which can help you build goodwill and attract more customers and clients.
● Companies use a variety of media content to reach their target audiences, including media stories, event marketing, press releases, advertisements, and stories about their community involvement. In the next section, we will focus on two important types of media writing: advertisements and press releases.
1. Writing Advertisements
○ An advertisement is a public message that tries to sell something, like a product, service, or event. Even job postings are trying to sell the job to potential applicants. Companies use all kinds of media to reach people, including newspapers, magazines, websites, social media, radio, TV, and podcasts (print and audio-visual).
○ No matter what medium they use, advertisements are designed to grab your attention and make you want to do something, like buy a product, learn more about an idea, attend an event, or apply for a job.
○ Advertising can be tricky, especially when it comes to selling products. Companies often hire professional ad agencies to help them create effective ads. These agencies have teams of people who specialize in different aspects of advertising, such as writing, design, and branding.
○ If you work for a small company or startup, you may not have the budget to hire an ad agency. But that doesn't mean you can't create effective promotional messages. With good writing and design skills, you can create persuasive ads that will help your company succeed.
Qualities of Effective Advertisement
○ Michelle Greenwald says that the best ads are powerful, meaningful, and inspiring. They don't just sell a product, they sell the values that the product represents.
○ For example, Nike's ads often use slogans like "Find your greatness" and "Just do it." These slogans appeal to the target audience, which is young people, because they speak to the values of self-worth and freedom.
○ Research shows that effective ads display the following qualities:
■ Attention-grabbing headline: The headline of an ad, especially a print ad, should give a strong impression and attract the attention of the reader. It should function as a flagship, guiding and motivating the audience towards viewing the advertisement. You can also include a sub-header that expands upon the headline.
■ Meaningful and memorable message: A successful ad must deliver a meaningful and memorable message. Ncell Nepal's ad slogan, "Your dedication, your tradition, your dream, inspiration, and love," directly speaks to the audience and acknowledges how the company is the result of the users' dreams and love. Moreover, concepts such as dedication, tradition, and dreams express the values that most audiences are likely to subscribe to.
■ Focused on the customer's needs and values: Ads must persuade the audience. For this, the ad should not only emotionally appeal to the audience but also should directly address the needs of the audience. This means that the ad must explain how the advertised product or service meets the needs of the audience. Generally, the audience's needs relate to several values such as money, freedom, productivity, power, attractiveness, security, reputation, comfort, and entertainment. Explaining how the product contributes to such values, the ad message can affect persuasion. Ads for beauty products, for example, appeal to the values of attractiveness.
■ Emphasis on the uniqueness of the product or service: Effective ads must emphasize the unique features that set the product apart from rival products. However, they should not explicitly mention or target the rival products. It is more about answering the question as to why customers should care about the product or service offered. Such features may include after sales service, warranties, discounts, a unique design, or convenience.
■ Call for action: This is the most important aspect of the advertisement. The ad must tell the audience what the audience is expected to do: purchase the product, contact the company, play a demo, sign up for a service, get a quote, etc.
2. Writing Press Releases
○ A press release is a short news announcement from a company. It's used to tell the media about important things like new products, new leadership, or changes in the company.
○ Companies write press releases to get the attention of journalists and get their stories covered in the news. Well-written and well-timed press releases can help companies reach a lot of people and build a good reputation.
○ Here are some common types of press releases that companies issue:
■ Product launch: To announce a new product or service.
■ New leadership: To announce new executives or board members.
■ Financial results: To announce the company's financial performance.
■ Community involvement: To announce the company's charitable giving or other community initiatives.
■ Company news: To announce changes in the company's operations or strategy.
○ It's important to remember that press releases should not be used to promote products or services. They should be written in a journalistic style and should provide factual information. However, the dissemination of a press release can help companies indirectly promote their products and services by building positive public relations.
● To announce a new hire of a top level executive with the purpose of informing customers, clients, investors, and the general public
● Highlights significant professional achievement of the new hire
● To publicize a new product
● To create curiosity and intrigue about the product and its features
● To inform customers, clients, and the general public about changes such as the remaining of the company after a merger
● To specify the changes that the customers or clients can expect after the rebranding
● To publicize the company’s charitable activities to build good will
● To specify the details of an initiative and explain how such an initiative will positively impact the community
Format and Guidelines for Writing a Press Release
Press releases follow a common format that a journalist is familiar with. It enhances the likelihood of getting published. Additionally, a press release must be newsworthy, that is, the news and its content should be timely, important, and interesting. A typical press release closely follows the style of journalistic writing direct, factual, and informative.
● Head: The head includes the organization's name, logo, and address, followed by the phrase "Press Release" centered on the top margin. This allows journalists to immediately recognize the document as a press release.e3e
● Dateline/ release date: The dateline refers to the date the press release is to be published. Usually the first paragraph of the press release begins with the name of the place and date, separated by a dash. Depending on the timing and situation, you can write the phrase "For Immediate Release" if you wish to distribute it immediately. Alternatively, you can mark it as "Embargoed for Release", followed by a date (other than the date released), if you want news outlets to hold on to it until the specified date.
● Headline: Every press release must have an interesting and catchy headline that lets the audience know what the press release is about. The headline appears at the top of your press release but below the organization's logo, contact information, and date. If you wish to get the release published on the internet, consider including a few key words in the headline.
● Opening paragraph: The opening paragraph usually appears under summary bullets (optional). This first body paragraph is crucial as it should answer the most important questions--who, what, where, when, how. For an effective release, develop this paragraph as a summary of the entire release.
● Remaining section: The remaining section of the body may include multiple paragraphs. This section explains the main theme or central idea of the release. In this section, include relevant images, graphics, and even video clips. Also consider including brief quotes from higher management people to ensure the credibility of the news. If you are sending the release in a digital format, provide links to relevant web-pages and other media content.
● Boilerplate: A boilerplate is the final paragraph of the release. It provides background information about the organization. This paragraph should be brief and precise but ideally should present the organization in a positive light.
● End notation: End the release with the notation of three hashes (###); however, if the release has two pages, end the first page with "More . . ." to indicate that the release continues on the next page. At the end, add contact information such as an email or phone number. The notation sentence may begin as: "For additional information, contact us."