There is a fine line between advertising and editorial these days. Then again, the line is often badly blurred when you find yourself viewing, or reading an advertorial – otherwise called a press release. Of course the onus is on the reader, to recognize an ad versus some reasonably objective information.
The New Advertising
We have arrived at this point because it costs money to deliver news. Just like it does for entertainment.But the old ways of supplying the money are apparently drying up. Traditional advertising finds today’s discerning minds, and values of time, have worn down its effectiveness. People don’t want to get interrupted when they can consume content in multiple ways that don’t do that.
The Era of Print Ads
Three-quarters of a century ago most people got their news from newspapers. The papers printed the news with advertising wrapped around it. I remember when I was editing a tabloid there was always the tension between where to place the news, and where to place the ads. Since most people read from left to right, one thought was to place the news on the left sides of the pages.
In that way, the reader saw the news first. But what happened when the paper was opened is it broke up the flow of words for the reader. Once they finished the column on the left-hand page, their eyes had to travel across the ads before finding the next column of news. At my paper, the solution was to put editorial content in the “valley”, or the centers of two facing pages. That way, the ads stayed on the left side of a left hand page, and on the right side of a right hand page.
The Crap Shoot
It always seemed to me to be quite a crap shoot to expect your ad to be seen by someone reading a newspaper. Many times ads were only one or two columns wide, and maybe two or three inches deep. On top of that, they were sandwiched in between other ads, all using varying borders and typefaces. How the human eye could make quick sense of such controlled chaos was always a point of wonderment for myself, as well as others in the business.
The editor is primarily interested in the editorial content and most editors jealously guard their prerogatives related to how to display editorial content. Of course, the accounting side of the publication also has its say and you can bet that function carries a lot of weight as well. Ultimately, there is a balance that is supposed to be struck.
Press Release Promises
These days however, we are seeing a major shift in the ways people are getting and using information. Along the way, there has been a heightened interest in the use of the press release by construction companies wanting to advertise. That’s right, even though it is called a press release, it is increasingly being used as an advertising mechanism.
Many editors traditionally viewed press releases as sources for filler material. That’s because they were spun by PR people and so they usually fell somewhere between soft news and advertising. The fact that a construction company just hired a new accountant, might be of interest to a few investors and the people whose names appear in the press release. But beyond that it really has little news value to a broadly-based readership.
Improving Press Release Impact
I suspect the lion’s share of construction company press releases never get published, anywhere. That’s largely because of the way they are written. There are things that can be done that will increase the likelihood an editor will actually publish your press release, or contact you for more information that might lead to a featured story. Here are some tips.
- Don’t go subjective in your opening paragraph. The lead should attempt to be objective, so avoid comments about being “the best.”
- Tie the press release to something newsworthy, but be careful not to get too far out. If you are trying to get the word out that your company recently completed a LEED certified building, then make that more newsworthy by doing some research. Find out what makes the building more unique than other LEED certified buildings. Then, make that the leading paragraph of the press release. But avoid picking a news item that exaggerates the importance of your announcement. Just because your company built a LEED certified building, it doesn’t mean it’s “leading the industry in reducing green house gas emissions.” However, if it is, and you can prove it, then by all means make that your news!
- Supply valuable information that would be useful to the reader, rather than trying to impress the reader about the greatness of your company. So, in the example of the LEED certified building, you might reveal a few of the lessons learned from the experience of building that structure. They could be lessons about processes, or mix of features, or even long-term economic advantages to the owner.
- Include pictures and multi-media. Too many press releases are just words. But great action shots of people building that LEED certified building are always going to catch an editor’s attention. Just make sure you have gotten model releases from anyone who is identifiable, and let that be known to anyone receiving the press release.
- Offer to allow interviews of key people at your company for news efforts related to the press release.
- Answer as many of these as possible: Who? What? Why? When? Where? How? Place them in a hierarchy so the most important information is at the top of the release with gradually lesser important information following. If a press release is going to be used as is, it will usually be cut from the bottom.
Editors are always looking for news, but unfortunately they are inundated with advertising. Make your press release stand out by making it newsworthy, and easily identifiable as being newsworthy. Make a press release “easy to publish” and it will be published.