Lead with the reader
It’s counterintuitive, but true: The product is never the topic. The program is never the topic. The plan is never the topic. The topic is never the topic.
The reader is always the topic.
So put the reader first: Next time you find yourself writing a press release, write to and about your target audience, not about us and our stuff.
Here’s how to do it, stealing an approach from the lead of a PRSA Silver Anvil Award-winning release by the California Milk Advisory Board:
Dairy farmers throughout California — the nation’s No. 1 milk-producing state — will have an opportunity to learn the basics of cheese making in a comprehensive, one-day seminar being offered during February and March throughout the state. Sponsored by the California Milk Advisory Board …
Steal a tip from this release and:
- Start with the reader. “Dairy farmers throughout California …” See what happens when you begin your lead with the stakeholder, instead of with your organization’s or product’s name? You push the benefits toward the front of the lead.
- Follow up with the benefit. “… will have an opportunity to learn the basics of cheese making …” We still haven’t mentioned the organization or offering. Why? Because the reader benefit is more important. Notice how putting the reader first forces you from passive voice into active voice.
- Only then introduce the product or service. “… a comprehensive, one-day seminar …” The product or service is best placed, as in this release, after the end user and benefit. In fact, the second paragraph is high enough for the product name.
- End with the organization’s name. “Sponsored by the California Milk Advisory Board …” Trust me, if someone cares about your release, they’ll get to your organization’s name.
And journalists, bloggers and others are more likely to read or run the release when you focus on their audience members instead of on your organization and its stuff.
Notice how much more newsworthy and interesting this approach is than the traditional product announcement release, which is dated, formulaic and — let’s face it — dull.