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Write a Press Release That Reporters Won’t Mock, Part 2

In my previous post, I talked about the basic structure of a press release and began discussing the use of quotes.

To summarize that portion of the blog: Quotes should be used to clarify a previous point, not repeat it or offer trite platitudes.

Let’s now talk about the number of quotes.

In almost every press release I see – from utilities or otherwise – there are far too many of them.

I realize that every C-level executive wants to get their two cents in, but I urge you to limit both the number of quotes and the number of people being quoted.

Reporters roll their eyes when they see quote after quote – most of which say the same thing. They also tend to make the releases way too long.

The solution is to stick to quoting two or maybe three people in any release. The CEO or president is always a good choice and the executive, project manager or higher-level employee that has knowledge of whatever the release is discussing should be included as well.

For example, if the release is about a new utility substation coming online, quote the CEO and perhaps the chief technological officer.

If the release pertains to a financial issue, quote the CEO and chief financial officer.

And if you’re talking about hiring new employees, the CEO and the head of human resources are likely candidates to be quoted.

There’s also a reason not to get too hung-up on quotes: Most reporters aren’t going to use them anyway. A good reporter will want to talk to company officials and get their own quotes – quotes which aren’t likely to be canned party-line blather.

A few other things to consider when you write a release:

● Keep paragraphs short since they are easier to read.

● When you quote or paraphrase someone, stick with “said” instead of “remarked,” “replied,” “explained” and words of that ilk.

● Always include numerous methods for contacting a utility spokesperson in case a reporter has questions. Make sure there are links to your website.

● Reporters like numbers. Be as specific as possible.

● Make sure the headline is short and enticing. Get right to the point.

● Proofread your work carefully. Typos and bad grammar will make the company look foolish.

Finally, let’s talk about photos and graphics.

In short, use them. Include hard copies of photos of quoted people or mentioned places in your press packet and also send them electronically to reporters. Make sure the electronic photos are high resolution and in a common format such as JPEG or TIFF.

Graphic depictions of complicated topics make it easier for reporters to understand what a utility is doing – especially those reporters that don’t normally cover you and may be unfamiliar with the energy industry altogether.

For example, a news graphic might show step-by-step how power is generated and then delivered to its end users.

To wrap things up, remember the always-valuable KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid). Don’t try to be cute, avoid the jargon, keep the quotes to a minimum and think like Joe Friday when you write the release – just the facts ma’am.

Andy Gotlieb's picture

Thank Andy for the Post!

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Rachael Lewis's picture
Rachael Lewis on April 6, 2017

Here is part 1 in case you missed it.

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