Writing news releases is an art. What seems a simple exercise is, in practice, a balance of appealing to the client whose product or campaign the piece is about, the editors the news is issued to, and ultimately to the retailers/operators/wholesalers or whomever is reading it.

PR agencies are well versed in what it takes to maximise coverage and carefully review the copy from each perspective to ensure all stakeholders are considered. In many cases, several versions of the same release are necessary as the key messages differ for each audience being targeted.

The client’s perspective

When we receive information from clients, it is usually in the form of internal sell-in documents (the most useful resource for us). So as a result, they contain internal abbreviations and media buying jargon like 'ATL' and 'BTL' and communicate their impact in metrics that retailers are unlikely to be familiar with, such as ‘household penetration’.​

It is our job to translate this to appeal to the other stakeholders while retaining the underlying message. For example, we would change ‘XXX is back on TV with a multi-million-pound ATL campaign, which will run for four weeks’ to ‘Retailers are being urged to stock up on XXX as the brand unveils a four-week TV campaign that will reach nine in 10 shoppers this summer’.

When using sales data, we make it tangible for the target audience. For example, ‘Soft drinks are worth £X a week to each independent retailer'.

The editor’s perspective

Editors are inundated with news releases to sift through, so it is important that a release commands their attention with a strong hook. This could be about a brand being the first in the market to do something, launching something unexpected, or going in a new direction. It should also contain all the key information for their readers right at the start. Editors don’t have time to be taken on a ‘journey’ with the brand story and how this launch or campaign came to be. Similarly, trade stories are often no longer than 300 words, so anything additional to this will get cut.

Besides content and length, the tone of the release is also key. While puns and word play are catchy, they should be used sparingly – usually reserved for the heading in B2B media. For some titles, even this is not appreciated. Similarly, phrases around taste such as ‘melt in the mouth’ and ‘exotic freshness’ should be left to the consumer-facing comms. Editors need facts that will be relevant to their readers in an easy-to-digest format that requires little-to-no redrafting.

David Shrimpton, editor of independent retail newsDavid Shrimpton, Editor of Independent Retail News,
says: “To paraphrase Thomas Gradgrind, the school board superintendent in Charles Dickens’ ‘Hard Times’, what we want is facts, and more facts. We need to know pack sizes, RRP, availability, market positioning, who it’s aimed at and why. If it’s a campaign: who it’s aiming at, how long will it run for, when does it start, how much are they spending, which mediums will it use? Too many releases use marketing jargon instead of plain English. If it’s not helping answer those questions, it’s just unnecessary noise.”

The retailer’s perspective

While retailers need key information such as RRP and stockists, equally important is how the news applies to their business. How will the product/campaign make them money? Does it meet with their shopper profile/is it relevant for them? What support is available? (PoS kits, merchandising advice or stock trial incentives etc). Have other respected retailers trialled the product and seen the benefit?

Answering these questions within the release makes the brand come across as knowledgeable in the sector they are targeting. This helps establish and build relationships between retailer and brand.

Natalie Lightfoot, Londis Solo Convenience, Glasgow, says: “I really like reading about other retailers. I like finding out what they are doing in their stores and whether there’s anything I can implement. If I see a story that quotes a retailer I know, I’m more likely to pay attention to it.”

So, as you see, drafting news releases is an art. It's often a minefield, but certainly an art – and one we relish here at MTJ PR. Get in touch with our team today for more advice.