Read any good news releases lately? No doubt there are some articles you read completely and remember even months after having read them. Why is that? Surprisingly often, the answer is that the introduction was well-written enough to make you want to keep reading. Opening sentences are not easy to develop, but the skill behind them can be cultivated.
There is no 1-2-3 quick-and-easy template for a good summary. However, there are plenty
of relevant skills to master. Practice using a succinct lead line, summarizing the news angle and including a straightforward set of facts that tell people what you want them to know immediately. Don’t dance around your topic. This is not the time to get cute.
A good news summary, or lede, should tell readers why they should want to read the rest of the story, and it should do so in as few words as possible. Most ledes are one to two sentences, and editors recommend they stay under 40 words. Remember:
- Provide the main points of your article
- Generate interest in reading the article
- Do both things in as few words as you can
Modern news releases, and their summaries, should still follow the W5-H rule. Make sure your release meets the right journalistic criteria and tells the who, what, when, where, why and how of the news. Does your release address all the salient details? Is it objective? Does it state facts? Does it sound like an ad (and, if it does, can you correct it)?
- Who: This Law Firm
- What: Announced a scholarship for students with disabilities
- Where: In Arizona
- When: Yesterday
- Why: One of your partners has a child on the Autism Spectrum
- How: The firm will select three students wishing to pursue postsecondary education based on goals, accomplishments, and community involvement
This Law Firm announced a new program yesterday that will provide scholarships to three Arizona postsecondary students with disabilities. The scholarship was inspired by Stacy Partner’s daughter, who wants to provide opportunities to others facing challenges like hers.
At 38 words, this summary provides the facts while leaving questions open about the nature of the scholarship and the challenges Stacy’s daughter overcame, which encourages the reader to keep going and learn more.
One common mistake is to pen an off-the-wall, exciting lead and opener, and then write a release that has nothing to do with either. Stay on topic. There is nothing wrong, however, with writing with wit.
Change your format from release to release. When editors see the same old model, they will assume that the content is equally repetitive. They will pay less attention, and they may not schedule it at all. Be creative with your openers, content, ending and wrap.
A news release is meant to be read from beginning to end. When you think you’ve finished, go back and try to view your piece through your audience’s eyes. Would anything capture their attention better? Try a new tactic and see.