“Wait, what? We don’t have a news release?”
The sudden realization sends you into panic mode. You fire off an email to the communications department, marked Urgent:
“We need a press release written immediately!”
You figure it should take a few hours—a half-day, tops—to get this thing done.
And here’s why: there’s a whole lot more to “writing a news release” (or any communications deliverable) than just writing.
Before writing even starts, decision-makers should determine:
- key messages,
- who will be quoted, and
- who will give final approval.
Timeframe: Depends on how many need to be involved, and how willing they are to drop everything to make this release happen.
Writing the first draft
Someone has to write the first draft, which will integrate approved messaging etc. as mentioned above.
Timeframe: If the writer receives good direction and can reprioritize their other tasks, writing the release should take no more than a half-day.
Reviewing the first draft
At the very least, the news release should be reviewed by one executive, a subject matter expert, and the person or people being quoted.
Timeframe: Depends on everyone’s availability. Can they look at the draft and provide feedback right away? (In my experience, this is a rare occurence.)
Editing and getting final approval
The writer takes all first-draft feedback and incorporates it into a new draft (or two, or three), then vets it out again to key reviewers.
Timeframe: If the first draft doesn’t require a significant rewrite (and it shouldn’t, if the writer was given solid direction from the start), subsequent drafts should only take minutes to revise. Timing can vary, depending on the availability of the reviewers. (Ideally, final approval should be acquired after no more than three drafts.)
But that’s not all.
All of these other things can impact timing too:
- Translation. Do you live in a bilingual region? Never forget that translators are extremely busy. Even if you have an in-house translator, they may need to outsource for your rush job. And that’s going to cost a premium.
- Posting to the website. Your release should be posted at the same time (or just before) it is distributed to media. You need to allot time to review how it looks online. You may need your translator to review this as well.
- Media relations. Your media relations team/person will want to contact news outlets following distribution of the release. They will need time to put a solid plan together.
So what does all of this mean to you?
Taking your message to the public requires a lot more work and time than you probably realize.
Sure, we writers and PR pros can do a rush job. But to do something great, communication should not be an afterthought.
Here are four things you can do now:
- Stop thinking that great communication can happen overnight.
- Involve your communications team from the beginning of the project.
- Decide in advance who will approve all deliverables, and ensure they will be available.
- Collaborate across departments, and give lots of lead-up time for planning.
Your communications team will thank you for it.
Lindsey McCaffrey is an Ottawa-based freelance web and social media copywriter, blogger and content strategist. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn, call me at 613-290-0239, or email me at email@example.com.
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