unsound opinions: how not to write a news release, vol ii.

The separation of fact from opinion — the objective from the subjective — is a major mark separating good news release writers from ones who, well, need to work on it.

A news release should be written like a news story, plain and simple: based on facts as they present themselves. Granted, the rise of columnists and commentators mean that you see a lot more opinion in what people falsely label reporting, but for the sake of the news release — or hard news story — this rule has not changed.

Facts: The sun came up this morning. SUNY Oswego is an institution of higher learning. Tim Nekritz is a writer.

Opinions: The sun came up this morning with the most brilliant hues of blue and orange and magenta the world has ever seen. SUNY Oswego is the bestest college in the history of mankind. Tim Nekritz is a writer who inspires legions of people to create better communication experiences. (OK, that last one is reeeeeeally a stretch.)

It’s that simple really. If you have something subjective, that’s fine as long as it can be attributed to someone or something. You can include opinions as quotes within the story.

Wrong: Random University just welcomed one of its most awesome groups of freshmen ever.

Right: Random University just welcomed “one of the most talented” freshman classes ever, President Norma L. Person said.

Attribution comes with choosing a good source. (Cf. the idea of credibility in Made to Stick.) Overarching declarations from your college president will, naturally, come with some bias but also note a source with some experience and insight. For some subjective areas, however, quoting a student on how great your college is can lend more credibility than the same words from an administrator. Outside praise or validation from renowned sources — experts, media outlets or others without a direct stake in the enterprise — can be even better.

If for some reason you’d really rather dot news releases with opinions and fluffy words, my advice is: Consider becoming a pundit or a poet. Otherwise, knowing the difference between the subjective and objective can help make releases shine.



Filed under writing

2 responses to “unsound opinions: how not to write a news release, vol ii.

  1. eff

    I think quotes are often misused, too.

    “We’re proud to welcome 1,2oo new freshman this year, most will be living in the newly constructed dorm,” said Random U president, Joe Jones.

    Thank kind of stuff just wastes the quote — could have been delivered as a fact.

    Instead, let the quote add color.

    Most of the universitiy’s 1,200 students will be living in the new dorm. “Frack Hall is wired from end to end to give our students a new level of digital connectivity,” said Random U president. “It’s a major draw for students and assuming the feedback is positive, we’ll expand the service to other dorms.”

    Or something like that. Only better.

  2. insidetimshead

    EFF: Excellent points. I wasn’t going to get into it with this blog entry, but jargon and non-conversational words render a quote worthless. Having President Person say “Our approach to authentic, relevant and socially conscious learning experiences is making more students in our top selectivity categories join our learning cohort” is worse than saying nothing at all.

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