Presenting an angle

The angle of a press release often determines whether it gets used or binned.

Did you win the chair contract against fierce foreign competition? In this case, the angle of your press release is ‘small local company beats foreigners and creates more jobs’.

Were your chairs priced a lot higher than your competitors’ (foreign or local)? This could mean an angle of ‘local chair maker refuses to sacrifice quality to cut prices and is vindicated with big contract’. Did you miss out on the contract to a foreign company? This one is a perennial: “Local jobs lost to foreigners”.

Your angle differs depending on current events. If unemployment is rising, you stress that new jobs were created. If foreign companies are undercutting locals, you stress that local quality won out.

Once you have your story in context you’ll find that you have virtually written the headline and most of the first paragraph. The second part of the first paragraph can introduce a secondary idea or fact.

The next paragraph elaborates on the first and leads into the third. The fourth and subsequent paragraphs just expand on the ‘angle’, drip-feedings facts.

Of course, just because you think of an angle, there is no guarantee that a reporter will concur that it’s worth pursuing. He or she might just as easily discover that your customer may have been a government department and the angle may be “Government department wastes tax dollars on luxury chairs”. You have no control over this but you can stack the odds in your favour by being aware of current issues and using their momentum to make your story part of the package.

You can stage an event and create your own issue. If you stage an event you don’t need an angle as you become the event rather than piggybacking on other issues.

One way is to survey someone about something. A bed maker might survey octogenarians about their sexual appetites and check the bed size preference of those who respond positively to regular octogenarian sex. “Life-long love thrives in king size beds”. Maybe.

Perhaps a driving school could log the ten commonest driving errors over a month of observation and offer its advice to the local paper. It might include help from local traffic enforcement officers also to identify accident-prone corners or stop signs. “Ten ways to avoid becoming an accident statistic”. Perhaps.

Maybe you’re selling stuff from a Web site and you get a buyer from Outer Mongolia. This won’t make the national press but the local throwaway weekly paper might use it and even put your Web site’s address in for good measure.

To discover the angles and issues that others use to receive publicity in the press read your newspaper’s local news pages. Try to discern from each story how it began. Was it a survey, an event, an announcement, a relevant coincidence or a novelty?

Issuing a press release is a bit of a lottery. Maybe being burned a couple of times isn’t a bad experience because you’ll gain a better understanding of how your news story becomes a commodity that drives news organisations. They must fill the paper – every day, week in week out.

It’s a ritualised way of announcing your good news or your attempt at damage limitation but it’s the simplest way a small company, group or individual can break into the cycle of news and publicity.

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