PR Insight: Make the Most of Your News Release

February 2018: Vol 41 No 2
Chuck Meyers
Follow these easy tips to maximize your credit union’s reach and impact.
Hand holding a megaphone emerging from a laptop screen surrounded by icons depicting PR concepts

News releases are a great way for credit unions to get the word out about what they offer, what they are doing and to differentiate themselves. Unfortunately, many credit unions may not have staff familiar with the preparation and distribution of releases, and as a result, they either do not bother to produce them or the release fails to achieve any significant results. By following these five tips, credit unions can revitalize the way they are communicating with the media and enhance the way they are perceived by the public.

1.) Selecting a Newsworthy Topic
The first thing your credit union needs to do is determine the topic of a release. Common topics include the release of new financial products, announcing the credit union’s position on a relevant issue that is important to members or a credit union’s charitable role within the community. 
It is very important to avoid drafting a self-promotional news release. A release is supposed to inform the public rather than act as a piece of marketing collateral. Releases that are most often republished by the media feature topics that a segment of the public is passionate about and are open to learning more about. 

2.) Putting Together a Distribution List
The next step is to prepare a distribution list of key reporters and editors. Be prepared to customize the list every time a release goes out, depending on the topic and the target audience. If a release is focused on a local issue, the media list should include mostly local reporters. If a release has regional or national implications, a different set of media outlets might be interested in the story.

3.) Drafting the Release
A release should be approximately 300 to 500 words and include contact information to request additional details or to schedule an interview. The best releases are written in language simple enough for the target audience to easily understand and offer the most important facts at the top. Key terms that resonate with members should also be worked into the text to help make the release more searchable online.

A templated paragraph called a boilerplate should include general information about the credit union and be located at the bottom of the release. The boilerplate often describes the purpose of the credit union and lists the website address.

There are several prominent writing style guides that offer guidance on such specific grammatical issues as the abbreviations for states (they are usually different from postal abbreviations) or whether you should capitalize a person’s job title. One of the more popular style guides is the Associated Press Stylebook, which is updated every year and easily available for purchase online or in any bookstore.

4.) Distributing the Release
There are several popular tools for distributing a release. The most effective include:

  • Email. The release is attached to a message that is sent directly to each reporter on the distribution list. Make sure the email message provides a short summary of the release and invites the media to reach out to the PR contact for more information. In addition, the email subject line should not be simply “press release” but instead descriptive of the news you are distributing. 
  • Wire service. These organizations have their own distribution channels set up with the media. Distributing using a wire service can be expensive. It is not uncommon to pay $400 per release, but you will get extremely thorough online coverage, particularly when a release is going to national audiences.
  • Website. Every credit unions’ website needs to include a media section where releases are posted. 
  • Social media. Many of the most common social media outlets—Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, for example—are viable forums for distributing press releases. 

5.) Following Up
Once the release is distributed, credit unions can begin to measure its impact. Ways to measure success or failure can include the number of responses from media seeking more information, a short-term spike in web traffic or the number of times a release has appeared either online or in print. 

Chuck Meyers is a vice president at William Mills Agency, the nation's largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries. The agency can be followed on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or its blog.

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