B2B Press releases: Your questions answered

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After my last blog post covering journalists’ tips for press releases, I was approached by a PR new to the world of journalism who had some questions. So I thought I’d share my answers.

These are based on my experience as a B2B journalist in the UK; journalists in other countries may operate differently.

Do journalists read all the press releases they get?

Very unlikely. The sheer volume of press releases you receive as a journalist means it’s impractical to read every one.

I used to decide which to open based on the email’s subject line and who had sent it.

And even if I opened it, I might just read the first paragraph or give it a quick scan and not necessarily do anything with it.

The reputation PR’s build is important. Those that send irrelevant or fluffy press releases are more likely to get overlooked.

How often should you catch up with journalists?

Different journalists will have different preferences, but bare in mind journalists are incredibly time-poor, so they will look at what value they can get out of conversations.

The key is being useful. If you have great stories, interesting insight and comments, that will help build a good relationship, and they are more likely to find time to catch up.

Getting a reputation as a PR that is always ‘bugging’ journalists without a good reason won’t do you any favours.

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What makes a clickable headline

A piece of paper in a type writer which has the word 'news' written at the top.
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People will decide whether to click on a story or article based on the headline.

You could write a brilliant article, blog post or press release, but if the headline doesn’t ‘sell’ the content to your target audience, it won’t matter.

Think of all the headlines you scroll past vs what you click on to read.

Headlines are so important that some national newspapers and magazines have specialist writers called sub-editors to create them.

So what makes a clickable headline?

Different styles work for different types of content, but the key is creating some intrigue or tapping into an emotion or need.

Headlines also need to give enough information so that the reader knows what they’ll get from reading on.

Here are four headline examples and a breakdown of how they work:

1. Pique interest news headline

This headline, from the North West Business Insider, tells the reader enough, so they know what the story is about but leaves out certain information to help create curiosity.

It tells the reader that it is a development deal, the size of the deal and where it is. What it doesn’t say is who was involved in the deal, the type of development and the details of the transaction.

To find that information, the reader has to click through to the story.

News headlines are a balancing act. Reveal too much, and there is no reason to click through; reveal too little, and curiosity isn’t pricked.

2. Challenge or surprise headline

Presenting a statement in a headline that is incongruous with common thinking or trend is a great way of getting people clicking to read on.

This headline on a LinkedIn article by Daniel Paulusma creates different levels of intrigue depending on your views of hybrid working.

It appears to challenge the thinking of advocates of hybrid working, potentially highlighting something they’ve missed: Am I wrong? ‘What is the evidence?’

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Stop the scroll: Adding value when posting about B2B events on social media

Summary of video:

A conference or panel event you attended can be a great source of social media content, but to help stop the scroll and get your audience to pay attention, add some value.

In this short video, I talk about what made me stop and read LinkedIn posts about events people in my network had been to.

All the posts added value; they didn’t merely highlight that the person had attended a particular event but talked about what they had learnt or what it was like.

Engagement – particularly comments – will give LinkedIn posts more visibility, so I finish by sharing some ideas for getting a conversation started on an event post.

Transcript of video:

Prefer to read rather than watch? Here’s a transcript:

Have you noticed any posts about events that people have been to in your LinkedIn feed in recent weeks?

I’ve noticed some great ones: great because they made me stop scrolling, great because they made me want to click through and read more, and great also because they didn’t use the word delighted, which is always a bit of a bonus.

So what was it about them that got me interested?

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B2B journalists’ top tips for press releases

You want your story to get as much coverage as possible, so you need to make sure your press release is delivering what your target journalists are looking for.

Journalists are inundated with press releases, and they are time-poor. They don’t read every press release they get sent (sorry) instead, they make snap decisions about which to read and which to cover.

Man sitting against of wall and floor covered in newspaper. His face is obscured as he's holding up a newspaper, reading it. He's wearing a bright yellow jumper and dark blue jeans and trainers.
Getting your story in the press means ticking certain boxes with your press release. Photo by Egor Vikhrev on Unsplash

I’ve written a few posts about press releases, what works best and what doesn’t based on 20 years of being on the receiving end (links at the bottom).

Among my top tips are to target your press release appropriately, get to the point quickly and stick to the facts – no unsubstantiated marketing speak like ‘leading’ and ‘unique’.

But for this post, I asked some of my B2B journalist friends and former colleagues for their press release dos and don’ts.

Here is what they had to say:

Sophia Furber, reporter, S&P Global Market Intelligence:

Us financial journalists need to back up our stories with numbers, so if you are pitching to the business media, then include useful data points in your press release.

How big was X’s investment/loan? How great do you think Y market opportunity is? How much capital was raised? Which company was bought, and for how much money?

You get the picture.

Including this information in the email header or the opening lines of the press release will get my attention and help me make a quick decision about how newsworthy the story is.

Go easy on the jargon and corporate speak. If you include a quote from the CEO in the press release that sounds like it was generated by a robot, then it’s more than likely that it’s not going to end up in any media coverage.

And lastly, if you are offering up comments on a topic that is in the news (say, a big government announcement or a high-profile bankruptcy) from your CEO or another expert source in your company… actually have an opinion!

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People in business: How to add personality to B2B content

“We want our content to have a bit more personality” is something I often hear from clients, but when they see copy that reflects the individual, it can make them nervous.

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It reads as more conversational and less formal than the traditional B2B content you normally see.

The built environment sector I work in is frequently described as a people industry, yet you wouldn’t guess that from the content that is regularly published.

A lot of it sounds quite similar, as if following a particular rule book about how you write to sound professional and authoritative.

To reflect personality in your business content, that rule book needs to be ripped up. It will read a little differently, but it can help your target audience get to know you and the people in your business. It can make you more relatable and approachable.

And content that is a bit different is good in the noisy world of the internet and social media.

You don’t have to completely change how you write or sound like an Innocent smoothie advert. There are small, subtle ways to add a sprinkle of personality to your B2B content that will make a difference.

Whether you are writing your own content or writing it for someone in your business, here are four ways of adding personality:

1. Particular word choice

Start with choosing words and phrases you would use in a real conversation with a friend, family member or peer. If you would naturally say you were ‘chuffed’ or ‘over the moon’, write that.

If you are writing a piece for someone in your business, listen carefully to the words they use. I like to record content chats and get a transcript (Otter.ai is the tool I use).

Are there any particular words or phrases they use? How do they explain their viewpoint or describe something when chatting about it?

Use these in the copy so that it sounds authentic to them.

A simple example is someone who works in the healthcare sector using the word ‘poorly’ rather than ‘sick’ to describe patients using a facility.

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