Writing an Article from a Press Release: What to Look for and Ignore

How much, when available, who and what for? For product-related releases, availability and price are most important. After all, what’s the point of reporting product announcements if you can’t tell your readers when they can expect to get the product and how much it will cost? The price can vary for some products, but even a terse “starts at around $20” is useful. Pricing is often in one of the last few paragraphs of a release, so you may have to skip to the end. Availability is sometimes noted in the first or second paragraph. Sometimes, it is noted toward the end.

Ask who or what the product is for. A lot of products fit within one or more technology ecosystems. Depending on your audience, you may need to confirm that the product is available within their geography, which is usually determined by country or continent.

Is the contact and resource data available? Does the release include URLs for products, events, or other key details? Is there PR/media relations contact information, preferably specific names along with phone number and e-mail address, rather than a generic info@ and media relations phone number? You can’t tell until you try whether these people will answer your calls and messages, but if you’re on deadline, at least you don’t have to invest effort to identify whom to talk to.

Look for short quotes from industry analysts or customers, particularly if direct quotes are something your editor wants in the story.

Most press releases will have one or more paragraphs of self-congratulatory back-patting blather that is typically a quote from the chief executive. Skim, in case there’s something useful there, but don’t count on it.

What to Ask For: Talk to Sources

The press release is something written and reviewed by a bunch of people. Even if they all mean well, they have different agendas, priorities, and information access. There’s a good chance some of the facts in the release are wrong or things have changed. There’s an even better chance that the really interesting information for your readers isn’t there.

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