Don’t announce you’re announcing
When I was editor of an executive magazine, I received dozens of press releases every day.
This was back in the day when releases moved on paper, so I read them over the trash can, giving myself just a few seconds from the time I picked the release up off the stack to the time it hit the circular file.
In that time, I could usually read five words of the lead. The five words I read most often?
XYZ Company today announces that …
I’ll never know; your release is already in the trash.
If you have something to announce, announce it! Don’t announce that you’re announcing it. Remember, the press release itself is the announcement.
Get to the verb quicker.
“A story should be a verb, not a noun,” says Byron Dobell, former editor of Esquire and American Heritage.
One problem with announcement leads is that they make the verb “announce” the story.
Another problem is that they upload the story with nouns. It’s never really “XYZ Company today announces that …,” after all. It’s:
XYZ Company, the leading maker of petroleum-based pet-feeding solutions and a division of ABC Conglomerate, today announces that …
Whatever verb comes after the “that” is the real story:
- Announces that … we’re launching a new product.
- Announces that … we’re taking this position on an issue.
- Announces that … we’re making a hostile takeover bid for Google.
In these announcements, the verbs “launch,” “take” and “make” are the real stories. So one way to check the strength of your lead is to count the number of words that come before these verbs. The more words, the further you’re delaying the story.
Drop ‘today announced.’
I’m not the only communicator who’s bored by “today announced” leads.
Internet World’s “Blah, blah, blah” column used to excerpt and annotate the worst releases the editors had received that month. My favorite:
Don’t wear your readers out. If you have news to announce, announce it.