Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston nails the feature
It was a good story: More than 1,000 New Englanders would soon have safe, decent, affordable places to live, thanks to the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston’s Affordable Housing Program.
But PR convention demands that we reduce good stories to hierarchical blurtations of fact. And that’s what Mark Zelermyer, the bank’s vice president and director of corporate communications, did with the first draft of his news release covering the story.
But by the end of my NOT Your Father’s News Release Master Class, Mark had totally rewritten his release, taking the story from blah to brilliant. What can you learn from his before and after?
1. Headline and deck
Mark started out focusing on “us and our stuff”:
FHLB BOSTON AWARDS $30.3 MILLION FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING THROUGHOUT NEW ENGLAND
48 Initiatives Will Result in More Than 1,000 Units in Six States
But his rewrite focuses on the impact, not on the event, of the program.
MORE THAN 1,000 NEW ENGLANDERS TO GAIN AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston Awards $30.3 Million to 48 Projects
In his first draft, Mark crams all of the W’s into a fact pack lead:
The second version shows instead of tells, focusing on specific details about the program’s outcomes. That pulls readers into the story, and it communicates better than a wall of abstraction. Plus, at 24 words, it creates a bridge into the story instead of an obstacle to reading:
3. Nut graph
Mark didn’t write a nut graph for his traditional news release, because inverted pyramids don’t have nut graphs. But in his revision, Mark puts the story into a nutshell in a short nut graph:
4. Background section
In the first draft, Mark gives some context in the quote, then shares perhaps more background information than anyone who doesn’t work at the bank cares to know about how the program works:
In the second version, Mark streamlines the “how it works” section into a short paragraph, then follows up with the context in a more manageable quote:
The juicy details are buried in the body of Mark’s first version:
The following communities will benefit from FHLB Boston AHP funds:
The body in the revision covers just the facts of importance to people — and, OK, Google — who may be seeking information about housing in their own communities:
Mark ends with a call to action in each version:
But wait! There’s more …
In addition to making his story more compelling, Mark also make it more than 30% more readable. To do so, he:
It’s no surprise that Mark suggested we change the name of our PR-writing Master Class to “The News Release Makeover.”