News editors get dozens of press releases every day, so how do you make sure yours stands out? This is a question Karen Bidewell asks herself every day as part of her role as Newcastle University Press Officer, where it’s her job to spread the word about Newcastle’s latest discoveries and ideas.
So how do you grab an editor’s attention when your press release is just one of many in their inbox? Karen’s formula is pretty simple: make it short, interesting, and accessible – keep the technical terms to a minimum. If it’s a controversial topic, even better!
Since most of the people deciding which press releases make the cut don’t have a science background, you have to get their attention with a snappy headline and an opening paragraph that summarises the story. Save the technical details for further down the page, but leave the jargon out. ‘Three parent babies’ – good. ‘Mitochondrial transplant’ – not so good.
One of her recent successes was getting Professor Sir John Burn’s research into the preventative effects of aspirin on colon cancer into the news, and the man himself onto the breakfast television sofas. With a phrase like ‘aspirin cuts cancer rates’ in the title, the media was bound to get excited.
Writing a press release that stands out, gets all the information across, and strikes the right balance between accessibility and accuracy is tough; but with so much of Newcastle’s research in the news, Karen and her team are clearly doing it right.