Press Release Writing Basics

Is your credit union following these three news release best practices?

by Jamie Garvin

Credit Union Management’s online-only “PR Insight” column runs the first Thursday of every month Press Release Writing Basics

The book bags are packed and the buses are rolling; Kids across the U.S. are headed back to school. They’ll spend the first couple days reviewing the foundations of each subject before plunging into a new year of instruction. This is the perfect time for credit unions to take a page from the textbook and get back to the basics of public relations to ensure their programs are on the right track.

One of the most important areas of PR is writing. Effective writing can help build stronger relationships with current members and develop new ones, while positioning your credit union as trustworthy and knowledgeable to the community. The key, however, is in creating compelling content that suits its purpose. Review three areas on your first day back to class to enhance your credit union’s written material.

PR Writing Basics

PR content does not typically promote your institution in an obvious way, but instead conveys information without being overly promotional. You want to avoid being too “sales-y.” For instance, a marketing brochure telling members about a new product should read very differently from a press release announcing the product.

Follow these four Cs to get an A+ in PR writing:

  • Consistency: Writing must be consistent. This means consistency in messages, names, products and style. Consistency helps avoid market confusion and goes a long way to establishing a clear perception about your credit union.
  • Completeness: A well-written piece should be able to stand alone, without requiring interviews or supporting documents to establish the essential information.
  • Clarity: Writing must be clear. Communicate the most important information first, ensuring that it flows properly, and avoid superfluous material. The easiest way to achieve clarity is to maintain a reasonable degree of simplicity.
  • Connecting with your audience: As you review your PR program and the necessary written material, it’s important to keep your various audiences in mind. Who is the target audience for each piece you create? It could be members, potential members, board members, the media or a combination of these. Knowing the target audience helps with decisions about newsworthiness and how to prioritize messages.

AP Style

Writing in Associated Press (AP) Style is a standard rule of thumb for PR writing. Following these standards ensures your content will match the professional quality expected from reporters. While there are many websites you can browse to see how to write in AP Style (ex: Purdue OWL, AP Stylebook), here are a few reminders:

  • Numbers are generally spelled out, unless they are over 10, in which case they are written as numerals.
  • Never abbreviate days of the week.
  • Make sure to lowercase formal titles that stand alone or follow a name; however, capitalize if the title is directly before a name (Ex: President Obama; a senator from Indiana).
  • Do not use a comma before a conjunction in a simple series (Ex: reading, writing and math).
  • In press release writing, a dateline is a key component. Include a geographic location that features the city in capital letters, with the state abbreviated and lowercase, followed by the date of the release (Ex: ORLANDO, Fla., August 19, 2014)

A print copy of the AP Stylebook can easily be purchased online through the AP website. Or, if you’re a little more tech savvy, an online edition of the book is available for purchase as well.

The Final Product

Finally, proofreading and editing should never be left out of the process. While this may seem like a small detail, creating a polished piece of work is essential in conveying an effective message. Develop a consistent approval process that guarantees the material is seen by anyone in the organization who needs to sign off and is double-checked for typos, along with accuracy.

Getting back in to the swing of things for students and teachers can initially be a challenge, but once you’re on a daily routine, it becomes second nature. Effective writing for credit unions can be viewed the same way. Writing is a great way to connect with your audience, whether they are already part of the credit union or outside the credit union. While you’re busy sharpening those pencils, be sure to sharpen your mind on writing basics as well.

For more information on optimizing your next press release, contact us about our public relations services. 

Jamie Garvin is an account coordinator at William Mills Agency, the nation's largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries. The agency can be followed on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or its blog .

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