We are living in tough times, with COVID-19 and the long political instability adding to our woes.
While the political class lacks consciousness of the problems media companies are facing, the same is the case for PR companies.
In this article, I will deal with some of the major problems editors face with Press Releases.
Attached are the examples of two press releases sent to WorldFuture for publication.
We publish many releases but it is getting difficult to do so with the exigencies of the internet.
One of the releases took us an hour plus to edit and this also is not to my satisfaction.
However, I ran it because of time constraints. Another release too us more than half an hour to edit.
In my world, half an hour is the time we should write a news piece. This is a fast-paced business and we are always ahead if we report on some news events.
One hour plus on an article is to write a long editorial. I mean, to be fair, I am not calculating the moments I walk away from the editorial writing to do something else.
That gives me a full 60 minutes to write an editorial. Some of these editorials can bring us hard cash through adverts.
The reach is high, people are reading and sharing and the click on ads is higher.
BETTER PRESS RELEASES
The aim here is to get the PR companies to churn better releases for online use.
While traditional newspapers have their staffs waiting to process releases, online portals do not have this leisure.
Getting the right press release is rare, I know and we the journalists are accused of being lazy.
We are told that we want the perfect end product to just plug and run in the paper. This makes us lame-ducks in the eyes of some PR firms.
These firms can be full of characters who crawled from some fancy universities lambasting editors for errors and so on.
But let me put it this way. As an editor, I find it difficult to digest some releases. They should just be thrown in the dustbin.
Why? That is because they do not have the credentials to make it into publication.
Even more, the press releases today are not cutting it for online publication.
To run an online portal, one must know what is SEO or Search Engine Optimization.
It is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.
In simpler English, it is the process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website from search engines.
Or, in my own words, SEO is the way to get your site better views for your site and to achieve that, the articles must be easier to read.
The pictures below show the data obtained from two press releases from an SEO engine.
If you understand the red and green dots, Picture A and Picture B are telling us an ugly story about the two press releases.
They were crafted for the client to feel good, happy with the texts and the quotes.
Nice job for the client who is paying for a job well done in their perspective.
But your press release goes nowhere if it does not fit the standard of journalism online.
The red dots tell you how ugly the release is. The green dots, indeed, show the part where the crafters got it right.
Sometimes, I believe they get it right by chance. It is a fluke they call it. For those who do not know what is the meaning of ‘fluke’, it is an unlikely chance occurrence, especially a surprising piece of luck.
Why do I say that? Because releases from the same PR firm will not have the same green dots.
Here in Picture A, it is saying they got it right with passive voice, there are no repeated words at the start of sentences and the paragraphs are not too long.
GETTING IT RIGHT
The internet, I would tell my writers, do not like passive voice, consecutive sentences and long phrases.
In Picture B, besides consecutive sentences and long paragraphs, they got it right with sufficient transition words.
All these are very important for an article to pass the test in an editorial check.
But the releases fail to pass the test on readability (Flesch reading), lack of sub-heading, long sentences that kills the reading, and a lack of active voice or transitionary words.
Now, we come to the last part of this article.
How to produce the best press releases in 2021 and for the entire decade, possibly?
Why do I say for this decade is because of the coming of age of Artificial Intelligence writers.
They are apps that will write the entire press releases for you with almost no mistake. These releases will be perfect for publication, perhaps without editorial intervention.
They will also send these releases to the dedicated websites (customers, news portals, etc) and guess what, the websites will decide when to publish them for you. Not the editors or webmasters.
Some of what I wrote above is already happening. I made use of AI tech for articles in Cambodia when I was an editor at Khmer Times.
AI gave me the right paragraphs for stories written by writers. I was new, I did not know much of the business landscape.
What the AI did was to write the introduction and the next two paragraphs for me. This confirmed my suspicion the writers did not get the story right, at times.
UNDERSTANDING THE INTERNET
These two pictures show the rating after the edits we did on the press releases. There is a huge difference. But because of time constraints, I did not go through the pieces thoroughly to give them better readability.
While you can see a lot more green dots in the pictures, there is still the problem of the ease of reading. WorldFuture standards are to get. a 55-60 score for Flesch reading.
What is Flesch reading you will ask with a quirky look. Well, Mr Google says the Flesch–Kincaid readability tests. See picture F below:
What is the Flesch reading ease score? Mr SEO asks.
Flesch ‘reading ease’ test measures the readability of a text. It uses two variables to determine the readability score. The average length of your sentences (measured by the number of words) the average number of syllables per word.
How to achieve them? Shorten the phrases and the sentences and in the case of these releases, they need a good rewrite.
But we are living in a fast-paced world. Competition is killing everyone. The money to survive as news websites are flowing elsewhere and time is becoming the most precious commodity. At least for editors online.
A good rewrite of these releases will take another good hour. That. is after the writers-process people send it to me. I need another hour to get these releases so readable that people will come back to my website.
But I do not have the luxury. These are not my customers. I care about their stories, but no, I cannot put hours into beautifying a bad press release. I publish them to keep my site alive with additional stories from our regular articles.
And altogether, because it is hard not to look at business stories, right?