Time to Abandon Source-First/News-Later Story Openings
Whenever possible, I pester B2B writers who persist in adhering to a source-first/news-later editing policy. The chance to revisit the topic arose during a recent conversation with Bianchi Public Relations president Jim Bianchi. Here’s how we addressed this exchange:
Howard Rauch: There is a basic editing issue that shows up quite a bit in my annual e-news studies. I am referring to announcements that follow a source-first/news-later sequence. It probably is press release policy at many PR firms to begin the release by identifying the source, what the company does, the person quoted, and that individual’s title. Sometimes before you know it, a ton of words have been used before a key story point appears. Of course, if a news-first sequence is preferred, it’s up to the editor to make appropriate revisions. But often that doesn’t happen because the editor is in a rush, and so leaves the source-first/news-later sequence untouched. It would help if more PR folks switched to news-first/source-later introductions.
Jim Bianchi: We are seeing that trend, too, especially as corporations have become so infatuated with positioning and “telling their story” rather than sharing news. And now, as they have hired “content producers” for their websites and social media, they often want to use that promotional content as their news release as well, to save time and cost. I’m also seeing (especially with our German clients) a tendency to take this storytelling to the extreme, where a new-product news story actually starts out with the “It was a dark and stormy night ” approach. You have to get two or three pages into the story to find the real news. Drives me crazy, but sometimes you cannot fight city hall. We try to get clients to look at the media as a “customer” of information, and to focus on meeting this customer’s needs—just like they do on the product front. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.