People don’t read the news.

At least not word for word. In fact, skimming has replaced reading. Award-winning writing coach Ann Wylie of Wylie Communications shared that when reading news online:

  • 34% of viewers skim only the headlines and 1-2 articles
  • 25% skim a full article
  • 19% read every word
  • 15% skim headlines and a few sentences
  • 8% only skim headlines

These stats may seem dismal to some communicators. Others will see this as a unique challenge. How can you effectively increase the reach and uptake of your organization’s message when most people skim? Is it possible to increase message permeation and if so, how?

Ann shared tips with us for making news releases 47% more usable and, by implementing these tools, you can catch the eyes of skimmers and scanners, ensuring they digest your news – even at a glance.

Put Display Copy to Work

While casual readers may not read every word of your press release, Ann has some tricks to help them easily understand the main point of your news.

Use display copy to emphasize your key messages and create a visual path for skimmers to follow. Eyes will naturally gravitate to a headline, then subhead, on to a bulleted list with bolded first words. Breaking up your news release with these elements helps with readability in general. Strategically placing your takeaway points within these elements kicks things up a notch by helping casual readers retain your main points.

What is display copy? Display copy in a news release is any copy that lifts your main ideas off the page. Think headline, deck copy, subheads, lists, links, captions, callouts, bold-faced lead-ins, and highlighted keywords.

Showing your story, not just telling it, provides your audience with alternative ways to learn your news. As the world moves to visual communications, photos, videos, infographics, and other multimedia not only help attract the eye of your reader, but they also help tell your story.

Those scanning your news will be drawn to visuals. Include multimedia that relates to your news and allow it to tell your story.

Press Release Essentials: Bullets, Bolds, and Hyperlinks

To maximize press release readability and comprehension, Ann relies on three core elements: bullets, bolds, and hyperlinks. These simple elements lead readers to your news and then to your website.

  • People look at 70% of bulleted lists they encounter. Ann said it best: lists are to web readers’ eyes as Brad Pitt is to the paparazzi. Lists – and Brad Pitt – draw attention.
  • Bold the lead-in text for each point of your bulleted list, making them skimmable.
  • Incorporate links and other clickable elements. These make up nearly half of all “eye stops” in a press release. They get attention and help casual readers digest your news.

blog-pr-screenshot-minWhen sharing your news with Business Wire, Ann reminds you to write a release summary and utilize pull quotes and the “Tweet this” feature.

The release summary portion of a press release distributed with Business Wire is a feature designed to increase release comprehension through a short, simplified summary of your announcement. This text sits at the top-right of your published release and should entice readers to read your full release. Summarize key takeaways and focus on the benefit of your news for readers.

Business Wire’s pull quotes feature acts as a callout. This helps break up your release text, but also enables readers to quickly tweet your release. When considering what text to use as a pull quote, think about it like a movie trailer. Concisely share the most compelling and engaging information.

Find out more about the elements of a release distributed by Business Wire.

Everyone Skims

Ann reminds us that across all industries, everyone reading your news is human and many will likely only skim or scan your release. Using Ann’s formatting tips and taking advantage of the built-in features of Business Wire releases, you can optimize your news for casual readers. This will help you catch skimmer and scanner eyes, ultimately improving message adoption of your news.

Don’t forget to sign up for Ann’s upcoming PR Writing Master Class, which starts on August 15.

Learn more

Download our whitepaper, How to Make Your News Releases 47% More Usable.

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