Transform Your News Release: Before & After (Example 2)

By Jerry Brown, APR

Below you will find an actual news release (“before”) altered to protect the identity of the issuer. The “after” example includes my rewrites, along with my reasons for them.

BEFORE

DENVER – Colorado health care and community officials today launched a broad-based campaign to raise awareness of hepatitis C, a looming public health crisis that may impact more than 168,000 Coloradans, at a press conference here this morning. Coalition members announced their intention to provide the Colorado public with information about hepatitis C, and encourage screening for people at risk.

“It is important for Colorado residents to know the potential risk of hepatitis C and how to prevent it,” said Dr. So and So. “I am pleased to be a part of this grassroots coalition in order to raise awareness of this disease.”

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus of the liver that, if left untreated, can progress to advanced liver disease (i.e., liver cancer, cirrhosis) and, in some cases, death. Approximately 4 million Americans (1.8% of the population) are believed to be infected with the disease, which is four times the number of people infected with HIV. Hepatitis C has been called the “silent epidemic” because it is estimated that only five percent of the people with the disease are aware of their infection. Symptoms can remain dormant for up to 20 years as hepatitis C progresses into advanced liver disease. Hepatitis C has become the largest cause of liver transplants in the United States.

Yada, yada, yada (four paragraphs worth)
Hepatitis C disproportionately impacts baby boomers, communities of color, people infected with HIV, veterans and incarcerated populations. Risk factors include injection drug use, receipt of a blood transfusion, unsafe sexual practices, organ or transplant prior to 1990, and people who may have received a tattoo or body piercing in unsterile conditions.

Comments: An okay release, but only okay. Instead of using their lead to hit me with the damage hepatitis C causes, they use it to tell me they’re going to tell me about the dangers of hepatitis C. A wasted opportunity. Ditto for the quote from Dr. So and So.

AFTER
DENVER – You may have a killer virus flowing through your veins and not know it.
You’re particularly susceptible if you’re between the ages of 43 and 61, a person of color, a military veteran, infected with HIV or if you’ve been in jail or prison. Risk factors include blood transfusions, unprotected sex, tattoos, body piercing, organ or tissue transplants before 1990 and taking drugs with a needle.

The disease is hepatitis C. Health officials say one out of every 50 Americans has it and only one out of every 20 people infected know it.

“Hepatitis C is a ticking time bomb,” said Dr. So and So. “It kills people. And it’s the leading cause of liver transplants in the U.S.”

Health officials call it the “silent epidemic” because hepatitis C can remain dormant in your blood for up to 20 years, showing no symptoms until it’s too late.”

“Hepatitis C can be treated,” Dr. So and So said. “But you have to be tested. Many people don’t have any symptoms until it’s too late.”

Rationale: The lead identifies the problem and the audience – you, which is to say everyone. There’s no bigger audience than that. The next two paragraphs are the “nut” – scaling the story.
Dr. So and So’s quote in the original won’t get used. It doesn’t say anything. The two quotes in this version will get used. They contain his primary message. And they’ll help get Dr. So and So on TV to deliver the message on the air.

I changed “baby boomer” to an age range because it’s easier to know if it applies to me. I changed “unsafe sexual practices” to “unprotected sex” because it’s simpler and clearer. And I simplified a few other phrases as well. This version would get better coverage than the original.

During 20 years as a journalist, Jerry Brown worked for The Associated Press (he was assignment editor for AP’s Washington bureau during Watergate); daily newspapers in Little Rock, Fort Worth and Denver; the U.S. Information Agency; and two trade publications. Jerry’s been practicing public relations for the past two decades and is an accredited member (APR) of the Public Relations Society of America and a former board member of PRSA’s Colorado chapter. You can contact Jerry at jerry@JerryBrownPR.com or visit his Web site at pr-impact.com.


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