According to the text Text: Public Relations Strategies and Tactics-9th Edition-Wilcox, D. & Cameron, G., a press release is the most commonly used public relations tactic. Dictionary.com defines a press release as “a statement prepared and distributed to the press by a public relations firm, governmental agency, etc. It is essential for a public relations practitioner to be able to write an effective news release to get their clients into the news. So here are some tips to writing an effective news release:
- Make sure the information is newsworthy
- Focus on the first 10 words- The first 10 words of your news release are the most important, so make sure they are effective. Stick to the “inverted pyramid” structure, which means putting the most significant parts of the story at the beginning and the descending in importance of details
- Write it from a journalist’s perspective- Never use “I” or “we” unless it’s in a quote
- Stay away from hype-bloated phrases like “breakthrough”, “unique”, “state-of-the-art”, etc.- Use more specific words and details
- Include contact information at the top or bottom of the page-Include: individual to contact, address, phone, fax, email, Web site address
- Ask yourself questions- Who is the primary audience for the release? What does the target audience gain from the product or service? What objective does the release serve?
- Be creative! Reporters go through tons of news releases. You need to catch the attention of the press, so you want it to be something interesting that they will want to use
- Deal with the facts-Focus on how your announcement affects your industry and lead with that rather than overtly promoting your product or company
- Avoid fancy language
- Be your biggest critic-Critique your own writing by asking “who care?” and why readers should be interested in your information
How to Write a Press Release
How to Write a Great Press Release
Text: Public Relations Strategies and Tactics-9th Edition-Wilcox, D. & Cameron, G.
News release (aka press release) continues to be the most commonly used PR tactic
Basically, a news release is a simple document whose primary purpose is the dissemination of information to mass media such as newspapers, broadcast stations, and magazines
Content of a News Release
Use the inverted pyramid structure with the first paragraph summarizing the most important parts of the story and the succeeding paragraphs to fill in the details descending in order of importance
3 Reasons to Use Inverted Pyramid:
- If the editor or reporter doesn’t find anything interesting in first three or four lines of news release, it won’t be used
- Editors cut stories from the bottom
- Readers don’t always read the full story
- Double-check information and spell-check
- Eliminate boldface and CAPITAL LETTERS
- Include organization and background
- Localize whenever possible. More news releases get published when they are written from a local angle
Often accompany news releases to make a story more appealing
- A mat release is a form of the news release, except primarily with a feature angle, instead of hard news
- Concept is to provide helpful consumer information and tips about a variety of subjects in an informative way
- These appear in the food, travel, automotive, and business sections of a newspaper
Media Alerts and Fact Sheets
- Media alerts (aka media advisories)- let journalists know about an upcoming event such as a news conference or photo interview opportunities
- Fact sheets-give additional background information about the product, person or event
- Media kit (aka press kit)- is usually prepared for major events and products launches. It is typically a folder containing news releases, photos, fact sheets, and features about a new product, an event, or other newsworht projects
- Pitch- when public relations practitioners and publicists write a short letter or note to the editor that tries to grab their attention
So imagine this, you are on a camping trip and you cut your finger on a knife and it’s bleeding. You really need rubbing alcohol to clean the cut and antibiotic, but someone forgot to pack the first aid kit. Or imagine you are on a boat in the night, but the motor breaks and you are stuck in the middle of the ocean. But you forgot the emergency pack with the flare gun.
With anything you do, you should always have a plan in case of an emergency. A major part of public relations is dealing with the public during times of crisis and guiding your company on how to handle a crisis. It is necessary to have a plan and be prepared in case a crisis arises. In a power point posted by Barbara Nixon, Public Relations During Times of Crisis, you can find a list of elements that are important to have in your “Crisis Communication Kit” for if you have a PR emergency.
- A list of members of the crisis management team
- Contact information for key officers, spokespeople, and crisis management team members
- Fact sheets on the company, each division, each physical location, and each product offered
- Profiles and biographies for each key manager in your company
- Copies of your company, division and product logos, your press release format and scanned in signature of your CEO on disk
- Pre-written scripts answering key questions that you have generated through your crisis scenario analysis
- Contact information for each of your key media contacts both locally, nationally, and if appropriate, key financial press and analysts
Some of these elements may seem tedious or unnecessary, but it is better to be over-prepared rather than under-prepared, and rather to be safe than sorry. Perhaps if Carnival was more prepared for crisis, they would’ve avoided much of the backlash that has taken place.
I have never before listened to a podcast, so this was a completely new experience for me and a new world of technology that I was able to explore. I listened to a couple podcasts and learned some interesting things!
The first podcast I listened to was a InsidePR podcast that was an interview with Donna Papacosta about public relations versus advertising. The interviewer, Martin, brings up that many people are moving form public relations to ad agencies because of ad agencies desire practitioners social media expertise. Most of the podcast was about how when people move from PR to advertising, it says PR won the battle. And companies are turning to practitioners because they understand the nature of relationships.
The second podcast I listened to was from thecreativecareer and was an interview with Jessica Pryce-Jones, author of Happiness at Work: Maximizing Your Psychological Capital for Success. Jessica talked about her “Five C’s”, which are her formula for happiness. They include contribution (which is your perception of what you do and how you feel about it), conviction (your motivation come what may), culture (how you feel you fit in), your level of commitment, and confidence. In order to increase your happiness, Jessica says it is necessary to analyze what tasks you really like doing, projects you like doing, and people you like working with. Once you discover this and try to make these happen more often, your happiness will begin to climb. According to Jessica, happiness is so beneficial because when you are in a negative state of mind, you can’t think, problem solve, be creative, etc.
After listening to these podcasts- I’m a believer! I think that PR podcasts can be quite beneficial for PR students or new PR practitioners because it is an easy way to listen to experts in the field give insight into the world of PR. As a public relations student, I need to learn everything I can at this time about PR. So, these podcasts are a great way to do that!
Okay, so I graduate school with my undergrad degree in public relations, then what? The options and paths I could take seem endless! But one of the main things I would need to decide would probably be whether I should work in a PR department or in a PR firm.
Of course there are advantages and disadvantages to both a department and a firm. With a PR firm, the pros are that you have a variety of work. Usually, an employee of a PR firm works on several clients and projects at a time. Work in a firm is fast-paced, exciting and offers many opportunities for networking- which leads to better job opportunities. Also, you can look to the other employees for advice and mentoring on a project. The other employees all know what you are dealing with at the firm. Disadvantages to working in a firm consist of intense daily pressure on billable hours (some firms are real “sweat shops”).
In a PR department of a corporation, there are also pros and cons. Advantages include that it is slower paced and you have less intense daily pressure placed on you. Also, you get to know the corporation that you are working for really well and you are apart of the “big picture”. It can be more satisfying to work in a corporation because you are able to follow through with a project from start to finish. Unlike many of your projects of a PR firm, and you receive credit for your work. Disadvantages include that there is little variety, and sometimes you are so involved in your work that you don’t have time for networking. Also, jobs are more difficult to find without experience.
For a new PR practitioner, I believe it would be more beneficial for me to begin working in a firm. The reason for this is because I would be surrounded by other public relations professionals who could assist me in my work if I needed anything. Also, it would give me an opportunity to work with a variety of clients and help me network a great deal which could result in landing a great job!
Just recently, a Carnival Splendor cruise ship, which was left without power for a week by an engine-room fire, arrived safely in San Diego. According to an article from ragan.com, the damage control Carnival has implemented involves using it’s social media such as it’s Facebook and Twitter pages to inform passengers that they are providing them with free hotel rooms, flight arrangements, refunds, and another cruise. Although this is all great, apparently, some believe that Carnival needs to apologize more sincerely, rather than just telling passengers what they are going to do. What do you believe Carnival needs to do for damage repair?
I have always been a fan of journaling. Throw me a cute blank journal and a nice ball point pen, and I’ll have at it! But as far as the blogging world goes, I sometimes feel like a lonely fisherman on a boat in the middle of the vast ocean. I keep casting my thoughts out there, as well as my opinions and emotions. Yet, for what? No return. Which is why many times when I began blogging I would just pull in my “line” and retreat in the cabin to write for myself. Offering no one my thoughts left to not having the chance to being rejected by the world. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. When your blog isn’t being read, it is a sad, sad day.
Recently, I read a blog post by Susan Young, contributor on Ragan’s PR daily team. Her post, titled 8 Ways to Increase Traffic To Your Blog. In a nutshell, here are her tips:
- Stick with one thing- Discover what you are passionate about and write about it! If you focus on one thing, people will think you are an expert in that field and you will attract a select audience to your blog. You know that old phrase about not being able to please everyone? Same goes for your blog. So choose something and go for it!
- Read everything in your industry– Once you decide what you want to focus on, educate yourself on it. Read anything you can get your hands on pertaining to your topic you want to write about so that you truly will become an expert.
- Write for the reader– People who follow blogs are just that, normal people! They aren’t college professors who will intensely be grading your paper. So write casually, yet meaningfully and become personable to your reader so they are no longer just following a blog- they are following you!
- Solve their problem- I’m just going to straight up quote Susan Young on this section, because I love the way she worded this: “When you consider yourself a problem-solver and not a salesperson, people will be attracted to you and your message. Write with the sole purpose of helping your reader to ease their challenges. It’s not about you. Be the solution.”
- Involve them– Ask readers questions in your writing. They will feel that you are speaking directly to them and will be more compelled to comment. Don’t you agree?
- Keep it reader-friendly– Catchy headlines stand out, and pictures and bold break up the blog. We are all skimmers, so make your blog in nuggets and easy to pick out what is most important or valuable to them.
- Forget the rules- the only rule, is that there is no rules! Do whatever is going to inspire you.
- Focus on the positive- No one likes a “negative nancy”. Unless your blog is intended to be a cynical view point and draw on that humor. Otherwise, don’t write when you are in a bad mood. It will drive readers away.
Also: Add flair and fun to your blog with vlogs. Which are video logs of yourself. This helps readers actually hear your voice and get to know you on a deeper level.