Press Releases: Think before sending

bluefin-tuna_478_600x450A high quality press release can open a lot of doors and  is usually the first step in landing your story, brand or project in front of a large audience.

Some people think that crafting and distributing a press release is easy while others consider it a daunting task. Both are somewhat true, but it’s likely that you are too busy running your business or managing your brand to give your press release the attention it deserves.

Before turning to a web site that offers “free” advice and “guaranteed” results, think about how important your press release is to your project, your company’s reputation or your marketing efforts. It makes sense to talk to a pro before hitting the send key.

What do you want to land?

In reality, sending a press release is like a day of fishing. If you just want to cast a line and hope for the best in a familiar watering hole, you’re probably okay on your own. Catch a couple of mackerel and call it a day.

But if you want to land a 400-pound bluefin tuna, it makes sense to have a knowledgeable guide with the the right equipment and the skills necessary to help you achieve success.

If you must absolutely go about it on your own,  then I offer a few basic tips of advice.

1.) Know it:  In fishing, you need to know the waters, the species you are going after and the right bait to use. When thinking about a press release, you need to know your subject matter and the media landscape. Who is writing, blogging or reporting on your subject matter? Do you know these people? Do you have relationships with them? Have you fished these waters before?

2.) Earn it: A good day of fishing requires getting up early and a serious commitment. There are basically two kinds of media: “earned media” and “paid” media. Paid media is advertisements that you pay for; liking buying tuna at the grocery store. Earned media is the result of your hard work and having the right bait.

3.) Hook it: Speaking of the right bait, your press release needs a good hook. Reporters are inundated with hundreds of press releases. How will yours stand out among the rest? What type of hook will you use to arouse the reporter?

4.) Pitch It: There are many species of fish in the water. If your are after a specific species, you have to know what you want and how to catch it. Before sending your release, make a few phone calls to targeted reporters. Don’t send a press release about a new chef at your restaurant to a reporter that covers city hall.

5.) Reel It In: You need to be patient and give the reporter room to do his or her job. Your press release needs to be well-written, succinct (no more than 1-1/2 pages) and contain basic information, including an e-mail and phone number for a primary contact. You should never send a press release as an attachment. Specify whether there will be photo opportunities and include links to your company web site.

If you just want to spend a day relaxing on the water, then you will be fine without a guide. But if you want a prize catch, then it makes sense to talk with a pro to ensure that your press release opens all the right doors.


Randy Seaver is a former newspaper reporter and editor. He also has more than a decade of experience as a strategic communications consultant, helping a wide range of clients overcome challenges in the court of public opinion.  Learn More

Dealing with the media

Photo credit: flydenver.com
Photo credit: flydenver.com

Do you know the definitions of “lede,” “nut graf” or “B-roll?”

These are common terms used by members of the media.

Reporters and editors have their own jargon and their own way of doing things, but it’s important to remember that they are also human beings. They value honesty, courtesy and respect.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: the media is not supposed to be your friend. Reporters have a unique mission: to remain as objective as possible, to ferret out facts and to report that information to the public while working under crushing deadlines and  operating in an extraordinarily competitive industry.

Keeping these things in mind will help you navigate the media landscape, whether you’re sending out a press release or dealing with a crisis that is affecting your company, your brand, your campaign or your reputation.

Imagine this: the phone rings and it’s a reporter on the other end of the phone. He or she needs a quick comment for a story that will be published in tomorrow’s newspaper. What do you do?

Or imagine this: you step out the front door and you find a TV news van parked in front of your home or office and suddenly you are face-to-face with a reporter and cameraman, What do you do?

I offer my clients an insider’s knowledge of the complex media landscape. For more than a decade, I worked as a reporter and editor. I still have many friends in the business.

Drawing on my experience as a communications consultant; and with some input by my friends in the media, I’ve developed a brief list of things you should do — and things you should not do — when dealing with the media.

1,) Be honest: Consider this the golden rule of dealing with the media. Don’t play games. People will judge you by your words and actions, especially if you find yourself in a crisis situation. Don’t hype your press release. Be concise and straightforward. If you lie, you will only make things worse.

2.) Have a plan: Don’t wait until a crisis arises before developing your media strategy. A comprehensive media plan will include your basic talking points, and everyone in your organization should know who the contact person is for dealing with the media. Anticipate and develop a list of tough questions, among other things.

3,) Stay on message: When the cameras start rolling or the reporter starts writing, many people have a tendency to panic. They either freeze like a deer in the headlights or they ramble endlessly. If you do these things, your message will be lost. As part of your media plan, you should have a “message box” Before your interview, memorize your message box and learn how to pivot back to your core message. Tell them what you are going to tell them; tell them what you want to tell them; and then tell them what you told them. This way, your message does not get lost.

4.) Be respectful: Basic manners go a long way in helping you tell your story. Recognize that the media is working under deadlines. If a reporter calls you, ask about his or her deadline. Don’t spam their in-boxes with press releases that are actually advertisements. Step back and consider whether your story is newsworthy. Reporters are not part of your sales and marketing team. They only want news that is accurate, relevant and timely.

5.) Comment or No Comment? This is one of the toughest questions you will face when dealing with the media, and it should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Remember that the reporter has taken time out of his or her schedule to seek your input. By saying “no comment” you lose the opportunity to share your side of the story. That said, sometimes it is advisable to not comment, especially if the story is about a legal matter or involves proprietary information. Once you comment, you can’t take it back, and your comments can be used against you. (Refer to rules 2 and 3).

Dealing with the media does not have to be a headache or a frightening experience. Just remain calm, polite and on message. It also helps to have a PR pro on your side to help you navigate these situations. I invite you to contact me to learn more about media relations and how you can share your story with the public.


 

Randy Seaver is a former newspaper reporter and editor. He also has more than a decade of experience as a strategic communications consultant, helping a wide range of clients overcome challenges in the court of public opinion.  Learn More

 

 

 

Advocacy: The power of testimonials

Sample of testimonial flyer
Sample of testimonial flyer

How do you build support for your project, business or campaign?

There are a lot of tools at your disposal, but one of the most effective tools is garnering support via third-party testimonials.

Third-party voices reinforce your own messaging and they build credibility for your project.

The most powerful persuader in the marketplace, apart from a customer’s own experience, is the opinion of someone they trust, according to Cutting Edge PR.

Authentic testimonials can be produced in both traditional and non-traditional ways: from letters to the editor and op-eds in local newspapers to short videos that can be posted on social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Consider the following research:

  • 90 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations over traditional marketing efforts;
  • 81 percent of customers reach out to friends and family members on social networking sites for advice before purchasing products;
  • 59 percent of consumers say user-generated product reviews have a significant impact on their buying behavior.

These trends are just as important when trying to rally support for a community project or a political campaign.

People trust authentic, independent voices.

A campaign sign placed by the side of the road is one thing, but a campaign sign on a person’s lawn reinforces the candidate’s support in the community.

Advocacy works best when it’s delivered by people outside your project team. I have been helping a variety of clients find and recruit third-party endorsers for more than a decade.

Third-party voices are an effective tool with proven results.

I invite you to contact me to discuss how I can put my years of experience in building community support to work for you.


 

Randy Seaver is a former newspaper reporter and editor. He also has more than a decade of experience as a strategic communications consultant, helping a wide range of clients overcome challenges in the court of public opinion.  Learn More

 

The Write Stuff: Make your message sing

Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness — Georges Simenon

Most everyone thinks they are a decent writer, but there is always room for improvement.  Improving your written content — whether it’s a press release, a brochure or web-based content — is not difficult. It just takes practice and adherence to a few basic rules of grammar and style.

DSCN4461If you are knee-deep in developing a new product, launching a business or just wanting to share your message, you may not have the time or expertise to develop skillful messaging that will hook and captivate your audience.

People will judge you by the words you write and distribute. You want to make the right impression. You want your words to matter.

This is when you should consider hiring a professional writer who can craft written copy that is crisp, clear and compelling.

Pro-Tips:

Crisp: Your writing should flow smoothly, not ramble. Stick to the main points. Keep on message and use words that grab your prospective reader’s attention. If you are writing a press release, think about the editor on the receiving end of your words. The old adage applies: less is more. Don’t make the reader work to understand your point. Avoid complex sentence structure.

Clear: Writers instinctively want to impress their readers, but unless you are writing a novel keep your sentence structure simple: subject, verb, object. Choose your hook wisely and then expand on that theme. Avoid cliches and jargon. (Example: “win-win” or “let’s be clear”)

Compelling: Think about your subject matter. Make a list of no more than 10 things that make your subject important. Remember: newspaper editors and the general public are barraged with thousands of written and spoken words every day. What is going to make your message stand out?

If you break your arm, odds are that you will seek the help of a professional. It’s really no different when it comes to producing written copy for your project, campaign or business. Do you really want to wonder if there is a split-infinitive in your copy, or do you want to leave that work to a professional?

The guidelines above are just a few easy ways to improve your writing, but there are many more.

For example, if you’re writing press releases think like a reporter or an editor. The best way to do this is to write like a reporter or an editor. Most reporters and editors use the AP (Associated Press) Style Guide.

If you want a refresher course on basic grammar and style, then you should spend a few dollars and pick up a copy of The Elements of Style.

Writing is important for your success, but it does not have to be a chore.

I invite you to contact me to discuss how I can put my years of experience as a newspaper editor and professional writer to work for you.


 

Randy Seaver is a former newspaper reporter and editor. He also has more than a decade of experience as a strategic communications consultant, helping a wide range of clients overcome challenges in the court of public opinion.  Learn More

 

 

Public Relations: the good, the bad and the ugly

handsAsk one hundred different people to define “public relations” and you’ll probably receive nearly 100 different responses, many of them with negative connotations.

A lot of people view PR as some sort of shell game, something that is auctioned off to the highest bidder. Pay us enough and we’ll convince the world that your product, brand or reputation is infallible.

There is an old joke in the consulting industry: “If you’re not part of the solution, there’s good money to be made in prolonging the problem.”

Even some PR pros think that a few “white lies” are often necessary to achieve success for their clients, as outlined in this story from USA Today.

I see things differently. I don’t think of PR as “public relations.” I think of PR as “public relationships,” and there is a distinct difference.

Take a moment and consider the relationships that are most important to you: your partner, your spouse, your friends, your boss or even your neighbors.

Good relationships are built on a solid foundation of trust. If you don’t trust your spouse, your marriage is likely doomed. It’s not different when it comes to public relationships.

The truth vs. The Narrative?

The public is more savvy than most PR pros give them credit for. The public yearns for truth and integrity, and will generally forgive a misstep, so as long as the offender is transparent and contrite about their mistake.

Sure you can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can even fool all of the people some of the time. But you simply cannot fool all the people all of the time.

Developing a strong and compelling narrative for your client is essential, but that narrative must be rooted in truth and genuine honesty. This is how you build strong relationships. And there is nothing more important in the world of PR than having a strong relationship with your audience.

As an example, I point you to the popularity of two very different candidates vying to be the next president of the United States: Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, two very different men on completely different sides of the political spectrum.

Sanders, a self-described socialist; and Trump, a billionaire reality TV star, have defied the odds and speculation of the pundits. As the two men continue their campaigns, the pundits now say that the candidates have both tapped into the anger of a very cynical electorate.

I beg to differ.

I think those who passionately support Sanders or Trump view their respective candidates as “honest” This trait causes those supporters to overlook flaws in either candidate.

Sure, voters always like a candidate who tells them what they want to hear, but they become passionate when they believe the candidate is being honest.

A relationship without honesty is like a bicycle without tires. Neither one is of much use.

Building relationships takes time and hard work. But every good relationship must be built on the foundation of honesty.


 

Randy Seaver is a former newspaper reporter and editor. He also has more than a decade of experience as a strategic communications consultant, helping a wide range of clients overcome challenges in the court of public opinion.  Learn More