In a typical work day, how much time do you spend writing? Between drafting emails, fine-tuning pitches, and editing content, I’m sure that writing is a huge part of your day.
While the PR Engineering team at AirPR focuses on explaining the value of PR measurement, today we’re focusing on improving your PR writing — a skill that PR pros either love or loath.
Did a love for writing inspire you to go into public relations in the first place?
Or, are you one of the folks who knows you would be ten times the worker if your writing skills were as excellent as your relationship-building skills?
Either way, these three pieces from the AirPR Blog archives will help you sharpen your PR pencil.
1. Because writing flawless press releases is something every PR person should know how to do…
Leta Soza explains “How to Write a Press Release (That Doesn’t Get Deleted),” including why the release is still valuable and what to include so that yours actually stands out from the thousands published on newswires each day. [Read the rest here.]
2. Because there’s no point in writing an email if no one reads it…
In “How to Write an Email Your Customers Give a Crap About,” Rachel Kirschen emphasizes how important it is to state your goal, a.k.a. what you want to achieve, at the beginning of every email. For example: “Here, we explain our B2C tool’s latest features.” All of Rachel’s tips can be used when writing emails to executives, as well. [Read the rest here.]
3. Because better bylines are great, but only when you actually have something to say…
Rebekah Iliff encourages ”thought leaders” to think about the semantics of this buzzy phrase. Are you or the executives you represent writing just to publish something, or do you/they actually have something meaningful to say? Rebekah makes a case for reinventing how we think about thought leadership in “How to Write a Byline That Positions You as a ‘Thoughtful’ Leader.” [Read the rest here.]
Hopefully this mini series helps to ease some of your PR writing woes. Bottom line: simple, clear writing is the very best kind.
The press release has always been a go to staple in the PR pantry. It’s an ingredient nearly every PR pro busts out when they are looking to cook up something great. But if press releases are such key ingredients in PR’s recipe for success, why are so many PR pros continually let down by their performance?
It’s likely because while the PR industry and function have changed dramatically, the press release (and the thinking around it) hasn’t changed much… if at all.
Great cooking, like great PR, requires experimentation, the right ingredients, and perhaps most importantly, creativity. Let’s dig into three steps that will ensure every press release you write whets appetites, satiates story hunger, and leaves ‘em begging for seconds (a.k.a. reporters lined up at your door for more info).
1. Choose wisely.
Press releases can be a significant financial investment and often require a fair amount of human capital to generate with no guarantee of pick-up or other meaningful activities for your brand.
Before deciding to send out a press release, ask yourself three simple questions:
Content: What format shall I choose based on the audience I’m trying to reach? (Text, image, video, combo, etc.)
Channel: What conduit am I using to deliver my content so I can best reach my target audience? (Earned media, owned media, newswire, direct pitch, etc.)
Measurement: How am I defining success? (Story pick up, message pull-through, traffic back to site, etc.)
While your gut may crave a press release, it’s not always going to be the best PR staple to pull off the shelf. Be honest about your end goals so you can choose the channel and content format(s) that give you the greatest odds of success.
2. Lead by example.
Once you’ve decided that short-form text is the ideal format, a newswire is the perfect delivery mechanism, and success would be, for example, four pick-up stories published in target media outlets, it’s time to get cookin’.
To stand out, whip your press release into a multimedia content package equipped with high-res’ images reporters can publish, expert quotes from a range of companies (not just your own), and hopefully a video too.
Part of this preparation process should include collaboration with other in-house cooks. Share the press release with your content team so they can pen a blog post or thought leadership article that expounds on some part of the press release.
Not only does supplemental content provide additional places for prospective journalists to taste your news, it also allows you to dig into an aspect of the news you find particularly compelling while keeping the actual release streamlined and focused. This exercise may create a shining example of the types of stories your release is meant to inspire! (Show, don’t just tell.)
3. Pitch perfect.
Let’s be honest: Most self-respecting journalists aren’t trolling newswires. They’re seeking out thought-provoking nuggets on social media, looking for eye-catching email subject lines, and generally doing everything in their power to avoid reading generic press releases (the white bread of news).
If you want to increase the likelihood of a journalist gobbling up your press release, write a highly personalized pitch. Personalized pitches require that you (the PR pro) do your homework.
Review author pages and read content by specific journalists to understand how they like to construct stories. Are they more into quotes or unique data sets? Perhaps compelling visuals are their jam. Figure out what interests them and offer it up on a silver platter!
Great writers and journalists can turn solid facts and advice into thoughtful pieces. Get them 75% of the way there with the data and info needed for a compelling story and I promise the odds of your story being published increases exponentially.
So, what’s the recipe for success?
Think strategically before deciding a press release is the way to achieve your public relations goals, include key info and multimedia assets, and invest time and energy into targeting and personalizing your pitches.
A great press release doesn’t have to be complicated, it just has to be appetizing.
This post kicks off our four-part series on optimizing public relations fundamentals. Tune in next week when PR Engineer Kelly Byrd shares how to use data to ensure content success.
Today’s most successful PR campaigns begin with communications teams who have adopted the mentality of thinking like a journalist. Before even considering sending a pitch over to their favorite reporter, they’ve already strapped on their newsroom-caps and have evaluated whether or not Pitch A is a story with depth, nuance, and appeal.
Would an editor accept a story that outlines the benefits of the running sock your athletic brand just released? If they write for Runner’s World maybe, but think about it. What’s more likely to get picked up? A pitch about your brand’s new running sock or a story about the best types of running socks (including yours) for different types of weather given that the rainy season is on its way? Exactly.
This, my friends, is why writing an old-school press release focused only on you is pretty much like snapping a selfie. It’s a one-way view, a solo dance party, the show Party of Five but without four other people. Here’s why they’re alike, and why you should instead focus on creating stories that puts your brand within the greater context of your industry as a whole.
1. They are both allaboutyou.
Taking that selfie on the day you finish your master’s program is one thing. It’s a notable accomplishment that you’ve worked hard for, and your network of friends on Facebook would assumably enjoy the opportunity to congratulate you and hear about what you’ve been up to. The PR equivalent? Getting a new office space or hiring Mark Zuckerberg’s child as your new director of communications. The news alone is likely enough to land you some great press without further fluffing. But let’s be real. Most of the time, companies have to spin everyday offerings into newsworthy pitches. For these instances, writing a press release that’s all about you is counterproductive. Journalists aren’t interested in hearing about you and you alone. They’re looking for well-rounded stories that speak to what’s happening in your industry as a whole.
2. Too many filters can decrease the quality.
What you see is not always what you get. Over-editing, whether with Instagram photo filters or by having too many people edit a release, can decrease authenticity and quality. Selfies can start to resemble early ‘90s CD covers when over-filtered and press releases can come across as fabricated when too many cooks in the kitchen layer in shout-outs about how great your brand is in every other paragraph. Beware of both instances.
3. Both are open to interpretation.
Once you put them out there, both selfies and press releases are open to interpretation and you can’t always control what happens next. One funny comment and your duck face could turn into the talk of the town (or at least the talk of your network). Similarly, you can describe your new app as “the next big thing in automated food preservation management” throughout your press release in bolded text but nothing’s going to stop a journalist from calling it “Uber for Ziploc” if they feel so inclined. How the story is spun, whether in regards to your face or your brand, is out of your control. The best thing you can do in the latter instance is to be real and not overdress your messaging.
4. Commoditization has killed the wow factor.
Those first few selfies in the history of selfies may have been mind-blowing, but now they’re as common as slices of American cheese. Similarly, thousands of press releases hit the world every day–everyone can create them, they’re easy to push out with a little bit of funds, and it’s a highly saturated space. The best thing you can do to stand out is to turn your press releases into multimedia content packages equipped with high-res’ images reporters can publish, expert quotes from a range of companies (not just your own), and hopefully videos too. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
5. They may get reposted, but not by who you want.
The key publications you’re after are not the ones who will repost your press release. Sure, it’s great to see when your release has been picked up or reposted verbatim (it means you’ve written it well and that’s something to be proud of). But, these won’t be the publications you or your company’s CEO will squeal over. With a selfie–well you get the picture.
The morale of the story? If you’re spending the time on press releases, make them multi-faceted and don’t focus them on yourself. Give insight into your industry’s past and demonstrate what you believe will come in the future. Zoom out, show more than those lovable cheeks of yours, and see what happens next time you share a more real, compelling group shot.
While everyone else is off drinking beer and eating hot dogs, overachieving startups like us are busy working. Well…working and culling together useless pieces of information for your entertainment.
Why are we doing this, you might ask?
It could be because we’re a self-proclaimed bunch of weirdos. Or it could be because no one gives a rat’s ass about anything anyone says for the rest of this week (helloooooooo, I have much more important things to think about, like sparklers and BBQ).
But really, it’s to amuse ourselves while we fantasize about an extra day off. Especially our Chief Architect, Patrick, who is wearing the same clothes today as he was wearing yesterday – much to our surprise this morning – because he was here all night. Working. And probably thinking about fireworks.
Without further ado, we bring you 4 things you really didn’t need to know, but now you do know.
1. When you yawn and stretch at the time, you are “pandiculating.”
Today I woke up around 3:30 a.m., my body still adjusting to west coast time after spending a couple of weeks over yonder in New York. We’ve been eating, breathing, and [clearly not] sleeping AirPR to the max over the past 60 days…all in prep for our impending press launch.
But in the mean time…
This, yes this, is what was rattling around in my head as I woke up at that God-forsaken hour. Not thoughts of a handsome man lingering around. Or thoughts of the shoes I’m going to buy to complete my fall wardrobe. No, no. It’s all work, all the time.
That being said, I hope you enjoy this little PR POE-EMMM.
There once was a man from Nantucket
Who wanted PR but said “Fuck it.”
There’s a book on my shelf
Says I can do it myself
Has a press release template too!
There was once a gal from Odell
Who wanted some press but said “Hell.”
I have a great site
Those journos will bite
How hard is it really to do?
There was a young ‘trep from Kapit
Who thought “PR, I don’t need that shit.”
But his product was crap
And that was that…
So now they’re all running to you. (and by you, I mean PR person in case that isn’t clear. 3:30am)
Last week I was obsessed with conducting online searches for the term “public relations.”
This week, my obsession has morphed into a related but far more controversial activity, which (at rock bottom) may or may not have had me secretly recording a Skype conversation with a poor unsuspecting sales rep from a wire service, which will remain unnamed.
But I got the juice. He’s likely still recovering.
Said activity: debunking the myths of the press release and revealing insider information so that we can all figure out a better way to spend our time.
Sigh. Relief. Yes, I said it. There is a better way to spend our time. And our money for that matter.
Together, here today, we are going to all get on the same page and understand how the pesky little press release has become the equivalent of “that guy” at a party who everyone thinks is annoying-but-necessary-to-invite.
While he certainly has intrinsic value, if placed in the wrong situation (like on a dance floor next to the hot chick) he may embarrass-slash-insult everyone within eyeshot – including the object of his bad and inappropriate dance move affection.
You feel me?
Press release myths
Myth #1 – the press release, if emailed to 1000 people all at once (ala spam) with absolutely no context, will likely result in you actually getting press coverage.