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.
In light of the holiday last week, we decided to forego sending out an email, which would have likely clogged your overflowing Inbox.
So, post Labor Day, and much to your non-white-wearing delight, we bring you a Double Feature blog post. In said post, we will (at my expense) explore feeling like a total A-hole and eating a good ol’ fashioned slice of humble pie at the same time.
For starters, before the holiday I wrote a post about press releases and distribution services, debunking myths and attempting to uncover truths at the same time.
A few days later, I received an email from Maris, the woman I semi-doooshingly called out in the article. In my defense (if it is indeed defensible?), I searched high and low for her in my contacts and old emails just to make sure I didn’t know her from anywhere-land before I included her in the post. As many of you do, I receive about 192410482104 spam-like emails a week that have no context, that I haven’t subscribed to, and that have little or no relevance to what I do in my life. Period.
P.S. If you’re the dude who keeps sending me pitches about camping equipment I implore you to stop. I haven’t camped since 1992 and the odds of that happening anytime soon are slimmer than an emaciated model during fashion week. Unless, one word: Glamping.
The reason that I sent this specific release to you is because we met at a press event (the function at Rebar introducing Entrepreneur Eve). Following that party, we had a phone conversation in January and had said we’d keep each other posted on our client news. That’s what I was doing when I sent the release your way.
The email goes on, very sweetly, to ask if she perhaps misunderstood our conversation. And as she went on I felt worse and worse save this one redeeming fact: how on earth am I expected to remember everyone unless there is context to an email – especially if they aren’t in my contacts? Which I do a very good job of maintaining in my opinion.
The featured lesson here?
Assume that anyone you send an email to is likely filtering a million pieces of information a day. Unless they are your mother, brother, father, lover, best friend, or boss, they will need context. Save them from their own God forsaken demise by giving them a teensy weensy hint as to why you are sending them the email.
Maris, I am truly sorry. And ya’ll…do be a Maris because she was classy and kind to my snark.
Moving right along…
On August 30, I wrote this article on Entrepreneur.com. It has, to date, had over 3k social media shares. “Semi-viral” if you will. For those of you adept at content marketing, besides the fact that I enjoy writing and one’s ego certainly gets a boost from seeing your byline in on a notable publication’s website, the whole point of these exercises is to build brand awareness – in this case that brand happens to be AirPR.
The personal side effects of these posts in truth: they generally cause MORE work for me. I am added to “camping dude’s” press list (among many others) and have to filter more inane requests than I thought humanly possible. It’s a double-edged sword…one which I’m happy to sheath and carry. I’m just sayin’, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
Look at this face. That’s a straight shooter right there.
In an attempt to understand the assumptive value of all this social media “amplification,” I turned to my trusted data scientist, Patrick, to get the down and dirty facts.
Here’s what he said…no frills…no “I’m going to try to make Rebekah feel good”…just literally and directly:
I haven’t found anything particularly out of the ordinary for that article.
It does convert at 11.11% instead of the site average of 8.8%.
It’s 100% new visitors.
The bounce rate is 23.33% instead of 38%.
But the visit length is also shorter than normal at 2:35 versus 4:15.
And the average pages viewed are 2.4 instead of 3.4.
Also our traffic hasn’t seen any large spikes.
There could be social referrals that we’re missing, but there are only a few visitors a day from social media.
So it’s not like, say, the TechCrunch articles about us.
After I’d recovered from yet another mild ego bruising, I asked for his thoughts on indirect traffic from the article, as well as his overall value assessment:
“One of the ways we identify indirect visits is we create a statistical model from the normal traffic to separate the normal indirect traffic from article-driven indirect traffic.”
Oh. I mean…obviously that’s what we do!
“In this case, there doesn’t seem to be much article-driven indirect traffic for the last few days based on our models. 🙁 ”
[Yes, he included that specific emoticon]
“At this point, I would say that the value in these types of articles is not in visitors to a company’s site, it’s more in brand awareness or SEO.”
Thank you Patrick.
The featured lesson here?
While content marketing is arguably an important part of the PR function these days, and while having your spokesperson or CEO pen thoughtful, insightful, and oft-earth-shattering content may be a boon for brand equity, it must be recognized as such.
The good news:
Bruised ego notwithstanding, there is no PR silver bullet, or one “right” thing. Rather, it’s all of the various, strategic activities working in tandem – on a continuum – that truly drive customers toward that “path to purchase.”
We welcome your thoughts, so please tweet us here @AirPR. Just make sure you give us some context (help me out!) and make the content good (help yourself out!).
To forward the discussion from last week’s post “How to pitch the press” I thought it would be fun, and possibly frustrating, to point out the Top 5 Don’ts courtesy of a really important tech reporter from a really big news organization that will go unnamed.
But let’s just say it’s one of the top ten, and if you ever appeared in print or online in this publication you’d be extremely happy with your PR efforts. I will also point out here that 40% of tech storiescovered by press are about the big five: Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Twitter. This is an important factoid to note if you think, for ANY reason, you deserve or are guaranteed press coverage for your tech company on a regular basis.
Just who is this Tech Reporter X? Hmm
It ain’t happenin’. Fish elsewhere. Contribute to niche blogs. Write your own blog with an interesting point of view. Get social. Create meaningful relationships with influencers. This is all part of the PR machine.
This blog post is not intended for seasoned PR pros – because they will likely be privy to the points he (or maybe it’s a she?) makes below…save the last point which is still largely up for debate. We will get into embargoes next week. THAT will be a fun discussion.
Straight from “Tech Reporter X” are the Top 5 Don’ts:
1) Don’t ask reporters to rewrite a press release. They take pride in THEIR work, not in being YOUR amplifier. [Sorry to jump in, but this goes back to the article “Journalists: it’s about them not you” from a couple weeks ago]
2) Take NO for an answer. Meetings are great. Introductions are welcome. Connections are awesome. They don’t always (often) lead to immediate stories. Trust that if a reporter wants to cover the news he/she will. Pressure from you to do so is only a deterrent. So in “don’t” form I guess it’s – Don’t be annoying! (more…)