How to Write an Effective Press Release!

Public relation practitioners use press releases so that their clients will be into the news. Here are a few tips for writing an effective press release from PR Web Direct:

“Is your news “newsworthy?” The purpose of a press release is to inform the world of your news item. Do not use your press release to try and make a sale. A good press release answers all of the “W” questions (who, what, where, when and why), providing the media with useful information about your organization, product, service or event. If your press release reads like an advertisement, rewrite it.

Start strong. Your headline and first paragraph should tell the story. The rest of your press release should provide the detail. You have a matter of seconds to grab your readers’ attention. Do not blow it with a weak opening.

Write for the Media. On occasion, media outlets, especially online media, will pick up your press release and run it in their publications with little or no modification. More commonly, journalists will use your press release as a springboard for a larger feature story. In either case, try to develop a story as you would like to have it told. Even if your news is not reprinted verbatim, it may provide an acceptable amount of exposure.

Not everything is news. Your excitement about something does not necessarily mean that you have a newsworthy story. Think about your audience. Will someone else find your story interesting? Let’s assume that you have just spent a lot of effort to launch a new online store. Announcing your company’s opening is always an exciting time for any business, but the last thing the media wants to write about is another online store. This is old news and uninteresting. Instead, focus on the features of your online shopping experience, unique products and services. Answer the question, “Why should anyone care?” and make sure your announcement has some news values such as timeliness, uniqueness or something truly unusual. Avoid clichés such as “customers save money” or “great customer service.” Focus on the aspects of your news item that truly set you apart from everyone else.

Does your press release illustrate? Use real life examples about how your company or organization solved a problem. Identify the problem and identify why your solution is the right solution. Give examples of how your service or product fulfills needs or satisfies desires. What benefits can be expected? Use real life examples to powerfully communicate the benefits of using your product or service.

If you are reporting on a corporate milestone, make sure that you attribute your success or failures to one or more events. If your company has experienced significant growth, tell the world what you did right. Show the cause and effect.

Stick to the facts. Tell the truth. Avoid fluff, embellishments and exaggerations. If you feel that your press release contains embellishments, perhaps it would be a good idea to set your press release aside until you have more exciting news to share. Journalists are naturally skeptical. If your story sounds too good to be true, you are probably hurting your own credibility. Even if it is true, you may want to tone it down a bit.”

Wikihow also provides these helpful tips for writing a press release:

  • “Include a “call to action” in your release. This is information on what you want the public to do with the information that you are releasing. For example, do you want them to buy a product? If so, include information on where the product is available. Do you want them to visit your Web site to enter a contest or learn more about your organization? If so, include the Web address or a phone number.
  • Do not waste time writing the headline until the release is done. Copy editors write the real headlines in newspapers and magazines, but it is good to come up with a catchy title or “headline” for the release. This headline may be your only chance. Keep it concise and factual. But if you try to write it before you write the release, you waste time. You don’t know yet exactly what you – or those you interview, will say. When you have finished a draft of the release, you may decide to revise your lead — or not. Then and only then think about the headline.
  • Send your release by e-mail, and use formatting sparingly. Giant type and multiple colors don’t enhance your news, they distract from it. Put the release in the body of the e-mail, not as an attachment. If you must use an attachment, make it a plain text or Rich Text Format file. Word documents are acceptable at most outlets, but if you are using the newest version (.docx), save down a version (.doc). Newspapers, especially, are on tight budgets now, and many have not upgraded. Use PDF files only if you are sending a full media kit with lots of graphics. Please don’t type a release on letterhead, scan it, and e-mail a jpeg of the scan. That’s a waste of your time and the editor’s. Just type the release into the e-mail message.
  • Use your headline as the subject line of the e-mail. If you’ve written a good “grabber” headline, this will help your message stand out in the editor’s e-mail inbox. “

Guest Blogger

Three cheers for Melanie Shoults, my spotlight, guest blogger for the week. Melanie is a great writer with a real eye for quality work. She balances out fun and informative posts while keeping it all professional and relevant. Check out her blog sometime. You won’t regret it! Until then, here is a glimpse of one of her most recent post:

Rough Drafts Are Fun

Image Credit: micn2sugars

Okay, raise your hand if you hate rewriting. Wow.  That’s a lot of you. You just want to throw something on a piece of paper, glance at it, then turn it in, right? That used to be me, too.  I was mostly confident in the stuff I could just pull out of my brain, make sure the grammar was correct, then submit it.

And that worked fine for all my other classes until I got into Journalism. Then, even after rewriting it 10 times, I could turn it in and still have red marks all over it. This bugged me, a lot.

That’s why I loved the (FREE!) NewsU course, Get Me Rewrite that I took a few weeks ago. Not only did it emphasize the importance of rewriting, but it also offered valuable tips and steps for the rewriting process. And because I love lists and step-by-step instructions, this made me super happy!

Here are Chip Scanlan‘s steps, taken from Get Me Rewrite, for working through the rewriting process:

  1. Print out your draft.
  2. Listen to the entire story. During the reading, you can’t write on the draft or comment or respond, just listen.
  3. Read the draft a second time aloud, or silently to yourself, but now every time something strikes you, make a mark at on the manuscript. Nothing more.
  4. Number every mark you’ve made.
  5. Beside each number write down why you flagged that word or passage either on the draft or in a separate file. For example, you might jot down, “cut this,” “check this with source,” etc.
  6. Count up the number of changes and estimate how long each will take you to deal with them all.
  7. Start with the first one — if it’s a misspelled word, change it on the screen, hit save, and move on, cutting, pasting, moving up or down, inserting, as quickly as possible. You may not be able to solve every problem in this revision. But you may the next time around.
  8. Once you have gone through the entire list and made changes save the revision as a new file, hit print, and repeat until you are satisfied.

He also wrote about the 10% rule, trying to cut out 10% of your essay every time you rewrite. I didn’t like this rule, because that’s a pain whenever your essay has to be a minimum of 1,000 words or so. Sometimes I just want to be lazy and submit whatever I have rather than making that essay or article a bunch of really good 1,000 words.

I highly recommend this course to anybody who has to write a lot, especially journalists, who need to write succinctly.

How to Write a Feature Story

In our COMM 4333, writing for PR and advertising class, we researched and discussed effective tips to writing a feature story. Here are a few of the tips that we highlighted:

Feature Story Writing Tips via Barbara Nixon.

 

Twitter Chit-Chat

Twitter is used for a number of reasons today. From advertising to socializing with friends and famly, twitter has topped the social media charts .

One of the many avenues of Twitter include twitter chats. And I have to admit, I wasn’t aware of what a twitter chat was as of recent nor had I ever had the desire to participate in one. How would this benefit me?

PR chats on Twitter are a helpful way to connect and communicate with PR specialists from all around the world, to build relationships and personal network, to meet new interesting people and to learn the current tendencies in the field.

I decided to participate in the PR Chat #PRStudChat, which is a once a month conversation between public relations students, educators and professionals.

Moderator Deirdre Breakenridge (@dbreakenridge) and host Valerie Simon (@valeriesimon) bring present and future PR industry leaders together for a lively discussion once a month on twitter to discussion the Public Relations industry and the changing landscape.

Since I had never particpated in a twitter chat before, I did some brief research on what to expect from it. Here is a glimpse at a few tips in case you are about to embark on your first twitter chat as well via Valarie Simon:

Before the chat

  • Join the #PRStudChat LinkedIn Group The group has been set up to anchor participants. Get to know the other members that will be attending the chat. Feel free to “message” them through the group, to let them know you are looking forward to hearing from them. Take an active role in the group by posting disucssion topics or adding your comments to current discussions. And be sure to start following those members you find interesting, Remember, participants won’t be able to DM you if you are not following.
  • Follow the hashtag in advance of the chat, so that you can get to know who is coming (you can “follow” the hashtag by either searching for #PRStudchat or setting up a column inTweetDeck)
  • Tweet with the hashtag in advance. Let everyone know you will be attending. Tell them something about yourself and what you hope to gain from the conversation
  • Encourage other PR Students and professionals to join in. The quality of the dialog is dependent on the participants, and you can help by referring those you respect.
  • “Watch” other chats. If this is your first Twitter chat and you are curious to “watch” a chat before jumping in, you may want to check out #journchat, a weekly discussion between PR professionals and journalists (Monday evenings 8pm EST) or #PR20chat a weekly discussion about PR 2.0 and the future of the PR industry (Wednesday evenings 8pm EST)

During the chat

  • Log on to Tweetchat.com or Tweetgrid.com and use the hashtag #PRStudchat. This will allow you to participate in the conversation real time, without the distractions of tweets from those not participating in the chat
  • It’ okay to talk. Please jump in and voice your questions, comments and advice. Discussion and debate are encouraged, but please be respectful so that we can maintain an environment where everyone is comfortable asking questions.
  • It’s okay to listen. RT comments you find particularly valuable, to help assure that they do not get lost in a fast paced conversation.
  • Stay on topic. If you want to discuss something off topic with a participant, drop the hashtag .

After the chat

  • Consider and continue the conversation. Blog about the chat and your experience. Take a moment to review the conversation (rough transcripts can be made athttp://wthashtag.com/Prstudchat and a clean summary of the event will be available shortly after here.  Continue to use the hashtag.
  • Build relationships with new tweeps you hope to learn more from; Follow their blogs and tweets, Check out their profiles and websites. Continue to use the LinkedIn Group to learn about future chats and follow up to the conversation. Once you have built an individual relationship with other members, send a personal invitation to them to join your LinkedIn network.

Writing for the Ear

I recently completed the NewsU Course entitled “Writing for the Ear,” which taught me how to write more effective audio narratives.

The five-part module covered:

  • Introduction to audio stories – How audio stories are different from their print counterparts and examples of great audio stories
  • Picking and pitching stories – Generating story ideas that work well in audio form and pitching stories and sharpening their focus
  • Writing the story – Everything you need to write effectively at the story, scene and sentence levels
  • Revising the story – Strategies for applying the tools of revision to audio writing
  • Voicing & special topics – How to perform an audio story and other topics, such as “translating” a print story to audio form

I’ve mostly written for print, so I definitely learned a number of new things regarding journalistic writing from a broadcast perspective.

It was interesting to view the necessity of picking and pitching your story. Selecting and pitching your story will have a big impact on your writing. They can make your job a lot easier ― or harder ― when it comes time to report, write and voice your story. So I learned how it important it was to pick if you want to use audio or not in your story.

Evaluating how to pitch the story was some of which I learned already in regards to writing story. The writing process begins with story selection. It involves reporting, tape logging and drafting. After a draft’s in place, a story still needs to be revised and voiced.

Revision is probably where I learned the most from this course. How do you revise an audio story?

While the tight, succinct writing that is done for listeners is good writing no matter where it is used, there’s one critical difference between writing for audio and writing for print: Audio writing is more conversational. Even the best writers slip into clunky, multi-syllabic, adverb-dense prose, and it takes careful editing to get rid of that heavy language. You want to write like Ernest Hemingway, with jabs. Some of the best radio writing isn’t even full sentences. But the writing sounds good, which, of course, is what matters.

Overall, I really enjoyed this NewsU course because it gave perspective on a form of writing I am not too familiar with.

There’s More to Poynter

I’ve used Poynter for the past two years now. Most of my experience from this website has come from the NewsU courses, which have coached me through effective journalism and public relation’s techniques. However, there courses are just a small portion to everything Poynter has to offer to media students and professionals.

Here is a brief overview of what Poynter has to offer:

Latest News

Under the “Latest News” tab, Poynter offers media industry news and commentary through “MediaWire,” the latest news about media through “Top Stories,” accuracy, errors and the craft of verification through “Regret the Error,” news about mobile and its applications for media through “Mobile Media,” news about social media that matters to journalism through “Social Media,” and media business news through “Business News.”

How To’s

Under the “How To’s” tab, Poynter offers tips for reporting and telling stories with traditional and new tools through “Newsgathering and Storytelling,” tips on managing a website, from measuring traffic to understanding new platforms for news and information through “Digital Strategies,” tips on leading people and organizations through “Leadership & Management,” and tips on crowdsourcing, user-generated content, managing comments and other ways of connecting with communities through “Community Engagement.”

Chats

Under the “Chats” tab, Poynter offers chats with Joe Grimm and other experts about managing your career through “Career Chats,” and chats bi-weekly with Roy Peter Clark about writing through “Writing Chats.”

As you can see, Poynter offers so much in just media news alone. Try exploring the Poynter website and experience something new today!

Email Overload

Time is everyone’s most valuable resource. By using smart and effective communication strategies for email, we can free up more time to be productive or do the things we want to do.

I recently read an interesting article in regards to using our time efficiently when handling our e-mails.

For me, personally, I have experienced first-hand the time consumed simply in dealing with e-mails. Reading and replying to e-mails takes up a good portion of my day. E-mails have become an important means of communication in my day to day agenda.

So if this form of communication is so important, shouldn’t I be a better steward of that time spent with it? If I am studying to become a “professional communicater,” shouldn’t I know the best tactics with tackling even the simplest of communication efforts?

Matt Spaulding from PR Daily provided some helpful tips in his article “Email overload?” Here are a few of them:

1. Include a strong subject line. Be concise, and use compelling words to get attention. Your email’s worthless if no one opens it.

2. Use numbers or bullet points. This is essential if you’re covering multiple issues; doing so will help the recipient address each one individually.

3. Watch the clock. If you take more than 15 minutes to write an email, it’s better to condense it and augment it with a phone call or in-person meeting.

4. Be careful when forwarding. If you’re forwarding an email chain and there is something of importance in that chain, don’t just use “FYI below” and expect the recipient to see what you’re hoping they see. Point out what they should pay specific attention to.

5. Get closure. Include calls to action and deadlines.

6. Avoid multiple sends. Wait for your recipients to respond before sending out another email on the same topic.

7. Wait if you have doubts. If you’re second-guessing your email, there’s probably a good reason. Listen to that voice in the back of your head. Remember: You can’t “un-send” an email. Better to keep it in your draft folder and think about it for an hour than to regret your haste.

Pinterest Hits New Highs

It’s beautiful, it’s addictive, and now Pinterest is having its glorious hockey stick moment.

The rumors are true, pinterest has broken new records. The question is: where will they head next? With its fast popularization, should they seriously look into how to monetize their “pinning?”

Josh Constine of the Huffington Post tells us what they think here: Popular Pinterest Breaks Record 

Copy Cats

Give Credit Where Credit is Due.

This is a rule that we have famliarized ourselves with in and outside of the classroom. Yet, there is still complications that have arised from it.

Growing up, teachers stressed the importance of crediting our sources, explaining what plagirism looked like and teaching us the proper ways of citation.

However, I have never personally encountered  plagiarism or have had friends that got in severe trouble with plagiarism. I have only encountered what plagirism looks like in academia but not in a professional field.

So I must ask myself: how would I deal with plagiarism in the field of public relations? I mean, plagiarism has to reside in blogs more than ever before. Content is easily accesible and easily attainable to use and abuse.

If infringement took place in my work environment, the best way, I believe, to go about it would be to target the source. I would contact the infringer and explain the area where they have stolen from our company. I would request a cease and desist letter, requiring that the infringer take down any content that was not theirs, and request that they notify viewers that the work was not originally theirs…referencing the original source.

The best way to deal with situations like this is to simply have the right knowledge of infringement laws. They are constantly changing, and adequate background-knowledge will give you the skils to handle it in a professional manner.

Here is a great site that keeps you up-to-date on content theft, copyright infringement and plagiarism:  PlagirismToday

 

 

Pro Comments

1. Title of Blog Post: “12 easy steps to get your life organized (finally)” by Sharon Greenthal
Blog: PR Daily
Date: 2/12/12
Comment: “Thanks for this article. I believe that being organized is crucial in order to succeed i any aspect of life. I especially like that this list wasn’t only reserved for being organized in your work space but also your home environment. I often find myself restless in either area if I do not keep with either form of organization.”

2. Title of Blog Post: “Is Twitter the Death of Writing?” by Ben Stevens
Blog: Relevant Magazine 
Date: 2/12/12
Comment: “I love this post! I agree that journaling is crucial for a number of reasons.I’ve been journaling for most of my life and I feel like I would not account memories as well as I do without writing it down and recording it by some form. However, I do feel like my writing as condenseed significantly because of various social networks. ”

3. Title of Blog Post:”Email overload? Here are 13 tips to help.” by Matt Spaulding
Blog: PR Daily
Date: 2/17/12
Comment: “This is a great article! I think it’s important to remember that even the simplest task such as checking your e-mail is crucial time in your day. It’s important to set time to do so and evaluate the immediacy needed to attend to certain e-mails. I think all the tips you provided are simple and highly effective! Thanks for sharing this.”

4. Blog Post:”Why writers and editors make simple, preventable mistakes” by Laura Hale Brockway
Blog:PRDaily
Date:2/22/12
Comment: “Errors always occur in writing. No matter how hard you attempt to proofread what you have read, we are human and we are bound to screw up. Even in the process of this comment I have probably left numerus mistakes already. I think for me, I am prone to mistakes because of time. Its so easy for me to rush through proofreading without double checking what I have read. I believe being attentive to your reading and revising is crucial to good writing.”

5.Blog Post: “Warping the Message” by Jeff Goins
Blog: Relevant Magazine
Date: 2/25/12
Comment:”I agree. Our society has become rather dependent on technology to feed the void of silence we have become so foreign too. We limit our interactions in person have become more comfortable interacting with a person over the computer. There are definitely cons and pros to this. Our advancement in technology has advanced how much work we are capable to completing in a day. We are able to communicate with others more efficiently and effectively causing our work to reflect the same. The issue comes with balancing the two of these. Finding a medium in the midst of two extremes.”

6. Blog Post: “Four Tips for Great Storytelling” by Slash Coleman
Blog: PR News Online 
Date:3/11/12
Comment: I agree, great stories allow the storyteller to connect with the listener in some way, and that happens best when stories are true and personal. We shouldn’t limit our writing in comparison to someone else’s we believe has already achieved success. The best storytelling comes after we’ve found our own voice, instead of pursuing someone else’s. This is a great post  and I agree with all of your tips.

7. Blog Post: “Facebook Timeline Reveals the Future of Sharing” by Charlene Li
BlogCharlene Li
Date:3/12/12
Comment: “It’s crazy to see how much social media has left an impressionable mark on today’s society. We are constantly staying connected even right after we step away from the computer thanks to smart phones, iphones, ipads, etc. I feel like this is good and bad. It’s important for the field of social media to be in constant communication but I would be afraid of losing the personal interactions if we grew too dependent on technology which we already have.”

8. Blog Post: “Facebook Timeline Reveals the Future of Sharing” by Charlene Li
BlogCharlene Li
Date:3/12/12
Comment: “It’s crazy to see how much social media has left an impressionable mark on today’s society. We are constantly staying connected even right after we step away from the computer thanks to smart phones, iphones, ipads, etc. I feel like this is good and bad. It’s important for the field of social media to be in constant communication but I would be afraid of losing the personal interactions if we grew too dependent on technology which we already have.”

9. Blog Post: by Shonali Burke
BlogWaxing Unlyrical 
Date: 4/13/12
Comment: “I like how you say that the field of public relations is “not for the faint hearted.” I think this is a great lesson the speaks to all PR professionals. It’s important to stay balanced in the field. Time management is definitely key. I’m a student right now and I know that it’s crucial to manage my time wisely to succeed and I’m sure in the professional field it is even more apparent to do.”

10. Blog Post: “PR is the second-most-caffeinated-profession” by Michael Sebastian
BlogPR Daily
Date: 4/15/12
Comment: “I feel like I could see this study being a little skewed since it does not include energy drinks as well. But it is shocking to see that PR professionals drink more coffee than doctors and nurses! I’ve also read how PR has become one of the highest most stressful jobs. it would be interesting to read on the correlation of those two.”