Posts Tagged ‘@journalistics’

Is Your Press Release Guilty of Information Overload?

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Working Hard resizeBranding and advertising messages can be both offensive and defensive – which may be why they seem to be everywhere these days.  Added to the barrage of news and posts coming in to your RSS feed, newsletters you’ve subscribed to, social news streams, your email inbox, not to mention your personal communications and – you’ve got information overload.  

According to a video based on the book Socialnomics™ by Erik Qualman, we no longer search for the news but the news finds us or, at least, it tries to reach us. I’ve heard there’s an average of 5,000 attempts to get our attention every day.  That was back in 2006 – the figures are probably even higher by now. But even so, 5,000 messages? Per day? Yikes!  No wonder we feel overwhelmed sometimes.

That’s the “average” person. Imagine how a journalist must feel. Journalists must be masters of information management. According to a Journalistics post, they are receiving hundreds of pitches a day. (Makes my head swim just thinking about it!) As The Media evolves, newsrooms are also switching to more hyperlocal formats and journalists are finding that they are wearing other hats, besides that of journalist, including business person and manager.

Seth Godin recently wrote on his blog that, “Once you overload the user, you train them not to pay attention. More clutter isn’t free. In fact, more clutter is a permanent shift, a desensitization to all the information, not just the last bit.”

To stop issuing press releases isn’t really an option, so how do you keep yours from being lost in the thicket of information and simply adding to the fatigue of digital overload? 

  • Craft the perfect headline. It should clearly epitomize what your press release is about while including keywords (for SEO). Try to get it down to 10-12 words or less.
  • Lead with the hook. The lead (first sentence or “hook”) should be clear and concise.  The news in your news release has to be obvious.
  • Skip the fluff.  State actual facts – products, services, events, people, projects. Avoid jargon or specialized technical terms.
  • Set word limits. In a recent PRSA Tactics article, Ann Wylie writes, “The recommended length for the average press release has dropped from 400 words in print to 250 words online, according to Internet marketing strategist B.L. Ochman.”  The press release should not tell the whole story but simply an idea of what their readers need to know.
  • Timing is everything. The content should be relevant and fresh – not too far past and not too far in the future.
  • Target distribution. I’m not going to detail in this post, but if you want to revisit why this is so important, you can read about it here and here.

As Wylie states (in the above-referenced article), “The right length for each piece depends on the topic, audience, medium, budget and other factors.” The key is not “smothering your readers with information.”

How are you tailoring your media outreach to fit the ever-changing needs of journalists and bloggers? If you’ve given your press release a makeover, to keep up with the times, how successful have your efforts been? Please share your thoughts with the me and the readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.

The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

Monday, February 8th, 2010
Flickr Image: David Reece

Flickr Image: David Reece

Now that 2010 is well underway, I thought it would be interesting to go back and read some articles and posts from the past couple years to decipher what’s changed in the realm of media relations. 

I was a little surprised to find that not much has really changed!  (Not entirely surprised as this was what I suspected.)

Your target media now may not be just traditional media but also bloggers, ezine/webzine editors, streaming webcast producers, and freelance writers. However, the qualities or traits that define good media relations have remained essentially the same: Before preparing your press release, do your homework and familiarize yourself with the chosen topics as well as recent writings of your target journalists and bloggers. Then do some additional checking to ensure that your intended audience is also the audience for the media you’re about to pitch. (BurrellesLuce 2009 whitepaper “New Rules for Media Relations”)

In early 2009, Jeremy Porter conducted interviews with PR professionals in an effort to gauge what the biggest challenges were in dealing with the media. The results shared on his Journalistics blog could have been written today!  Some of the challenges included were:

  • Having accurate media contact information – keeping up with ongoing changes
  • Breaking through filters to reach the right contact, at the right time, with just the right information
  • Leveraging new media like Twitter in appropriate ways
  • Having better access to what journalists are writing about and what information they value most
  • Measuring the value of media outreach and placement – beyond impressions, release pickup and ad value
  • Developing more effective processes for media relations – moving away from one-size-fits-all pitching

With the exception of Twitter, this sounds like the same challenges we had 15 years ago when I was working at a St. Louis PR agency.

I’m not oblivious to the fact that public relations and the media are changing in some ways (that may be the topic for a future post), but in many ways it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Am I wrong? What similarities or changes have you seen occurring in the world of public relations and media these past few years?

Should You Send a Release?

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009
Flickr Image: josh.liba

Flickr Image: josh.liba

Contrary to some, the press release is far from dead and continues to be a useful tool for public relations practitioners.  In fact, a recent poll conducted by Ragan Communications and PollStream found nearly 50 percent of corporate communicators believe press releases are “as useful as ever.”  

By definition, a press release (aka news release) is an announcement sent to (targeted) news media for the purpose of letting the public know of company developments, events, or other newsworthy items.

My esteemed Twitter friend, Bill Prickett, APR, recently wrote some benefits of a well-planned, well-placed news release – an inexpensive way to get publicity, which includes:  building your brand/image/reputation/business, providing consumer information/education, lending credibility to your message, and driving traffic.

But the question at-hand is should you send a release?  Years ago, I attended a marketing and sales training workshop where the trainer taught us about the “so what” (or “who cares”) test. The same concept applies when determining whether your release is newsworthy enough to send.  For example, if you say the headline/topic aloud – “XYZ company opens new location,” you should then follow it up by thinking like the reporter or reader, and asking “so what?” or “who cares?”  It might mean that locals won’t have to drive so far or they will have more selection and shorter lines, etc.  In other words, if your release can’t pass the “so what” test and illustrate why the news has value, then don’t send it! 

I’m not saying that a press release is the only or best way to get your news out to the media – and, ultimately, your stakeholders. Journalistics recently reported that he believes blog posts and tweeting may be a better way of sharing news with your stakeholders.  According to MarketingCharts,’s Lindsey Miller noted that corporate communicators are increasingly using social media as a way to get around “canned” information, and to personalize, target, and reach reporters.

Every circumstance is unique and not all situations will warrant release to the media, but the press release is still an integral part of the PR toolkit.  Do you agree?  Why or why not?

Should PR Interns Pitch The Media?

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Flickr Image: chemisti

Typically, I try to share tips on pitching the media including bloggers.  In this post, I’d like to discuss whether PR interns should engage in pitching the media.  My BurrellesLuce colleague, Valerie Simon, mentioned this as part of her post, “Summer PR Internships: Preparing for Your Future” several months ago, but I’d like to expand on that mention and get your feedback.

Earlier this year, I read a blog post by Joan Stewart (aka the Publicity Hound) where she gave four reasons why interns should never be allowed to pitch the media. (The post is in response to a “do-it-yourself PR tactics” article.) Seems to me, her reasons boil down to a single point – that is she believes interns do not sound professional.  Stewart likens a PR intern pitching the media to a med school student performing brain surgery. I am not sure I agree with such an extreme analogy, but I do see her point.

@Journalistics then posted a blog saying he does believe interns should get real-world experience, but likens their pitching to “having an assistant shop for your spouse.” He goes on to give some compelling arguments and even turns the tables, suggesting: “What if the local paper wanted to interview you for a story and sent the intern out to write it? How would that make you feel?”  In the end, Porter concedes that there are some instances where having a PR intern pitch the media is just fine.

Spurred by the Journalistics’ post, Becky Johns fired a rebuttal with her own, “7 Reasons To Let Your Intern Pitch Your Story.” She provided well-thought-out responses and sums it up with, “Of course, it is not always appropriate for interns to make pitches, and supervisors should use good judgment when it comes to making pitching opportunities available to interns. But just because someone has the label ‘intern’ does not mean that person cannot gather a proven track record and gain more responsibility and independence with projects over time.”  Very good point!

Weidert Group’s interns chimed-in with help from their PR manager and internship coordinator, Abby Gutowski. Her post states “Teaching young PR interns the art of a media pitch can be scary to hand-off, but it is the responsibility of PR managers to do it right.” She then provides some excellent tips on how to do so successfully.

In response to the same Forbes article mentioned earlier, an IT reporter responded: “I personally don’t care if it’s the senior person or an intern that is pitching me necessarily. What matters is that whoever is trying to get me to pay attention, has done their homework, and understands both who I am and write about, as well who their client really is talking to and about.”

The reporter response sounds about right to me.  Perhaps this should be a discussion question for #PRStudChat?  What do you think?

PR Pitching: Six Must-Read Posts

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

If you’re in public relations, media relations or a related field, you know that one minor pitching misstep can easily become “the talk of the town” in the blogosphere or on Twitter – putting you or your client in a not-so-flattering light. I’m not going to re-hash recent offenses; nor will I name offenders’ names. (If you’re looking for that sort of thing, head on over to the Bad Pitch Blog.)

71918631_14.jpgInstead, what I want to offer here are some media relations points and posts that I’ve found to be helpful reminders of how to achieve successful media outreach.

  • Jeremy Pepper recently advised: Turn it off and listen. Yes, we’re always supposed to be on – but turn it off, and be a person instead of a pitch machine.” He was referring to attending BlogHer (a trade event) but I think this can be applied to many other situations.
  • In a guest post on Lauren Fernandez‘s blog, Stuart Foster begins with “You should never write anything that you wouldn’t feel comfortable yelling as loud as you possibly can in a crowd of people.” He goes on to stress that, “Your outreach will be successful only when you can effectively blend your personality and the client’s brand personality into one and the same.” In other words, you must believe what you’re selling.
  • With regard to business media, Jon Greer writes “… we can’t waste precious time pitching non-stories to over-worked journalists. It means that when we do pitch a story, we need to be ready to provide facts and figures, human interest, quotable quotes, photos, graphics and other sources for the story.” You might consider a multi-media release which incorporates all the information in a nice, tidy package.
  • A few weeks ago @Journalistics‘ Jeremy Porter stated, “Consider doing role-playing on a regular basis…” The post was in reference to interns but I agree with him that it’s not a bad idea for the entire team. You don’t want to sound like a telemarketer.
  • According to a recent post by Linda VandeVrede, “It used to be that you could create a target media list and focus on trade editors, bloggers, journalists, and analysts.  But that was so 2008.” Actually, it may be more like 2007, but in any event, creating that targeted list is only the beginning.
  • On the Sword and the Script blog, it’s summed up that “Queuing up a press release and blasting it out to a list of reporters amounts to nothing more than sloppy and perhaps lazy PR work” which punctuates the previous point’s assertion.

Have more media relations tips or want to point readers to a compelling post or online article on this topic? Please share with us, here at BurrellesLuce, and all of our Fresh Ideas readers.