Editor’s Corner: Tips for Writing Great Photo Captions

February 28, 2011

With 31 bureaus around the world and more newsrooms than all of our competitors combined, Business Wire is proud to provide local expertise and superior service, backed by the most accurate editors in the world. In Editor’s Corner, we ask some of our best to chime in on how to get the most out of your press release, based on their years of experience in the industry.

Captions: Get Your Photo Ready For Its Close-Up

by Lori Brown, Business Wire Phoenix

Adding a photo to your press release is always a smart idea. Photos grab the attention of readers, making your news stand out from the crowd. When you send a Smart News Release through Business Wire, your photo not only reaches major web portal sites like Yahoo! and Google, but also hits the desks of photo editors who want eye-catching, interesting content for their publications. And the first thing those editors look for is a good caption.

Photo editors with the Associated Press or other agencies won’t look at a photo without a caption; they need to know context and details. Your caption should answer, in a couple of sentences, questions like:

  • Who or what is it? Identify everyone and everything of interest in the photo. If it’s a product shot, give the full name of the product. If it’s a group photo, list the names and titles of everyone in the shot.
  • Why is it important? What’s the occasion for the photo? Maybe your company rang the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange or unveiled a new, faster, more powerful version of your product. Include a brief summary of the story behind the photo, so that readers understand the significance of what they’re seeing.

Your caption should also be able to stand on its own, without being accompanied by the press release. Photo editors are often looking for “standalones,” photos and captions that can tell a story by themselves. If you’ve got a compelling photo and an informative caption, it’s a great chance to get some extra visibility for your news.

Remember, having a good caption is just as important as having a good photo. Your picture may be worth a thousand words, but with another sentence or two, you can turn it into something that will really shine.

-Lori Brown, Senior Editor, Business Wire Phoenix


Friday Fast Links

February 25, 2011


 


BW Fun Fact: Business Wire was First to Launch Press Release Wire Service Website in 1995

February 25, 2011

We’ve come a long way since launching the first wire service industry website in 1995.    

The wayback machine provides the screenshot below, grabbed on Christmas Eve, 1996 .  At the time, this represented the pinnacle of web design with frame-based navigation and a whopping 48-hours of search.   Absent was flashing text, known in geek circles as a “blink tag.”

Today Business Wire’s distribution system and website manages thousands of press releases daily and syndication to countless partners in real time.  We boast a five-year search window.   Our patented N/X servers make it all possible.


How to Keep Your Press Releases From Getting Rejected by Google News

February 24, 2011

For this edition of SEO Tip Jar I revisited the data sources from my popular post about getting rejected from Google News in order to see if anything had changed in the past year or if I could possibly discover any more tips for ensuring your releases are compliant with Google News’ automated system.  It turns out that there are still things to learn from Google News if you look at the data.

The most interesting departure from past conventional wisdom is that it appears that repeating keywords from the headline in your links in seemingly works against you in Google News.   (See #1, below.)  Until now, we’ve understood that redundancy has a positive impact;  apparently too much works against you.

For my study, I looked at reports we receive directly from Google News over a period of two weeks in January of this year.   This first post will look at releases rejected due to structure or contents of their headlines.  Google currently reports this error as “Title Not Allowed” or “Title Not Found” in their recently revised and expanded list of news rejection reasons, with the explanations of “The title that we extracted from the HTML page suggests that it is not a news article” and “We were unable to extract a title for the article from the HTML page” respectively.

Google goes into further detail and provides the following reasons which apply to your press releases distributed on a wire service such as ours (I’ve omitted those that are irrelevant):

  1. In your article page, avoid using the article title, or a substring of the title, as an active hyperlink.
  2. Don’t include a date or time in your article title.
  3. Ensure that your article title includes at least ten characters and is between two and 22 words.

Previously, Google’s only explicit condition was that headlines be between two and 22 words, so it’s nice to see the rules laid out in more detail.  However, do Google’s rules match reality? Let’s take a look.

Over the two-week period, our reports show 141 releases rejected due to “Title Not Allowed” or “Title Not Found”.    Of these,  88% (124) had headlines with 23+ words, violating rule #3 up above.  An additional  5% (seven) headlines included dates or times and 2% (three) did not appear to run afoul of any of Google News’ stated guidelines.

However, my most interesting finding came from looking at the remaining seven releases.  Granted, seven of 141 releases is a very small sample size, but all of these releases included anchor text links in the release body which used between 25% and 56% of the keywords from the release headline.

This would lead me to tentatively recommend optimizing releases to focus only on top one or two keywords within their headlines and use longer headlines as well.   Additionally, it’s probably a good idea to ensure your anchor text links within the body or your releases use less than 25% of the words in your headline.

Confused?  Here’s an example of this recommendation in action.

Headline (15 Words): AcmeCo Announces New Version of Widget Which Improves Factory Production Efficiency by up to 300%

Links in Body: AcmeCo , New Widget , Improves Efficiency

Outcome: Probably not good.  Links in the release body use 33% of the keywords in the release headline.

Recommendation: Eliminate two headline keywords from the body links or add five-six words to the release headline.


Press Release Measurement: When You Don’t Know Your Goal, Any Tool Will Do

February 23, 2011
by Sandy Malloy, Senior Information Specialist, Business Wire

A common question I get as one of the Info Divas at Business Wire is “How’s my press release doing compared to others in my industry?” 

I understand the desire for benchmarks, but politely suggest that’s the wrong question.  Better would be: “How well did this press release help me satisfy my goals in sending it out?” 

You can’t measure without goal-setting–just as you can’t say whether your fitness program is successful if you don’t know whether your goal is to drop 20 pounds, bench press 250 or simply show up at the gym three times a week.

While our recent  PR Peeps poll  reflects what pr professionals say constitutes press release success, too may of them fail to set goals before asking the “how are we doing” question. A recent post by Todd Defren of PR Squared and many who commented on it, echoed this sentiment.  

Starting with a goal in mind–whether it’s increasing brand awareness, generating traffic, scoring link clicks, or any other specific, measurable objective–provides context for the numbers you do gather.  And articulating your press release objective allows for a more complete picture by supplementing press release metrics with other meaningful statistics (e.g., number of Likes on Facebook, sales leads generated, etc.)

Here are a few guidelines on setting measurable press release objectives:

1.  Tie your goals to those of the organization, and identify what piece of the puzzle you represent.  You might not be able to correlate a press release with increased sales, but you can set a goal of increasing sales leads and then measure traffic to a landing page on your website.

2.  When you talk about the ROI of a press release you are measuring means, not ends. A press release, the means, is a strategy.  Your objective is the end — what do you want people to do as the result of the release appearing?

3.  In addition to your desired outcome, include your target audience.  This phase of measurement will involve steps to take after the release goes out.  If you want to measure brand awareness among the under-20-somethings who buy your video games, for instance, you might have to just track social media mentions; whereas setting up focus groups could be more appropriate if your target audience comprises pharmaceutical executives.

4.  Set a time frame for achieving the objective.

The Institute for Public Relations is a good resource for more information on public relations measurement.


PR Peeps Poll: Generating Clips Still Most Important in Measuring Press Release Success

February 22, 2011
by Monika Maeckle, Vice President New Media 

Our first PR Peeps Poll for 2011 suggests that while generating clips is still the number one marker for  press release success, general branding/visibility and traffic-driving capabilities of the press release come in not far behind. 

Of  280 PR Peeps polled, 88 said the most important measure of press release success was generating earned media and clips.   Branding and general awareness-raising came in second with 79 votes, while driving traffic to websites came in third with 73.   Getting link clicks only garnered 20 votes, the same amount as “other.”

In comments attached to the survey, PR pros chimed in with their own ideas on what constitutes press release success. “Getting the phone to ring!”  “developing direct business leads,” and “a smiling client when they see the ROI,” were among the remarks.   We couldn’t agree more with this comment from one PR Peep:  “…distributing a release is only one step in a five- or six-step process (including follow-up pitching, an engaging photo, etc.)” 

The poll was conducted in January and February  through Twitter, Facebook, email and Business Wire’s webinars.   Details below:

What’s most important in measuring press release success?

73, or 26%–Driving traffic to our website

20, or 7%–Getting link clicks

88, or 32%–Generating earned media/clips

79, or 28%–General branding/awareness

20, or 7%   — Other

To those who participated, thanks for taking the PR Peeps Poll.  Now we need your help on our February survey: How Good Are Your Headline Habits?

Thanks for the help.

280 respondents via Twitter, email, Facebook and Business Wire webinar polls. Poll conducted  January 3 – February 18, 2011.


BW Fun Fact: Business Wire’s Employee Matching Grants Channel Big Bucks to Charities

February 18, 2011

Business Wire’s charitable match program has channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last decade to worthy nonprofit organizations of its employees’ choosing.

Yep, we are mighty proud that in keeping with the traditions of our parent company’s Chairman, Warren Buffett, and our founder, Lorry Lokey, generosity is part of the company culture.

Our benefits program has Business Wire matching employees’ donations to charitable causes anywhere from 50% to 100% over the years.

The tradition continues with the Business Wire Gives Back 2011 program, which launched this week in celebration of our 50th Anniversary.


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