How to Write Good Quotes: Keeping it Real Makes Your Press Release More Effective

August 30, 2011

by Monika Maeckle, Vice President, New Media

Our friends over at Ragan wrote an enviable dispatch recently, 4 Ways to Improve Quotes in Press Releases.  Wish we had authored this one.

Quotes are a tradition in press releases and inject a human voice into the text.  The challenge of balancing executives’ bloated claims in quotation marks with saying something meaningful continues for writes of press releases.   Quotes riddled with jargon and buzzwords lose their meaning and leave the reader wondering, “Huh?”

Good QuotesRagan cited this bad example of a quote from  President and CEO John Johnson:

“I plan to continue this legacy of providing innovative products and services to our customers. With over 30 competing companies for our customers to choose from, we have some challenges ahead. I am confident that we can meet those challenges successfully. And the first step is the release of our new app.”

In such cases, better to paraphrase like this:

“President and CEO John Johnson believes the release of the new app will provide customers with the communications tools they need, setting XYZ Company apart from more than 30 competitors. “

Our own Andrew Guinn wrote about the grammar of quotation marks in press releases a few weeks ago–don’t you sometimes wonder where punctuation belongs?  We also touched on making your quotes more notable in a recent Press Release Basics webinar last week.

Apart from injecting humanity into a press release, quotes are often featured as a “pull quote” drawing even more attention to their effectiveness–or lack of it.  Best to craft them carefully.

Advertising Value Equivalencies: The Mostly Meaningless Metric with Nine Lives

July 7, 2011

by Sandy Malloy, Senior Information Specialist

Sandy Malloy, Senior Information SpecialistLucky seven.  Unlucky thirteen.  Three strikes.  The Top 100 movies of all time.  We love numbers, don’t we?  Rankings, ratings, scores, anything to tell us some kind of truth in a simple way.  My favorite wine retailer told a joke about the guy who comes into the shop: “This wine you sold me last week is awful!”  he tells the proprietior, who responds, “Parker gave it a 92.”  The customer exclaims, “I’ll take a case!”

Ad Value Equivalency (AVE) is the magic number that won’t die despite repeated attempts by the Insitute for Public Relations and well-known measurement mavens to kill it.  Yet another article on the dubious value of AVE appeared in the Wall Street Journal this week.

Why is AVE the Godzilla of measurement?  Probably because it’s simple.  It’s easy to research advertising rates, multiply by column inches or air time, and tack on an “earned media” factor (three is common).  Voila!  You have a magic number that purports to justify the effort.

A poll of 400 respondents on this very blog a couple of years ago found that a third did use AVE but about a quarter didn’t even know the meaning of the phrase.  So, while even more people either didn’t use it or didn’t know about it, a large group of those who responded either:

  • Didn’t know of another way to measure, or;
  • Reported to a client or manager who  demanded a simple number even though the result being measured (message dissemination and influence) is complex.

The WSJ article acknowledges no “simple alternative” to AVE exists, and most PR pros would agree that measuring public relations efforts  depends entirely on the goal of publicity (something I have blogged about in this space.)  As Ketchum’s Dr. David Rockland has said, “AVEs get replaced by a series of metrics that are dependent on what exactly you are trying to do.”

Here are a just a few basic examples of outcome-oriented goals and corresponding measurement methods:

 GOAL:  Create interest in a contest you are promoting, gather sales leads

  • MEASURES:  Track the sources of leads, which might be a combination of ads, press releases and social media mentions.  Record link clicks in press releases and combine with internal Web analytics for a landing page on your site with contest details and entry form.   Create a matrix that compares the effectiveness of each approach with the cost.

 GOAL:  Educate employees about new health benefits

  • MEASURES:  Set a benchmark of desirable awareness level. Poll employees about knowledge of the benefits before and after campaign.

GOAL:  Defuse a crisis.

  • MEASURES:  Track mainstream and social media coverage, noting whether the media is reporting the messages you are trying to convey and the tone of the coverage.  In this case, negative publicity is far worse than no publicity.

Brave, Rude World: Intrusive Technologies Beg Etiquette Questions for PR Folks trying to Mind their Mobile Manners

June 28, 2011

by Monika Maeckle, Vice President of New Media

Is it ever OK to politely suggest someone not text in your presence?  What about tweeting during meetings and  conferences?

These and other frequently asked questions regarding the brave–some would say rude–world of mobile technologies were explored at a recent Business Wire webinar, Minding your Mobile Manners:  Etiquette Tips for the Digital Age.  The event featured author and etiquette expert Anna Post of the Emily Post Institute.

Cellphone etiquette dominated the discussion with polite pleas for direction on what is/isn’t acceptable in today’s constantly connected universe. Post cited a Feb. 2011 Intel survey which found that 75% of those polled say mobile manners are worse than just a year ago.  Our attending group of professional communicators are obviously not alone in their need for guidance.

Mobile Manners in Austin, Texas:  Seen at the Whip-InABOVE:  Mobile Manners in Austin, Texas: Seen at the Whip-In

Some may think the answers to the questions above are obvious but as Anna Post pointed out, “It depends.  Each situation is different and it entirely depends on the context.”

Asking someone to not text in your presence–and how to frame such a request–depends entirely on the relationship between the people involved.  If in a professional situation a simple, “Monika, I really need your full attention here” might be appropriate.   Some companies have implemented a policy of having people drop their  iPhones and Blackberries at the door as they enter a conference room.  “If your attention is really not that important at the meeting, perhaps you shouldn’t attend,” she noted.

And Twitter at conferences and meetings?

Post recommends that when live tweeting a small event like a local PRSA meeting, you should informally advise the organizer or speaker to avoid hurt feelings and the appearance you don’t care about the presentation.

As for large conferences like SXSW, or the National NIRI or PRSA gatherings, ubiquitous technologies are pervasive and even expected.  Many speakers appreciate the visibility afforded when the audience shares their talking points in online communities, resulting in more book sales, speaking gigs, or qualified business leads for the speaker.   No need to stop tweeting or even to advise the speaker in this situation.

Email etiquette was another hot topic.   Post recommends always using a salutation with the person’s name, rather than diving straight into the message.  Avoid emoticons and text-message speak at all times in any type of business communications, she advises.  It appears juvenile.

As communications professionals, we’re especially obliged to know how to get our messages across even as the tools and techniques for doing so change as fast as the weather.  Good mobile manners–like good grammar and spelling–increase the likelihood of successfully communicating.

If you missed our webinar, feel free to catch the replay on the Business Wire events page.    Also, we hope you’ll take our one-question PR Peeps Poll on minding your mobile manners: What’s your biggest digital pet peeve?

Please and thank you.

PR Peeps Poll: Press Release Views are Most Valued Press Release Metric

June 21, 2011

by Monika Maeckle, Vice President, New Media

Seeing is believing, apparently, when it comes to press release metrics.   According to our most recent PR Peeps Poll, communications professionals believe press release views are the most valued metric in judging a press release.

Of 179 polled, almost 53% (94)  cited release views as most important.   Hyperlink clicks rated second in importance with 16% of the vote (29).  Traffic driven garnered 12% of the votes cast (21) while times shared took 11% (19) and headline impressions 9% (16).

 With all the talk of the importance of social media sharing and engagement, we were slightly surprised by the findings.  Counting press release views is an older concept and online marketers continue to explore the intersections of  visibility and influence.   We figure influence must start somewhere–like having your carefully crafted messages being seen in the first place.Here’s the details:

Which press release metric do you most value?

  • 94, or 52%      Release views
  • 29, or 16%      Hyperlink clicks
  • 21, or 12%      Traffic driven
  • 19, or 11%       Times shared
  • 16, or  9%        Headline impressions

To those who participated, thank you for voting.  How about helping us out with our next PR Peeps Poll on minding your mobile manners:  What’s your digital etiquette pet peeve?  Please let us know and thank you.

 179 respondents via Twitter, email and Business Wire webinar polls. Poll conducted  conducted May -  June 10 2011.

Bloomberg Canada Shares Tips on What News Agencies Want from your Press Release

June 14, 2011

A group of IR, PR and business professionals recently attended a panel discussion in Toronto hosted by Business Wire Canada, featuring editors from the Bloomberg Canada team. The editors offered tips on making the most of your press releases.

Bloomberg Canada and Business Wire

Professional communicators gather in Toronto for a Business Wire event featuring Bloomberg editors.

David Scanlan, bureau chief,  Sean Pasternak, a reporter for the banking and financial services sector, and Steve Frank, commodities industry editor, shared their  insights based on the reality that they see an average of 300 press releases per day.


• Your press release may be long and full of useful information, but be sure to put the most pertinent content in the first paragraph of your release.

• Know who you’re pitching. Call ahead or send an email to the news organization asking the name of the most appropriate person to receive your press release.

• Be time sensitive. You may have the lead story of the day, but if it reaches the newsroom at 4:59 p.m. on a Friday, don’t expect much.

• Want to follow up with your press release? Email the editor and ask for five minutes on the phone at his or her convenience. If you promise five minutes, deliver five minutes.

• Be clear and concise.  Avoid jargon or complicated industry terms.

The prevailing theme of questions posed to the panel by the audience was “How do I get your attention?” Each editor shared his personal preferences.

Sean Pasternak responds favorably when coffee is involved. David Scanlan appreciates scheduling time to chat in advance, and Steve Frank likes conciseness in your press release.

We’ve archived a webcast of the event for those who couldn’t attend.

NOTE:  Special thanks to Katrina Bolak and Rishika Luthra for contributing to this post.

Tips for Measuring Sentiment Analysis: Don’t Let Early Adoption Become Buyer’s Remorse

May 31, 2011


by Sandy Malloy, Information Services

A recent  blog post by measurement expert Katie Paine calls sentiment analysis the “latest shiny new measurement toy” and suggests questions to ask before attempting to measure  social media sentiment of corporate and other messaging.

One of her most important points  has relevance for press releases:  Do people express any sentiment at all in discussing your brand? 

Simple searches on Twitter and/or Google blogs will give you an idea, but first consider the kind of news your company announces.   If you sell measuring equipment to scientists, for example, it’s unlikely that sentiment will register anything but “neutral”–even if your products are discussed in social media.

No sentiment = no need for sentiment analysis.

That said, monitoring all types of media for what’s being said about your company, industry and competitors is important.  But monitoring is not analysis, and analysis might not be sentiment metrics–thus, paying for analytics when all you need is monitoring makes no sense.

Just for fun, I reviewed about 200 social media clips that a long-time subscriber to Business Wire’s NewsTrak Clips had received over a few days.   Almost all the tweets and mentions of  this engineering company were neutral.  One item stated that the company had been “called out” for some action. 

A human reader could easily identify the statement as negative, while software might or might not make that determination.  Either way, though, I would have had no trouble doing my own analysis with such a low volume of posts.  For Paine, the cut-off before investing in analysis software is 10,000 relevant non-spam mentions per month.

Of course, you can analyze your social media mentions in other ways to put this information into a meaningful context.  Almost every week, I see lists like this one that offer help managing and analyzing social media clips.

If you still can’t resist the “shiny new toy,” here are some steps to take to assure your early adoption doesn’t become buyer’s remorse:

1Start with monitoring and worry about analysis later.  You can use free tools or a more comprehensive paid service, as long as you can monitor how many posts or tweets come through daily.

2.  Commit to either looking at the results yourself or making sure a colleague does every day.  That way, the task won’t be overwhelming unless the volume is overwhelming –and then you’ll have a case for investigating analysis software after all!

3. If sentiment analysis is indeed a “key metric,” decide on whether the volume of posts and tweets justifies buying software.  Also, be aware that sentiment analysis software has improved but is unlikely to be 100% accurate.  You’ll probably need  people to cross-check at least a sample of the results.

4.  If you determine that sentiment is largely absent, decide what metrics are relevant and find the tool(s) that will help you gather the information.

PR Peeps Poll: Two-thirds say Press Releases Play Significant Role in Branding

May 25, 2011


by Monika Maeckle, Vice President, New Media

As branding and SEO continue their convergence, two-thirds of those responding to a recent PR Peeps poll said that press releases play a “significant role” in their branding efforts.

Out of 228 polled, 66% categorized the role press releases play in their branding efforts as “significant.”  Twenty-five percent said press releases play a “minor” role in branding efforts, while 9% said they don’t use press releases in branding efforts.

PR Peeps Poll:  How do press releases fit into your branding efforts?

“Press releases are part of an overall strategy for my company and customers,” noted one PR pro in the comments section of the survey.   “Brand positioning plays and should play a major role not only in press releases, but also in any piece of info or PR writing [that comes] out of the organization,” said another respondent.

Judging from these results, one could argue that press releases belong in the marketing department–in addition to communications, of course.

Here’s the findings:

    • 150, or 66%    Press Releases play a significant role
    • 57,  or 25%     Press releases play a minor role
    • 21, or 9%          Don’t use press relases for branding

To all those who participated, thank you very much!  How about helping us out with our next PR Peeps Poll:  Which press release metric do you most value?

228 respondents via Twitter, email and Business Wire webinar polls. Poll conducted  conducted April – May 2011.

Florida Media Luncheon Results in Tips for Crisis Communications Planning

April 13, 2011

by Julia Sotelo, Client Services Representative, BW Florida

Business Wire Florida held “CRISIS! Expect the Unexpected: Plan, Manage, & Respond,” a media luncheon for South Florida Professionals on March 30 hosted by JM Family Enterprises Inc. and moderated by Amy Wagner, former Senior Vice President, Investor Relations and Global Communications of Burger King.

Panelists included:

Laura Vann, Public Relations Specialist,  Lynn University Marketing and Communication

Don Silver, Chief Operating Officer, Boardroom Communications

Elianne Gonzalez, Hispanic Press Officer,  Insurance Information Institute

Wayne K. Roustan, General Assignment Reporter,  South Florida Sun Sentinel

Laura Vann, Lynn University

Laura Vann, Lynn University

Laura Vann gave a moving presentation on the Lynn University Crisis following the aftermath of the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which involved 12 students and two professors.

Vann discussed Lynn University’s unenviable circumstance of false information that reported some students were safe when in fact that was incorrect. The University acted quickly with a clarifying a press conference.

Don Silver opened the panel discussion with Crisis Management tips. Among them:

  • Deal with crisis immediately.  Seek a short term solution that will save time, grief, damage to your brand and the company.
  • Remind everybody, especially those that answer phones, who at the organization can speak on behalf of the company.
  • Know the media that covers your company. Understand their news cycles, how they work, what they need, and how they need it.
  • Monitor.  Keep Lexis/Nexis, Google and different news alerts active for your company, clients, brand names, etc.

Wayne K. Roustan shared 30 years of media expertise in covering crisis situations. His first insight:   how media are expected to do the impossible on multiple platforms. “It’s just non-stop feed the beast. So if the media knows when the news is coming they won’t pester you. You are controlling the situation.”

Elianne Gonzalez stated a common mistake organizations make during a crisis situation is that they forget to keep a printed copy of the Crisis Plan handy just in case the power goes out and/or loss of communication. She also pointed out the plan should include contact information for the company’s spokes persons.

Ibrey Woodall was on hand to share Business Wire’s Crisis Communications online tool. Woodall discussed a Darksite feature that allows communicators to prepare a crisis plan and implement it in the backend.

Local News Sites Going Facebook Only? Press Releases Need Local Hook to be Utilized

April 11, 2011

Last month, Maryland community blog Rockville Central moved to a Facebook only format. The decision attracted media attention from a number of journalism sites including Nieman Journalism Lab and Media Bistro’s Social Times among others. Business Wire’s media relations team spoke to Editor Cindy Cotte Griffiths in a  recent Q & A that explores this innovative move and how press releases fit in.

Cindy Cotte Griffiths, Editor of Rockville Central on Facebook

Cindy Cotte Griffiths, Editor of Rockville Central on Facebook

Business Wire: What has been the initial reaction from the Rockville Central community?

Cotte Griffiths:   Although some people expressed dismay on the website before the move, the initial reaction has been extremely positive on Facebook. Our active users have increased by over 500% and our base continues to grow each day. We are seeing many new people interacting and commenting on the site which has always been our primary goal.

Business Wire: Do you think other media outlets will follow your lead?

Cotte Griffiths: Yes, we do. We’ve already heard of a local newspaper which has informed its staff that it will be shifting entirely to Facebook. However, sites which intend to take advantage of the projected increases in local online advertising probably would not be in a position to shift entirely to Facebook, since Facebook does not offer a revenue sharing arrangement.

Some other interesting developments in the online media world include TechCrunch only allowing comments with a Facebook account, and Warner Bros. making films available on Facebook with Facebook Credits. Meanwhile, big print news outlets are setting up paywalls. Currently, Facebook takes a 30% cut of revenues from sales by third parties using Credits, so perhaps the news world and Facebook Credits might be combined someday.

 Business Wire: What makes an effective press release in your opinion?

Cotte Griffiths: For us, a press release needs to be location-based since we will only report on Rockville, Md.   We’re willing to include stories about organizations or businesses which are on the forefront of their fields since we like to highlight all the great things produced in our community. So for example, if a biotech company cured a disease or an organization started a successful worldwide program, we would be willing to share the story to emphasize what makes our community special.

For more information about PressPass and Business Wire’s other journalist tools, contact our media relations team at

Google Algorithm Changes Reward Best Practice SEO and Pay Off for Press Release Visibility

March 15, 2011
Matt Albers, Director of Web Services

by Matt Albers, Director of Software Engineering, Web Services

In an effort to find more high quality sites for its many users, during the week of Feb. 24th, Google rolled out their Panda update (aka Farmer).

This update was said to touch nearly 12 percent of all Google search results in an attempt to weed out or de-value content farms and “low quality” sites. offers more in depth coverage with Google engineers Matt Cutts and Amit Singhal weighing in on specifics about the change.  If you’re an engineer like me, you’d already heard complaints in the tech sector for a while now.

So how did this change affect the visibility of your press releases?  We’re glad you asked, because in the case of Business Wire, we’ve noticed a positive change.  That’s correct: since Google tweaked their indexing algorithm, Business Wire has seen an increase in traffic, and higher rankings for our client’s press releases.

Meanwhile, according to Sistrix, a German search research company, our competitors have not fared as well, some losing nearly 70% of their keyword rankings.  In addition, our rival says they lost 20% in traffic, showing a Hitwise graph of search clicks.  But look closely and you’ll see the only site on that graph trending UP is Business Wire.  Yes, quality rises to the top.

We don’t know specifically why some press release services were dinged.  We can only confirm that Business Wire was not affected negatively by the Panda update based on our analytics analysis.  Why the difference?  I suspect it’s because we’ve been following “best practice”, “white hat” SEO for years.

Business Wire has been known for excellence and customer service for 50 years now, and we have deliberately avoided SEO gaming, allowing our highly vetted content to speak for itself.  As an engineer and Director of Web Services, you can bet I place a high value on technology, but good decisions and people behind them are what really make a difference in the quality our clients enjoy at Business Wire.  It turns out taking the high road and considering long term over short term success results in excellent SEO outcomes for us and our clients.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 590 other followers

%d bloggers like this: