PRWeek asks: What is the Impact of Panda 4.0 on Today’s Press Release?

July 2, 2014

By Serena Ehrlich, Director of Social and Evolving Media

Earlier today, PRWeek tackled a topic on the minds of communication professionals around the globe – the impact of Google’s Panda updates on the press release.

logoSmallIn this piece, they ask experts from newswires and agencies alike whether this change will kill or enhance the press release.  Every respondent agreed – the press release is not dead.  In fact, thanks to this change, which effectively removed low quality content from mingling with high-level content, PR professionals have a terrific opportunity to reach and activate key audiences.  Today’s PR pros are in fact seeing greater success and visibility within key audiences with highly targeted, well-written, multimedia enhanced news.

Read more about Panda 4.0: Good news for content, bad news for link-stuffing at PR Week.  Curious on the best ways to craft a release in 2014?  Check out our free guide.


Eight Reasons the Media Hate You (And How You Can Fix It)

June 4, 2014
By Stephanie Jo Peksen, Account Executive, Business Wire New York

If you’re like most public relations professionals, you have a list for everything – a to-do list, a client list and, of course, a media outreach list. When time gets tight, you may occasionally succumb to the temptation to send out a blanket pitch to your entire press list, and then cross your fingers while hoping that all your clients’ dreams come true. A word of advice: don’t. The key to garnering coverage in 2014 is by helping reporters help you. Otherwise you risk landing in the junk folder – permanently.

8 Reasons the Media Hates You (And How You Can Fix it) By Stephanie Jo Peksen, Account Executive, Business Wire New YorkTo help you connect with the press who really do need your input, we compiled comments from editors, outlining the top eight reasons why reporters occasionally hate you – and how to make them love you.

1)      You Didn’t Tailor Your Pitch: “It’s hard work, but work worth doing: tailor your pitch to me. Know who I am and what I cover and exactly what might interest me about your product/person/idea other than just ‘IT EXISTS!'”  says Allen Salkin, author of From Scratch: Inside the Food Network, and freelance journalist for NY Times and other publications.

In other words, make sure you’ve at least looked at the publication and understand its audience and news stance. Are you pitching a local publication about a product launch and including a general press release and product sheet? Fine, but find an authentic local hook – don’t just say “people chew gum in New York, so your New York publication should cover our national launch of chewing gum.” There needs to be an honest connection with the reporter’s readers, and the issues covered by the media outlet – find that connection, and use it as your lede.

 

2)      Your Headline is a Snooze and Your Lede is MIA: “If the subject line of your email pitch isn’t interesting and concise, you will get deleted before you’re read. Same goes for your press release headline: if you leave the meaty stuff at the bottom, it will never get read,” says Nicole Bode, Deputy Editor of News, DNAInfo New York.

It may seem self-explanatory that brevity is the soul of wit, but we dare you to review your last few press releases or press pitches. Could you read the headline or subject aloud without the need to gasp for air? Are the most crucial details easily found within the headline/sub-head or first paragraph? If not, get cracking – and revising. Same goes for voicemails, elevator pitches and topics for short meetings.

3)      You Had Truly Bad Timing: “Not understanding a publication’s production schedule is a problem. If a magazine goes to print on Tuesday, Monday night is not the time to say ‘Ok, we’re ready to go on the record now!’” and think that you’ll make it into that issue. There are always exceptions, but they are not made with ease. Get to know the publishing schedule of a media outlet you hope to do lots of work with. It’s not an excuse to say that you waited to the last minute because you were afraid it would get out before an agreed upon date. If you think a writer or editor is that unprofessional, you shouldn’t work with them anyway,”says Xania Woodman, Senior Editor, Vegas Seven Magazine.

If you don’t know your key outlets’ timetables, start gathering them now, and act accordingly. No sending press info about a Super Bowl-related product two days before the game: No editor will have time to review and your client will be shortchanged. Similarly, unless it’s breaking news or you specifically know the editor or reporter is working that day, don’t pitch press on a major holiday. Take a break yourself – the media will respect you more if you’re not emailing them while they’re BBQing for Memorial Day or July 4th.

 

4)      You Were Too Chummy: “Among my pet peeves are publicists who address me as Mr., and others who write to me as if we know each other, when we have never before spoken or met (e.g. ‘Hi Jamie! Hope you’ve been having a great week…’ How about just ‘Dear Jamie, I represent Tazo Teas, and I would love to get to know you. I have a new product that I thought might be an excellent fit for your publication…’” says Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh, Editor-in-Chief of CarleyK.com.

A simple LinkedIn search would reveal that Ms. Kiffel-Alcheh is in fact, female, and yes, sometimes the simplest declarative introductions can be best. Does your client watch its channel’s daily segment on XYZ, and you think the client is a perfect fit for this reason? Say it clearly and professionally, and you may be surprised at the very pleasant response.

5)      You Ignored the Media’s Main Requests: “In business journalism, some publications require that I find out the revenues of a company–or they won’t accept a story from me about that firm. Every once in a while, a publicist will, after hearing this, go around me to see if they can persuade an editor at the publication to bend that rule, which will usually annoy the editor. Or they will set me up on an interview with a business owner who clearly has no intention of sharing financials, even though we’ve agreed ahead of time that this info will be part of the interview. It’s not always the publicist’s fault, but it ends up being a waste of time for all concerned, since I can’t use the interview in the end,” says Elaine Pofeldt, a contributing editor at Crain’s and a contributor to Money, Fortune and Inc. 

Reporters get frustrated when people set up follow-up interviews without all the information at the ready – so unless you are prepared to burn a bridge, don’t offer a brick wall. Pre-plan and know what information you can offer and to whom. Even if you have limited resources, come up with a Plan B. If the editor says it’s super important, believe it and get that info, or simply decline and come back another time when you have everything he or she needs to build the story. If you build a good rapport, you may wind up quoted in a trend feature or commenting on another company in print. But don’t ignore their original must-haves.

6)      You Sent a Wall of Text: “I might be different than lots of publications. I don’t want to copy/paste/print your release. I want the mechanics to find my own angle. That means links, bullets, bites. I could care less that ‘We are pleased’ was quoted by this or that important person. I agree deeply with David Meerman Scott’s jargon buzzword bingo opinion, where it seems that every solution is ‘next generation, world class, scalable, blah blah blah.’ Skip the adjectives and save me some time in finding my own angle into the story,” says Chris Brogan, Publisher of Owner Magazine, and New York Times best-selling author of six books, including The Impact Equation (with Julien Smith).

Stop calling your client “ground-breaking,” and please do take care in how you set up a press release or a pitch, with easy-to-grasp formatting, so the reporter can review it and figure out if it’s a good match. Business Wire releases are distributed in XHTML, so use bullets to focus on key points, send your release with boldface and italics to highlight issues, and make sure you include multiple relevant and easy-to-access hyperlinks. It’s not just for consumers to engage and generate click-through data for your client (although that’s a plus), but for reporters who need to know very quickly how to reach you, your client, or get more information about the product/event/issue you’re promoting. Adding a photo to your release also helps paint the clearest picture – just make sure to include a proper caption in case it’s used.

7)      You Gave Way Too MUCH information:   “You’re likely not to get any coverage if you send over so much stuff that it won’t download, or if you send a giant press release that’s too long. Simplicity works best for me. Instead of a huge file, I’d click through to see media at a link,” says Tara Cox, Managing Editor, Men’s Journal.

 

While each editor and reporter will have different needs and timetables, crashing someone’s computer with your pitch is never a good idea. Whether you’re sending a well-crafted email blast or a wire press release with well-chosen multimedia, use these digital missives to clearly show your assets and pique interest. Video, images, and multimedia are great, but make sure the links work and files are easy to open.      

 

8)      You Were Boring: “Journalists are busy and some get hundreds of press releases a day (I know I do!), so use a bit of humor in your email to me and include a story with some passion so it can really stand out. A press release can be more than a collection of data. Make me truly excited about what you’re trying to promote. If you were a reader, what story would capture YOUR attention?” says Katherine Brodsky, freelance writer for publications like Variety, Entertainment Weekly, USA Weekend, Mashable, and MovieMaker Magazine.

 

Media professionals face tight deadlines and tough demands, but the ones you hope to reach for coverage are people, not robots- they do respond to genuine feeling. Don’t forget what the R in Public Relations means and try relating and connecting for a change, and yes, add some style and interest where you can. If you can use that to establish trust and connection, and deliver on your promises, anything can happen.

 


Cutting Clickbait – How to Write a Compelling Headline

March 31, 2014
Matt Bio Pic By Matt Allinson, International Media Relations Supervisor

Greg Rasa has worked at the Seattle Times for 27 years. Suffice it to say, he’s seen a lot of headlines. He’s also written a lot of them … thousands of them. At a recent talk he was giving on writing clickable headlines, I asked the long time news editor if he could recall the very first headline he ever wrote. “I can’t,” he said, “but I bet no one clicked on it.”

The headline is … arguably … more important now than it has ever been in the news and PR industries. Ads, paywalls, enticing paying customers, and attracting attention to important issues depend heavily on lassoing some incredibly short attention spans. People may last only a few seconds on your page or your story or your press release before fluttering away, but it behooves you to at least get them there.

But how do you write a compelling, clickable headline without always depending on the age-old use of yellow journalism/clickbait? Mr. Rasa, The Times’ news editor, offered up numerous solutions during his hour plus seminar, but these were some of my favorites.
headlines(click to enlarge)

USE ACTION VERBS – Honk, Fizzle, Careen, Blast, Chew, etc. … Action verbs are known attention grabbers.

  •          Have some fun with the English language (or whatever language you use).

FRONT LOAD BEST STUFF – Google crawls content from the top down, first to last, and that includes headlines.

  •          Use Google Trends to locate relevant keywords based on specific criteria.
  •          If you’re writing a press release, always get your company name into the headline when applicable.

BE CONVERSATIONAL – Write headlines like the way people talk … use natural words and syntax. An example:

Bad Headline = Jobs Report Pressures Obama Re-election Outlook

Would you ever say, “Hey, you’re pressuring my outlook?”

Good Headline = Lingering Joblessness an Election Problem for Obama

BE SPECIFIC AND CLEAR – Don’t be too general and/or vague. It’s OK to tease the reader a bit, but try to be as straightforward as possible.

Vague Headline = NYC Looks to Stop Spreading Bedbug Infestations

Specific Headline = Bedbugs: 1 in 15 New Yorkers Had Them Last Year

BEFORE YOU SEND, LOOK AGAIN – Take a moment to put yourself in the readers shoes.

  •          Does the headline you wrote make sense to someone who has no idea what the story is about?

More tidbits and thoughts on Mr. Rasa’s presentation can be found here and here. And if you ever get the opportunity to see Mr. Rasa speak, I cannot recommend doing so enough. Headlines are important … go learn a thing or two about them.


Which Publications Inform Today’s Leading Communicators?

March 18, 2014

By Serena Ehrlich, Director of Social and Evolving Media

Earlier this year we asked blog readers to share their top daily reads.  We wanted to see which publications are considered must-reads among today’s communications experts.  Do communicators rely on mainstream media to keep them up to date through mainstream media, like The New York Times?  Industry trade magazines such as Mashable?  Or social networks including Twitter and LinkedIN?

The results were somewhat surprising.  With 152 respondents to date, our survey shows:

  • Just 20% of respondents said they read mainstream media such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today on a daily basis, yet these publications continue to be the top-desired coverage targets for small and big B2B and B2C companies alike.
  • Only 9% of those who replied use LinkedIn as a news source, yet LinkedIn continues as a top conversion platform for many businesses.
  • 17% noted Twitter as their primary news source, the highest of any social network, with one communicator smartly pointing out that Twitter’s speed makes  tools such as Google Alerts less valuable.
  • 14% relied on PR industry trades suggesting that these outlets, while valuable, may not produce content frequently enough to warrant a daily read.
  • A mere 2-11% read highly targeted social, digital or SEO-oriented blogs and articles. While this may be because these topics are heavily covered  in other industry publications, we were still surprised by such a low number.

What do you think?  Which publications are you reading every day?  Take two minutes to fill out this survey yourself, and we will continue to share updates as the data change.

Business Wire Reader Survey

Business Wire Reader Survey

You can find the survey here:  http://blog.businesswire.com/2014/02/27/what-publications-to-top-marketers-read-business-wire/


Increasing Tweets of Your Press Release: ClickToTweet 101

February 17, 2014

By Julie Nastri, Business Wire

It is common knowledge in the media industry that there’s a science behind effective use of Twitter.  From organically growing quality followers, to devising a salient tweet, or selecting the appropriate tool to manage Twitter presence, almost every decision one makes is based on data. While it’s true that keeping abreast of the dynamic Twittersphere can sometimes be daunting, there are free Twitter tools, such as  ClickToTweet, that eliminate some of the drudgery from bolstering Twitter presence and publicizing content.

In a nutshell
ClickToTweet can be accessed through its website or by downloading a browser plug-in. Users visit the site, create a custom tweet, and the site generates an embeddable link which users then share by including it in press releases or blog copy. When a reader clicks on the ClickToTweet link, they are taken to a pre-populated Twitter status update and prompted to tweet it. Voila! ClickToTweet ramps up tweetability without requiring much effort from either side. By prepopulating the tweet, ClickToTweet decreases the barrier to entry, making sharing quick and easy.

Step-by-step
Creating a ClickToTweet link is as easy as sending one out. Access ClickToTweet by visiting www.clicktotweet.com. The first thing visitors to the site will see is the following 3-step guide:

Although these steps are pretty clear, there are a few important points for both newbies and seasoned tweeters to keep in mind.

Make the most of your content.
Let’s say the content you’d like to share is a press release about an upcoming conference presentation. You’ve already created a compelling press release announcing the event and relaying the specifics.  Now, it’s time to decide what you’d like to ask your audience to “click to tweet.”  When crafting your tweet, think of it much like a (tasteful) one liner. Concise, yet catchy. This is your chance to pique public interest in your topic and to lead interested parties back to your press release, promoting the event and your company or brand. And, if you’re on top of your game and your news is compelling and relevant to them, they’ll also tweet your ClickToTweet link, thereby calling their followers to check out—and possibly share—your content. This kicks off an entire sharing cycle, with each influencer driving their  followers into and through your marketing and sales funnel.

Not sure what to feature in your tweet? First determine who your audience is – the average press release contains elements relevant to each buyer persona. Distributing tweets customized by readers is a great way to kick off social sharing. In addition, consider the potential highlights of your press release. Is there a new product being released that’s been getting a lot of buzz? Is a major personnel announcement expected? Is the company rebranding? These are details you can feature to hook followers. Multiple ClickToTweet links may be included in a press release, allowing readers to share each compelling bullet point, but be careful not to overdo it. Although two or three are ok, remember that just one ClickToTweet link has the potential to start a promising chain reaction, if well formulated. Think quality.

Draft the ClickToTweet link

  • Try to come up with something more compelling than the press release headline. This will ensure the best success (retweets and link clicks) of your tweet.
  • Include a link to the release itself, as well as any relevant hashtags.
  • Remember that Twitter has a 140-character limit. Maximize your Twitter real estate by using a URL shortener like bitly.com to shorten the link to your blog or press release.  (ClickToTweet will automatically shorten links, but this can get messy if the URL and tweet are close to 140 characters before you even begin.)
  • Leave room (20-30 characters) for retweeters to add their own comments.
  • Mention your twitter handle so that you can track your retweets. However, avoid beginning your tweet with the @ symbol, as it will limit visibility.
  • When embedding the ClickToTweet link in your press release, be strategic. Make it stand out, but keep it near relevant content. You can change the anchor text so that its message is something other than “ClickToTweet”… but coming up with something better may prove to be more challenging than expected.

Enjoy the perks.
After drafting and embedding your link in your final press release, blog post, or email, sit back and leave the rest of the work up to your audience. Watch as the retweets keep your Twitter feed active and use the analytic tools on the ClickToTweet website to track and map click activity. Remember:  Content can only be so effective without successful, strategic integration with the right combo of social media presence and tools.

* Basic links are free and unlimited, but tracking and stats are not provided. Users are also allowed a limited number of free, trackable links, but after that, they must either pay to upgrade, or delete old links to make room for new links (and therefore lose all their tracking information and stats).


How to Pitch a Story: Think Like a News Director

July 8, 2013
by Joyce Thian, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/Canada
Joyce Thian

Joyce Thian

If you want to know as a PR pro exactly how to get your stories “on the air,” news directors should be your go-to people. But it’s not every day that you get to sit down and chat with a news director—they’re busy people, after all, running entire news rooms and news departments on a day-to-day basis.

Luckily, this year’s RTDNA national conference (June 13-15) featured a lineup of back-to-basics workshops, one of which was a stellar “Making the Pitch” session with Dave Trafford, news director at Global News Toronto.

Dave Trafford

Dave Trafford

Trafford, an award-winning journalist and bona fide news veteran, took the time to share his tips on story pitches with a roomful of PR pros, freelance journalists, reporters, and producers. His insights into what works and what doesn’t when it comes to pitching offered that rare glimpse into the mind of a news director:

  1. Your idea has to be better than mine. Get me interested because if I’m interested, an audience will be too.
  2. If you’re going to pitch anything, it has to be about me. A good pitch will be about the person you are pitching to, no matter who they are. Make them care and relate it to them personally.
  3. Some of the best pitches are the ones that have left me mad afterwards. If the pitch provokes a reaction, I might want to see that story.
  4. Don’t confuse an idea with a pitch and don’t pitch by asking questions or listing some qualities. The pitch is essentially the first part of telling a great story.
  5. Good pitches land in the strike zone. Make a narrow pitch—be specific and focused enough that you can pitch your story in as short a time as it will be on the air. (Interested in more baseball-inspired PR tips? Check out this blog post from our global media relations director, Raschanda Hall!)
  6. Don’t overlook the things you find obviously entertaining or interesting; great characters can make great pitches or stories.

Business Wire Gives Back with Contribution to Journalism Scholarship

June 24, 2013
by Matt Allinson, International Media Relations Supervisor
Matthew Allinson

Matt Allinson

At the 2013 Western Washington chapter of the Society of Professional Journalist’s annual awards gala, Pacific Lutheran University journalism student Leah Traxel picked up a scholarship and recognition as an up-and-comer in the world of journalism. Business Wire was there and was honored to have the opportunity to contribute to the scholarship awarded to Ms. Traxel.

Ms. Traxel, a third year student, currently works part-time for The News Tribune (Tacoma) and is also the Journalism Team Leader for MediaLab, an on-campus multimedia agency and applied internship program. Upon completion of her degree at PLU, Ms. Traxel hopes to pursue post-graduate studies in digital media and would one day like to teach.

I had a chance to catch up with Ms. Traxel after the event and she was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us.

International Media Relations Supervisor Matt Allinson and scholarship winner Leah Traxel

International Media Relations Supervisor Matt Allinson and scholarship winner Leah Traxel

1) Who or what inspired you to study journalism and pursue it as a career?

I had no idea I wanted to be a journalist until I took a class from Robert Wells, a former journalist who saw my writing and asked if I had considered the field. I hadn’t, but I’ve always been a successful writer, and I knew I didn’t want to get stuck doing one thing over and over again as a career, so journalism seemed like a good option. Rob hooked me up with a couple of local weekly papers, and I started freelancing the fall of my sophomore year.

2) How can you and your generation help the journalism industry successfully transition into the digital world?

I really believe Marc Prensky hit the mark with his comparison of digital “natives” and “immigrants”. My generation is definitely one of natives, and as with any skill, it’s our responsibility to share it with previous generations. 

I think my generation can help journalism transition by working as an example of how citizens and journalists can work together to produce the best coverage. Citizen journalists on their own can be irresponsible, but journalists on their own are slowly becoming obsolete. I think the best course of action would be to utilize the strengths of both practices, and create relevant, accurate, and useful content for the public.

3) What will you be doing this summer?

This summer I am interning at The News Tribune and at PLU’s University Communications.

4) Where would you like to be seven years from now?

Seven years from now, I would like to be reporting on technology, and maybe using my background in math and computer science to do some technical writing.

5) If you were somehow able to capture the first verified photo of a Sasquatch while on a hike, where would you publish it first?

If I had the first photo of Sasquatch, I would probably publish it in National Geographic. However, I would only do that if it was determined that s/he could be a threat to public safety or if publication could prevent him/her from coming to harm. If s/he has gone to that much trouble to stay hidden for this long, it wouldn’t feel right to exploit him/her for personal gain or notoriety.

We wish Ms. Traxel the very best in her future endeavors and feel confident, with people like her in the profession, that journalism is in good hands moving forward.


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