5 Things to Stop Doing to Your Press Releases in 2014

March 14, 2014

By Luke O’Neill, Business Wire Editor

In the fast-paced, deadline-driven world of public relations it’s easy to rely on tired, ineffective practices merely to churn out press release after press release. But you’re better than that, right? Folks, the time to adapt and innovate is here. Empower your clients and yourself to be better, and think outside the press release template box. In this age of bite-sized “content” and short attention spans, it is vital to relay your message as efficiently as possible in order to activate as many brand fans as possible. 5 things to STOP going to your press release in 2014 stop sign After all, the press release is no longer a staid form of communication. Today’s press releases are professional yet also personable and conversational. Today’s releases are designed to educate and activate core and secondary audiences. Are yours? Not sure? Check out the list below. Here are the top five things today’s PR professionals must stop doing in press releases in order to be successful in 2014:

1. Stop writing long headlines. Today’s press release headline needs to be accurate and concise. The headline, above all, should catch the attention of intended audiences, and get them to read your release. Headlines particularly need strong verbs and should be devoid of adjectives. Instead, try writing a shorter headline – we suggest about 70 characters long. Don’t forget to include the company names in your headline. After all, it doesn’t make much sense to issue news and leave your name out of the most visible part of the release.

2. Stop over-stylizing. Too many bolds, italics, underlines, super and subscripts and even too many hyperlinks can turn a press release into an eyesore. Too many styles are hard on the eyes; they simply make your release more difficult to read. Use these styles sparingly and usually for emphasis, and watch the readability index for your release increase.

3. Stop overloading releases with keywords. Once upon a time, it was important to cram “relevant” keywords into a press release to appease the search engine optimization gods. Now? Not so much. Search engine algorithms have changed to reward good writing made for human consumption while also satisfying the technical side of web visibility. Business Wire issued a very helpful guide this year on press release optimization (download it here: http://go.businesswire.com/guide-to-press-release-optimization). This guide includes 10 steps to create a better release in 2014.

4. Stop using only embedded links. Press releases should incorporate a mix of spelled-out URLs and embedded links. Spelled-out URLs travel further, i.e. they can be read if you print out the story or seen in an email if there’s no HTML setup. When it comes to links, you want to be strategic. Use links sparingly, and of course don’t forget to test them before distributing your story.

5. Stop writing so much text. News releases, like actual news articles, ought to get to the point quickly. Stop writing long passive sentences and long-winded quotes and focus on shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs, bullets and images to make your point.  Writing press releases is an art form all unto itself. The fastest way to master the art of crafting an actionable, successful press release is to focus on clear, succinct writing and smart imagery. Try it and see for yourself!


Tips to Give Your Best Media Pitch in Under 45 Seconds from the NABJ Convention

November 17, 2011
by Raschanda Hall, Global Media Relations Manager, Business Wire/Chicago
Media pitching is indeed an art form.  Vying for the attention of busy journalists who must fill news holes with limited resources requires precision.  PR practitioners and freelancers had less than a minute to pitch a panel of top editors and reporters from leading national news outlets during the “Pitch Me with Your Best Shot” workshop at this year’s recent National Association of Black Journalists’ (NABJ) convention in Philadelphia.

ABC Good Morning America, The Huffington Post, People and Essence Magazine staff were all part of the panel.  American Idol style, they critiqued those who seized the opportunity to stand in-front of more than 75 workshop attendees which included PR pros and journalists and deliver their impromptu 45-second pitch.

Here are a few practical tips you can use to cut out the fluff when you craft your next pitch.

Trymaine Lee, senior reporter at The Huffington Post, Catherine “Cat” McKenzie, senior producer at ABC’s Good Morning America, Tatsha Robertson, senior editor at People and Bob Meadows, deputy editor at Essence take questions at NABJ annual conference

Have a tie-in and know your media - 45 seconds is fast. Lead with the specific area related to your pitch: What segment would it fall under, what monthly column focuses on your topic or what time of the year is best for your story (ex. Black History Month)?  Show those you’re pitching you follow their media outlet and understand their audience and what they are seeking.  Don’t pitch the producers of The Wendy Williams Show your awesome chef and cookbook.  They don’t do cooking segments.

Embrace the nerd in us and give statistics.  Everyone’s got a little nerd in them.  Statistics can help sell a story.  Journalists want to feel like they’ve taught the audience something new.

Numbers are great but people are better.  Can you provide the reporter or producer access to someone impacted by your organization, get them an interview with the founder of the non-profit or offer a celebrity who has close ties to your issue?  Be sure to let them know if  they can be available immediately.

Show a little passion.  Enthusiasm can be faked but it’s no substitute for passion.  Passion infects and when combined with authenticity, it shows.  One of the publicists in attendance pitched a story on the number of missing and abused African-American women and children who get only minimal news coverage everyday. Her pitch evoked a standing ovation from the crowd and nearly brought members of the panel to tears–probably not her goal, but impressive nonetheless.  Passion moves people to take action.  When you’re crafting your pitch don’t cut out the passion.

Raschanda Hall


Press Release Issuers Can Target Influencers via Business Wire’s SmartBrief Partnership

October 12, 2011

The broad brush, and the single strategic stroke: when it comes to press releases, you need to do both.

Business Wire recently deepened its four-year partnership with SmartBrief, a custom publisher of targeted industry email newsletters.  The new agreement expands from 12 to 80 the number of targeted industry trade email publications to which Business Wire clients will have access when sending their press releases around town or around the globe.

The expanded access straddles a broad spectrum of industry and association email newsletters-from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners to the Culinary Institute of America to the New York Society of Security Analysts and everything in between.

Each SmartBrief newsletter is co-branded with a leading trade association or professional society and provided free of charge to subscribers. Those interested, may sign up at SmartBrief.  Business Wire clients can add SmartBrief distribution to the targeted industry audience of their choice in conjunction with their Business Wire geographic circuit by adding the newsletter choice in the Special Instructions area of Business Wire Connect when uploading their press release.

Click-throughs and metrics are incorporated into Business Wire’s comprehensive Newstrak reports, allowing clients to monitor the reach of the extra visibility.

You can view the list of SmartBrief newsletters available in which to feature your Business Wire release for an additional fee or contact your  local Business Wire office to get more information on how to target SmartBrief subscribers directly with your news.


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.

Social Media Analysis: is Twitter Measurement Given More Importance Than it Deserves?

June 16, 2011

by Sandy Malloy, Information Services

Articles like this one in PR Daily  make me cranky. 

It’s not that I have anything against companies that sell social media analysis services. I do marvel, however, at the misguided emphasis on data that is debateably important (if not completely unnecessary, as I commented  recently.)   Just because software can measure a particular parameter does not mean it’s a key metric.

For example, social media analysis services often dwell on Twitter.  In a recent study called The Social Habit 2011 conducted by Edison Research and Arbitron,  researchers found that Twitter is as well known as Facebook in the U.S, (with 92% and 93% familiarity, respectively) yet only 8% of Americans use it.  Other interesting insights:

  • Facebook is not only more popular among Americans ages 12 and over, it reaches 51% of this group vs. just 8% for Twitter.  (“Reaches” is defined as those who either “use” or “have” a profile page.)
  • When it comes to interacting with brands and companies on social networks, Facebook rules with  80% reporting it as their preference vs. 6% for Twitter.
  • The vast majority (72%) of those polled cited “none” as the social network they use for making buying decisions.   Of those who turn to social networks for help in buying decisions, 24% use Facebook while only 1% use Twitter-a stunning 24-to-1 advantage.

So why is Twitter often emphasized in social media analysis?  Because counting retweets and mentions is such an easy undertaking.  It’s much more “do-able” than monitoring and analyzing Facebook posts because Twitter is open and Facebook is restricted (perhaps not restricted enough for some users). If a Facebook post is private, it is not captured by typical monitoring and analysis software.

Bottom line: at the moment, Facebook is much more influential than Twitter.  Rather than simply accepting metrics skewed toward data which is a distant second in importance, use your own critical judgement and, as much as necessary, your own internal analytics, to create a realistic social media picture of your brand’s influence.


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.

Takeaways:

• 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.


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.


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