Reaching Public Policy Audiences: Choosing the Right Words & Platforms

November 24, 2010

by Danny Selnick, Vice President, Public Policy Services, Business Wire DC

BW VP of Public Policy Services Danny Selnick

November’s mid-term elections are over and voters and pundits can talk ad infinitum about who’s in, who’s out, and why — and even what challenges President Obama and his administration face because of the shift in power in the House and a narrowing of the margin for Democrats in the Senate.

We’re sure to see Republicans (and Tea-Party members) try to overturn sections of the recently passed Healthcare Reform Bill.  There’s also talk of repealing recently passed financial and oil industry regulations.  Then there’s the issue of keeping or repealing the “Bush Era Tax Cuts,” the need to balance the federal budget, and free trade — all against the backdrop of creating jobs and getting the economy working again.  Still on the long list of agenda items for Congress and the Administration are education and energy reform.  One thing’s for sure: there will be no shortage of important issues coming up over the next two years.

With “divided government” the new reality in Washington, organizations need to develop a coherent communications strategy to begin building support for “what’s near and dear to them” in advance of when their issue comes up for discussion.  In some cases (like the expected attempt to dismantle parts of the Healthcare Reform Bill) an issue may be “push-started or stalled” at the state level.  Communicators must get their message out not just to media, but also to decision-makers — and perhaps even more importantly, to the voting public directly in order to engage and mobilize support at a grassroots level.  That’s especially true because, as shown in this last three election cycles, the court of public opinion (and voting behavior) is highly fluid.

Public affairs communicators are faced with a variety of challenges as to how they can effectively get their news into the hands of all their intended audiences.  Engaging online audiences, from journalists to activists, helps boost visibility and credibility.  But, first you have to learn and analyze the most popular terms and keywords used to frame issues in media coverage, social media conversations and online searches.  This information can help guide you in writing press releases and other online communications that improves search engine optimization (SEO).

For example, there aren’t universally agreed upon terms to define many of our nation’s debates (one person’s Obamacare is another person’s landmark healthcare legislation), so knowing and researching those terms and their weighted influence on audiences is critical to communications outreach — affecting how your news is seen and viewed and by whom.  A number of free keyword analysis tools are available, and Business Wire experts have written a number of blog posts that detail SEO tips for press releases.

Once you’ve crafted a well-written press release with relevant keywords (and modified landing pages with matching terms), it’s crucial to get your news widely disseminated by an authoritative source to relevant media, influencers, websites and search engines in addition to the individual outreach to your personal contacts.  That’s where we come in.  Business Wire provides a multi-platform approach to news distribution that goes beyond simply emailing and posting news to your website.  While email is just one distribution tool used by communicators, it is limited in reach to contacts on a particular list … and its accuracy is dependent upon any last updates. The newswire, is designed to reach “desks” of reporters and editors, decision-makers at the federal and/or state level with direct feeds, and to give unparalleled online visibility with advanced SEO capabilities and full-text posting to thousands of news and information web sites and systems.  Plus, Business Wire content is a trusted, authoritative news source by Google and other search engines, as well as major news organizations.

Proper use of keywords in a well-written, engaging press release, issued via Business Wire’s Public Policy Wire is among the most effective ways to reach directly key audiences, while engaging the public in your conversation.


Looking to Target Political Media? Tips from Four Political Journalists

July 6, 2010

– by Cecile Oreste, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/DC

If you’re interested in politics, you may recognize the following names: Aaron Blake, Keith Koffler, Erin McPike and Shira Toeplitz.  These four reporters have worked for some of the top political media outlets in the country including POLITICO, National Journal, Roll Call and The Hill.

Despite covering one of the most fast-paced beats in journalism, Aaron, Keith, Erin and Shira took the time to share their views on public relations practices and provide helpful tips on how to pitch political media.

Keith Koffler

Keith Koffler

Keith Koffler is a veteran White House reporter who writes WhiteHouseDossier.com, an independent blog focusing on President Obama and his administration.  In addition to his experience covering the White House, he has also reported on Congress and Washington’s lobbyists at CongressDaily, the National Journal magazine and Roll Call.

When it comes to writing a release, don’t overlook the headline.  “The headline is important because it grabs your attention,” Keith said.  “Pump up your headline.  Make it new, unique or clever.”  In general, don’t be afraid to have a sense of humor.  Avoid using uniform templates and write a release that is enjoyable to read.

Aaron Blake

Aaron Blake is a political blogger for The Washington Post’s PostPolitics.com, which launched back in April.  Prior to joining the Post, he covered campaigns at The Hill newspaper and the Washington bureau of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Aaron talked about the importance of using the inverted pyramid method when writing a press release.  “Get to the point and show why I should care, but don’t provide too much information right away,” he said.  Draw the reader in with a short first paragraph with the most newsworthy information at the top of the release.  Continue to provide material in order of diminishing importance.

Shira Toeplitz

Shira Toeplitz is a national political reporter with POLITICO, the nation’s premiere online news outlet for politics.  Prior to her work at POLITICO, she covered campaigns for Roll Call, as well as presidential and state campaigns for National Journal’s “The Hotline,” a political tip sheet for Capitol insiders.

Shira added to Aaron’s point advising public relations practitioners to “put all of the relevant public figures as high as possible in the release.”  She also recommends writing a release that is relevant to the news of the hour as political journalism is extremely fast paced.  “If your issue is a hot topic currently on the campaign trail or on Capitol Hill, I will be more inclined to cover it in the context of the story I am writing,” she said.

Erin McPike

Erin McPike

Erin McPike covers Senate and House races at CongressDaily.  She also served as National Journal’s lead reporter for “Conventional Nightly” in 2008.  Before joining CongressDaily in 2008, she covered Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign on the road for NBC News.

Erin also talked about how to create content that would appeal to political reporters.  The release does not necessarily have to be about political issues, but can also discuss a constituency that is important to political figures — for example, a specific demographic group that politicians are trying to appeal to.  “Something that will move a coalition of people in one direction or the other may be of interest since politicians make maneuvers based on what their base is doing,” she said.  “The best releases also have good numbers, measurable information and concrete facts.”  This content is more likely than a lengthy quote to get picked up in a story.


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