How To Write A Press Release That Gets Noticed

How To Write A Press Release That Gets Noticed

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As much as the media seems in a state of flux these days the one thing that remains is the need for an organization to disseminate it’s story. Despite the many options via social sharing, the one stable constant is the press release. Proper usage of the press release, remains paramount to get the media’s attention.

While it is rare that a media outlet will use your press release verbatim you can be sure that not following the standards will get your press release tossed into the trash.

In the 25 years I worked in radio, it was a daily task (or toil) to go through the press releases I received. I would often make snap judgment calls because I just didn’t have the time, sometimes without even opening the envelope or reading the email.

Press Release Guidelines

Here are the guidelines you should follow to assure your press release will get noticed and more importantly get your organization noticed:

  1. Keep it to one page – The point of the press release is to peak the interest of the media outlet, writing your entire life story isn’t going to do the job. It will bore them if they even read it at all. Give them one basic thought or idea and a call to action for more information. That’s it.
  2. Use proper formatting – As a broadcaster/reporter rushes through the day’s pile of press releases they need to see what they expect to see in a scanable way. Make it easy for them by including these  9 elements:
    1. For Release Date – right at the top of your press release, is the release date or time. Sometimes there is a reason to withhold information until a certain time, mark that date and time here. If it’s for immediate release mark it as “For Immediate Release”.
    2. Contact Information – put your name and contact information right below the release date info. Make it easy to contact you to get more information or to set up an interview. Use the heading “For More Information”.
    3. The Headline – is by far THE most important part of the press release. Without a good headline, no curiosity will be generated to dig deeper into the story. Write several headlines, come back to them later in the day and see which one grabs your attention the most.
    4. Dateline – is what goes just before the story. Put the location and the date of the release, followed by a dash (-) and then begin the body of your release. It can be bolded or put in between brackets but should stand out as not part of the story.
    5. First Paragraph – now that you’ve hooked them with your headline, tell them what you’re going to tell them in the first paragraph. Don’t get flowery with your writing, tell them the facts to support your headline. More details will come in the second paragraph. Beyond that let them contact you for more information. Remember this release needs to be one page only.
    6. Quotes – beyond the headline and the first paragraph include quotes from the important people around your story. Put simply, quotes bring the story to life by putting real people into the action.
    7. A Call to Action – should fall to the bottom of your content as a final push for them to contact you for more information or to setup an interview with you or with the personality of the press release. Whatever you do, do not hype your organization here. The point is for the reader to take ‘action’ like visit the website for more information or contact you. Hyping or selling here will get you tossed.
    8. The Boilerplate – is a concise paragraph about your company. It’s an old newspaper term to describe a “block” of text that would be used over-and-over again. 2 sentences should suffice.
    9. End of Content Marker – (# # #) is an old print media sign that there is “no further copy to come”. Other ways to mark the end is:  -30- , XXX (Roman numerals for 30) or simply -END-. There is no logical reason to include these today, but can be seen as a respectful tip of the hat, signaling that you know what you’re doing and can be trusted.
  3. Send it to the right person – Know your audience. Sending a press release about your new fleet of trucks to a light rock music radio station will get tossed and a guarantee that anything you send after that won’t even get opened. Build your media list carefully and diligently remembering that people change jobs. Keep it up to date.
  4. Follow up – Wait a day or two after you know the press release was received and send an email or make a phone call to your list. See if they have any questions or would like to set up an interview. Don’t ask them “did you get it”…”did you read it”. The key here is to be a resource to help them do their job. Think of it as a partnership.

Include Pictures

If you’re dealing with print media, you may want to include a link to high res pictures they can use.

NOTE: If you’re looking for wider distribution than just your local market I suggest using PR Web. In a head to head comparison with eReleases done by Soulati Media, PR Web was found to give greater online exposure.

Bottom Line: Mastering the art of the press release will give you the media canvas you need to build your organization’s brand identity.

10 Tips to Make Your Periscope and Facebook Live Broadcasts Successful

10 Tips to Make Your Periscope and Facebook Live Broadcasts Successful

How to Make Your Periscope Facebook Live Broadcasts Successful

From the looks of it ‘live’ video on social media has become a thing. And to help it not turn into a monstrous thing from the deep I’ve put together this list of 10 tips to make your live Periscope and Facebook Live broadcasts successful and help you connect with your audience.

1. Your Title Should Grab their Attention

Think of the title of your Periscope like a newspaper headline. Write a great title that tells the viewer what it’s about and what they will see or learn. It should entice them to tune in. ‘Untitled’ isn’t an option for success.

2. Don’t Waste Time

Don’t spend the opening seconds of the broadcast swinging the camera around the room showing us stuff, print out a copy of your company logo and slogan and shoot that as you welcome us to the broadcast and verbally tell us what’s going to happen.

3. Stay Calm

When you point the camera towards you don’t act surprised by the people logging in to watch, it’s what you were expecting so go with it. Likewise, don’t start giving shout-outs to viewers unless someone of note shows up…like The Pope. It could happen…

4. Don’t Wait to Start

You should be starting the actual content of your live video broadcast within the first :60 seconds, don’t forget that people who joined late will be able to watch the replay for anything they may have missed.

5. Horizontal Please!

It’s one of my biggest pets peeves. My eyes are side-by-side on my head, not one on top of the other. Also, be sure to keep your head in the middle of the frame with your eyes on the imaginary line between the top 3rd and middle third of the frame. In the case of Periscope, when the comments and hearts begin to fly we will be able to still see your head.

6. Have An Agenda

As a guy who spent 25+ years working in radio and TV and doing hours of show prep before each broadcast…please, please have an agenda. Before you go live, outline what you’re going to say and the points that you intend to make. Then follow that outline.

7. Do A Midstream Recap

If you notice a huge spike in viewers, it’s OK to do a quick recap for those who just joined you, but again remember they can watch the replay later. Be brief about it and unless your broadcast is going to be an epic, don’t recap more than once.

8. Questions At the End

During the broadcast, if audience members start asking questions let them know that you will take questions at the end of the broadcast. This will help you stick to your agenda. And unless you have a fantastic memory (I don’t) have them re-ask their question later. Just like your midstream recap be brief and get on with the task at hand.

9. Leave Them Wanting More

After you’ve finished your presentation stay on to answer a few questions from your audience but don’t let this drag on. A good broadcaster knows to leave on a high note. Let them know if they have any further questions to contact you by email or via Twitter.

10. Use Graphics

Any URLs, email addresses, Twitter handles, etc. that you mention during the broadcast should be printed out on a sheet of paper and held up to the camera for people to take note of. Finish off the way you started with your company logo and slogan. Maybe a URL for your product or service.

Use a graphic During Your Periscope Facebook Live Broadcasts

Bonus Tip

Make an appointment with viewers. Either do your broadcast on a regular schedule (though this may not always be ideal) or Tweet 30 minutes in advance to your followers and friends that you’ve got a broadcast coming up. Mention the title too!

It’s a brave new world out there and everybody has the tools to be a broadcaster. As I’ve said before, the artist, broadcaster or craftsperson knows it’s not about the tools…but how you use them.

Let me know if I can help you or if you have any other tips to add to my list.

It’s Not About the Medium Anymore…

It’s Not About the Medium Anymore…

How To Create A Public Relations Action Plan for Non Profit Organizations

How To Create A Public Relations Action Plan for Non Profit Organizations

public relations for non profit organizations

I was recently asked to help a non profit organization create a public relations action plan that they could implement on their own without the use of a PR firm.

Here’s what we did.

There are 2 distinct stages to creating a public relations action plan

  1. setting the groundwork and
  2. executing the plan

 

Stage 1 – Setting the Groundwork

There are 7 steps to building the foundation to your public relations action plan. Do not skip any step or do it only halfway. All of the organization’s leaders need to be involved in this stage in order to come to an unambiguous foundation to build on. I suggest a meeting dedicated to this one task.

1.Who Are You Talking To?
First, define who your end audience is, that is to say who the press will be talking to on your behalf. This will help guide the way you personalize your message. In the case of the non profit organization that I developed the plan for it was two fold: (a) the current members and (b) the members of the general public. The messages they send out to both groups isn’t always the same.

2. What’s Your Message?
Establish the message that you’re trying to disseminate. I know it sounds counter intuitive but don’t talk about your non profit organization, talk about what it does for the community. Your message should serve the needs of your audience…not your non profit organization.

3.Define Your Goal
Define the goal for your public relations efforts. What are you expecting to happen, what will your organization gain? New members? Stronger community ties?

4.Define Your Method
How will you connect with your audience? Press releases aren’t enough, you need to also consider (a) holding open houses for the press to let them meet your organization members and learn more about you, (b) press conferences to make major announcements, maybe even (c) set-up a YouTube channel and start creating video content to get your message out. Plus, it goes without saying that you’ll need to have a website.

5.Assemble Your Press Kit
It doesn’t matter what kind of public relations you’re doing you must have a digital press kit, with high resolution photographs (300dpi) of the leaders of your group and/or your group doing their activity along with documents that explain your organization and its mission. This will need to be on hand to give out at a moments notice. I would also suggest having hard copies of your press kit to hand out but in todays digital age you will use them less often.

6.Who Are Your Media Contacts
Create a list of all the media contacts relevant to your message (print, TV and radio), in your geographic region. These can be purchased. Keep this list updated and refined. For example, if your non profit organization is dedicated to classic cars, don’t include a contact for a local cooking TV show. Also, if one of your media contacts leaves find out who has replaced them and if phone numbers or email addresses change update your info. There’s nothing worse than a list that’s gone “stale” when you have something to announce. Keep your list fresh.

7.Assign A Contact Person
Once you have established the above you’ll need to assign someone responsible for directly interacting with the media. They will need to be available for any media inquiries especially after a press release has been sent out, to co-ordinate interviews between the media and your group’s spokesperson and to set-up and host a press conference. When they are not available a back-up contact person should be assigned. Always keep the back-up contact person up to date.

 

Stage 2 – Putting the Action in your Action Plan

Once all of the above is in place, your contact person will need to reach out to everybody on the list to introduce themselves and your non profit organization in as brief a way as possible. Depending on the size of your list it may take a few weeks of phone calls and/or face-to-face meetings. Remember, first impressions are the lasting impressions when it comes to public relations.

Create a 12-month schedule of important dates for your organization that you want your audience to be aware of and plan events and/or announcements around those times. Do you do an annual oyster party…food drive? Put it on the calendar. Are you planning an open house? Put it on the calendar. Note: don’t put more on your calendar than your contact person will have time to dedicate to especially if they’re a volunteer or do this part time.

You’ll know your public relations action plan is working when the press call you for a quote on something going on in the news.

Plan a meeting to re-examine your public relations action plan and make any necessary adjustments once every 12-months.

Bottom Line
Before you can ask the media to do something for you, you need to be able to provide something for them…to become a resource for information relevant to their readers, viewers and listeners.

Be useful, be timely, be professional and you will receive the attention that your non profit organization deserves.

I look forward to answering your questions and comments below.

 

Radio Is Dead

Radio Is Dead

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I remember the scene vividly. It was the Christmas episode of WKRP called “Bah, Humbug” (Episode 0052 to be exact) a WKRP version of ‘A Christmas Carol’. In the episode Mr. Carlson is haunted by the three ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. Dr. Johnny Fever, as the ghost of Christmas future, shows Mr. Carlson that the station has become totally automated, in fact Herb, who has taken to talking to himself is the only employee left. At the time I saw this I wasn’t working in radio but thought, ‘what a sad thing to happen’!

Well folks get your bags and get ready to disembark because we have arrived at Christmas future! While it takes more than one person to run our radio stations our on air product has become as homogenous as a computer chip generated playlist could make it. We only play the songs that have been tested and we only test the songs that are already being played by everyone else, not wanting to ‘take a chance’ on an unproven song. The focus of our marketing is on the morning show because that’s the only live, local part of our day…if that. To make it worse new radio talent isn’t being developed or can’t be developed because of the state of radio. Does this really mean that radio is dead? Not necessarily.

The Future
What radio has failed to learn are the tricks that marketers have been using for decades, despite having the concepts poured out right in front of us in the form of national commercials. So what can we learn from them? Simply put, ‘Branding’!

Understand How Your Audience Sees You
McDonalds made a mistake when it introduced the ‘adult meal’ because they forgot how their customers saw them…as a restaurant for kids. While it made sense for them to introduce a McMeal for adults, after all it is adults who are bringing their children to eat at the golden arches.

Speak To Your Audience
Back in the days when there were no other real entertainment options it was easy for radio to take itself too seriously, believing listeners to be mere minions cowering beneath powerful broadcast towers. Well, it’s not so much like that anymore. Speak to your listeners in a human voice, both in your promos and imaging as well as your live on-air presentations. As often as possible include the listeners point of view in your promos. Stop trying to “sell” your listener and talk to them as an equal.

Stay Focused
Whenever you sit down to write promos/liners keep your ‘brand’ in mind and never stray from the vision of who your listeners believe who you are.

One of the advantages we have over the Coca-Cola’s of the world is that we ARE a broadcast medium. So why don’t we use that to our advantage?

Branding your radio station should be the singular focus of your ‘anti-Christmas Future’ efforts to increase market share and to make yourself stand out as a viable entertainment option for your audience. Here’s one last thought to help motivate you: imagine your sales director running your radio station, alone from a single computer terminal…scary thought? Get to work on your brand quick!

Why Fit In When You Can Stand Out

Why Fit In When You Can Stand Out

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