It doesn’t always have to be a press release

As I finished up a release for class last week I wondered if it was always a must for PR professionals then I came across an article on prdaily.com that answered my question. There are alternatives to press releases if it is ok with your client or boss. The article goes on to list alternatives that PR professionals should be using. Press Release Alternatives

The first alternative includes a pitch email. Organize your pitch in the form of a story and utilize bullet points that emphasize the most important details you want the reporters to use. Before you send the pitch you need to google your reporter your sending to ensuring that they still work for the publication and making sure that the articles they have written before fit into the same genre as yours. Then you should write a short paragraph telling them you have read some of their articles and explain why  your article will fit their genre. Make the rest of the email persuasive so they will want to use your pitch and write a subject line that is an attention getter.

Another alternate way was to make a website posting similar to a blog post using story telling language.

Sending tweets and Facebook messages was also recommended. With facebook messages a link or photo should be included in the message and with tweets if you don’t get a response you should follow up with an email pitch.

The pitch email sounds similar to a media advisory to me but I think that it will be useful in the future. These alternatives may not be the best for all situations and I don’t think they should be overused by professionals because it may question their credibility, but they do seem to be a little easier and take less time than a release does. I think that it is important to have alternatives because not only do releases get tiring for a PR standpoint but journalists and reporters more than likely get tired of reading them all the time. These alternatives are also important because they use computer mediated communication which is becoming the most popular tool for professionals to utilize while working together. Relationships are easier to build through computer mediated communication and that is what PR is all about right? These alternatives are creative yet strategic and should be used to a PR  professional advantage.

 

 

 

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Chapter 8: Publicity photos and graphics

In the book, Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques, chapter eight explains that photos and graphics add interest and variety to stories. According the chapter pictures can also explain things better than words alone as well.

Photos that are used need to have high resolution and good contrast as well as sharp detail. This makes the photo reproduce better in publications. There are many different subject matters that could used for photos. New executives, a ground breaking or an award ceremony can all be seen as suitable subjects for photos. The standard grip and grin of people accepting an award can be a boring pose but it is good and not going out of style any time in the near future so it is a safe bet. On most occasions, there should not be more than 3-4 people in the photo because you want to keep faces identifiable for readers.

When taking photos it is important to minimize background or foreground so good composition that emphasize detail can be taken. It is also usually better to take action shots because people like to see something happening before their eyes, it makes them more interested.

Photos for publicity that will be sent to the media should be taken by professionals. It may cost more but it is worth it because you will get  usable better quality pictures. As a PR professional it is your job to figure out the purpose of the picture and its objective. When working with photographers the book suggests that you ask three questions before hiring. The questions include asking if they shoot digital, seeing examples of pictures they have taken similar to the photos you need, and questioning their contacts with the media and what they could do to help get the photos distributed.

Another important thing to remember when working with photographers is you need to make sure you have a written contract with them. This avoids misunderstandings and acknowledges copyright agreements and cost of materials. The photo session needs to be well organized by the PR professional. As a PR professional it is your job to make arrangements before the session such as having a list of the pictures you want taken, knowing who you need and where you need them, getting props organized, and making sure the location for photo session is available and orderly.

All photos need to be sent to the media with captions. These captions should not be obvious but should give the reader additional information that is not apparent by just looking at the photo. The captions should be 2-4 lines when sent with a news release.

There are such things as photo news releases that are often referred to as PNR’s. These are used when the PR practitioner decides to send out just a photo with a larger caption written in active tense to the media. There are no news releases used with PNR’s. Without having to worry about a news release a PR practitioner can get photos distributed to the media quicker.

The chapter also mentions that not just photos can be used to complement releases but charts, diagrams, models, maps, line drawings, and clip art can be used.

Photo news releases is something I found extremely interesting and useful in chapter eight. Before reading the chapter I was not aware that PNR’s were used. These are important because it is a quicker way for the professionals to get what they need into the media while it is still relevant and newsworthy. A lot of things are extremely time sensitive so I think PNR’s are a great way to get them started into the media and then with some given time provide more of a news release. I am glad that I am now aware of PNR’s and I think they will continue to be important.

PR practitioners and journalists-keeping the relationship beneficial for both ends

Today I was catching up with the latest PR news on PRdaily.com and came across an interesting story entitled, “5 bad PR practices that will frusturate journalists.”

5 common sense mistakes PR practitioners make that anger journalists

Since PR practitioners work hand in hand with journalists and want to get their stories into the media they need to keep a healthy relationship with them so this article immediately intrigued me.

The author who gives message and media training sessions uses an example of a time a PR practitioner gave him false information on something that was pretty important. The author, who was a journalist, explains that he was calling the PR practitioner to get information on an avalanche that had blocked main highways and ski resorts. He wanted to get a quote from a PR practitioner who was working for one of the resorts and was shocked when the practitioner told him the avalanche was not having an impact. Immediately after talking with him the journalist saw a story on television from the same skiing area where traffic was being directed to turn around. Obviously the journalist had been lied to.

When I read this I could not believe that PR practitioner would put himself into that situation. Not only was it unethical to provide false information but why would he want to be telling potential customers to come that way when they would just be sent home by traffic control? If the journalist would not have caught the story on the television it could have possibly ruined not only the PR practitioner’s reputation but the journalists as well. This is something that we are taught at the very beginning of PR classes so how this professional thought it was a good idea to lie is beyond me.

The article goes on to explain all the mistakes PR professionals could make when giving journalists ideas. The mistakes will hinder the relationship with the journalists which will end up hurting the PR practitioner even more in the end.

The list of mistakes includes

1) Sending out a media release and then not having a spokesperson ready or able to discuss it. 2) Spinning the news which is disguising bad news with one piece of good news even if it is not related. 3) Lying which is what the practitioner did about the ski resort. 4) Not doing research first to follow up and make sure the story or idea has already ran in the media outlet. 5) Pitching story to two or more reporters at the same publication without knowledge of either one because they will find out.

These all need to be avoided by PR practitioners because maintaining good relationships with journalists is vital for your career. It is not worth hurting a beneficial relationship and these common sense mistakes should be avoided. Not only are these common sense mistakes but they are all also unethical and should not be taken lightly by journalists or by your boss if you make them. We all need to remember that an important element of PR is maintaining relationships and we should not worth burning bridges with people that can benefit us in the future.

Chapter 7: News Features and Op-Ed’s

In the book, Public Relation Writing and Media Techniques, chapter seven discusses features, op-ed’s and letters to the editor. Features are used to add background info, make human interest, or create understanding in a more imaginative way. For a person to be able to write a good feature they need to be creative and have intuition. Features are used for soft news, which means they are not as time sensitive. All features have the potential to provide more information to consumers, give background and context about organizations, provide behind the scenes perspectives, give a human dimension to situations and events and generate publicity.

There are four ways to proceed when writing features. The most common is to write a general feature and distribute it to media outlets.

Another way is to write and exclusive feature for a particular publication. The first thing you need to do in this situation is to do research on the publication to see if they used articles like yours before. If they have then you should proceed by sending your query to the publication. In your proposal you should include outlines that explain why your story should be used.

The third way to proceed when writing a feature to get publish is to make a pitch to the journalist for your feature. This way you don’t write the story the journalist does but you do provide them with all the info they’d need to write it. This gives you an advantage because it takes less time but the downfall is that they might go about it by writing it differently than how you wanted it to be.

The last way is to post the feature on the organization’s website.

There are many different types of features discussed in the chapter. One is the Application Story which focuses primarily on how consumers can use a product or service in new and innovative ways. This will increase consumer’s awareness on the product or service and help to increase it’s usage.

Another type of feature is used through research studies. Surveys and polls can be used. These are usually done for contemporary lifestyles or common situations in the workplace. It can also be used for seasonal themes.

Backgrounder’s are another type of feature stories. This shows a problem and how it is solved by the organization or product. Or backgrounders can be used to show how technology or product has evolved over the years.

Features are also often Personality profiles. The book states that people like to read about people, often celebrities really. But personality profiles make celebrities seem more like regular people by humanizing them and showing the reader a glimpse at their everyday lives. This is also true about CEO’s and high end executives featured in business magazines. These are usually written by journalists but public relations professionals have the job of assisting the journalist by selling the idea of a profile, making the person available, providing background information, and arranging photo shoots sometimes. Personality profiles can be used for more than just celebrities or high up people in successful businesses. These can be written about people that have odd jobs or an interesting hobby that sets them apart from others.

Historical pieces are another type of feature story. Anniversaries, major changes, centennials these are all worthy of a feature story. When the organization or service has a long history the public thinks of that as a factor that makes it more stable and reliable. But to get a historical feature the organization or product does not always need to be 100 years old.

Formatting features is important and different than formatting a news release. Features still include headlines, datelines, contact information and letterheads. But something that is different is they are not length sensitive. The author of the book explains they need to be long enough to tell the story and then end. There are two kinds of headlines that are usually used when writing features. The informational/summary headline and the headline that raises curiosity in readers. The lead in the feature has the purpose of attracting the reader and getting them to read the whole thing. It is usually good to use a problem solving angle. The lead needs to be brief and concise and show the unusual part of the story. Features include direct quotes, examples and illustrations, descriptive words that paint pictures, and information that is presented in unusual ways. If it does run longer than 200-400 words it is important to provide subheads.

Writing Op-Ed’s, which are opposite than the editorial page,  is important to do too. These present a variety of views on current news events, government policies, pending legislation, and social issues. Op-Ed’s reach audiences that are often opinion leaders that are seen as influentials. These are short and to the point, 400-750 words usually. 3-4 word processed and double spaced.

Letters to the Editor are the next best thing to Op-Ed’s to get published. These are 200 words max and are required to be temperate and factual. The subject should be identifiable in the opening paragraph and state the theme as well as the viewpoint.

All the information in chapter seven is important to PR professionals. Features are what  I though was most important. The whole point of having a PR professional is to get the person, organization, or product to be seen in the media in a positive way to their audiences. Features that get published into the media are a useful tool for them to utilize in getting their client out there in a positive light. Features do require a certain level of creativity. PR professionals could become more creative and better feature writers by reading a lot of featured publications. This goes along with what we have discussed in class on why it is so important for PR professionals to be well rounded individuals that are knowledgeable in a variety of topics of interest for consumers. Features are a way for PR professionals to make the news for their clients rather than just sitting around waiting for it to happen. I also think the Op-Ed section should be utilized because it is important to get strong opinion leaders to have an opinion on your client, especially if the opinion is positive and can influence others to utilize your clients product or service. Public relations professionals should take full advantage of the tools that are discussed in chapter seven of the book and I am glad that I am well aware of all of these now.

 

Social Media for Public Relations

In one of my classes we have been discussing social media tools that can be used for public relation professionals. We are talking about tools that are different than Facebook or Twitter. Social media has become a huge part of the public relations career. There are so many social media tools that can be used to benefit not only clients but practitioners and it is important to know what they are and how to use them.

One social media tool that we became familiar with was Help A Reporter Out, also known as HARO.(Help A Reporter Out )HARO is free to use and the way you acquire it is by simply signing up by email. Once you sign up you receive three emails a day with different categories of interest. Under these categories are queries journalists or professionals have posted to look for sources for stories of information they need. Along with the queries comes the persons contact information so you are in direct contact with the person from the beginning.  This is useful for public relations practitioners because it connects them with journalists and it can help them to understand what the journalist is looking for in a story. This website is extremely beneficial but should not be taken advantage of. One of the major rules of HARO is to not spam reporters with other pitches or story ideas that are not what they are looking for. If you do get caught doing that you will be sent warning emails or could possibly get banned from HARO.

Another social media tool we talked about was Squidoo.(Squidoo) I thought that Squidoo was an extremely important tool that PR professionals could learn to use.  Squidoo helps PR professionals make pages for their clients that can enhance their image. Squidoo is like a blog but it is on a single subject in a form known as a lens. Squidoo contains lenses on a large variety of topics that can generate traffic.

Alltop was also introduced in our class. Alltop is something that can be used to follow the news that you are most interested in. You can sign up for free and it helps you to stay up to date on whats going on in the world. You can keep track of all the latest PR news and make sure that you are not left in the dark when it comes to hot new topics that are being talked about. (Alltop)

These are only a few of the many social media tools  that we discussed in class. I found it to be very interesting that there are all these other free resources out there for us to be using but it still seems that most businesses go straight to facebook, twitter, or linkedin. All of the social media tools we talked about are extremely useful in the PR practice and I am glad that we are discovering others.  Now it is becoming a regular thing for businesses to have facebook pages or twitter accounts. I think that the things that we were taught in class are tools that are for the future and so knowing how to use them properly can only benefit us. Social media is changing the way that we do things in our practice and it is important we know to keep up!

Chapter 6: Preparing Fact Sheets, Advisories, Media Kits, and Pitches

Chapter six in the text book Public Relation Writing and Media Techniques, discusses the importance of fact sheets, media kits, advisories, and pitches. In the text it explains what each element is. A fact sheet is usually a one page background sheet about an event, product, or even the organization. It often is used with a media kit or news release. The way fact sheets are written are usually in a list of bullet points or outline form so the reporter can use it to quick reference when writing a story. There are fact sheets used for events, corporate profiles, summary of news releases or FAQ sheets. Media advisories are often called media alerts. They tell assignment editors about upcoming events. The format for these is usually short bulleted items brief paragraphs, outline a story idea, contain some of the 5 W’s and H, and include contact info. These usually let people know the time and location of scheduled news conference, let the reporters and editors know about the interview opportunity, or alert the press to a local angle as part of a national story. Media Kits which are also called Press Kits are prepared for major events. One of these events could be a new product launch. The purpose is to give editors and reporters a variety of info and resources so it will be easier for the reporter to write about the topic.

These are all important tools to have a public relations practitioner. I think that just becoming familiar with the types of tools you can use, what they are used for, and the format of the tools is extremely important for us to learn as aspiring PR professionals. These tools can be what makes you or breaks you as a PR practitioner. I think that being able to write a good news release and being able to successfully add these elements will make a PR practitioner make it. The book also gave great tips and ideas for electronic media kits. They are more versatile than traditional print kits because they can include multiple pieces of information in a variety of formats. These formats can include text, photos, videos, animation, etc. It gives the journalist a lot more flexibility and options rather than the traditional kit. Also Electronic Media Kits will reach more audiences than traditional media kits. And Electronic Media Kits are a lot less expensive than print media kits.

It is amazing how with the changing technology our businesses have changed. PR practitioners rely so much on computers and  the internet so it is extremely important that they are comfortable with technology and media. I think that makes my generation have a huge advantage over older ones. We have grown up with this technology and it is a lot easier for us to be able to use it rather than older people become familiar with it. I think Electronic media kits are just the beginning and I am excited to see where technology takes us next.

Chapter 5: Writing News Releases

In our textbook, Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques, chapter 5 discusses the importance of the news release.  It referred to as the “backbone of almost every publicity plan”  Unfortunately not all news releases that are written will be used and there is a huge competition for reporters and editors attention.

The chapter continues to explain how to set up and write news releases. Then it explains the different kinds of news releases which are announcements, spot announcements, reaction releases, bad news, and local news. Announcements are a good type of news release but the highest ranking person in the organization or business should make the announcement. Unless you are trying to localize the story, then it should come from the local manager. Announcements include events, awards, mergers, contests, legal actions, anniversaries, etc. Spot announcements are used to announce things due to some outside action or influence happening to organization.  These are things such as hours changing due to storm damages or fire; an outside force. Reaction releases should be used when an event or situation has an impact on the organization. The book gave the example of when the oil price went to a record high in 2008 and airlines, trucking industries, and delivery services sent out news releases to explain the prices of their services rising. Bad news press releases is when an organization had some kind of bad press, then they need to confront the issue instead of ignoring it. Or giving bad news buried within a story is unethical as the book mentions. Local news should be for local significance information. This is the most common reason that releases get used.

There are six basic components to the traditional news release. These components include letterheads, contact information, headline, dateline, lead paragraph and body of text. The text added in a seventh element that is used if there is enough room and that is a summary of the organization at the end of the release. The headline always needs to be in present tense and focus on a single subject. A single message is better than two.  The lead is extremely important because it is the first few sentences at the beginning and gives the reader a reason to continue to reading the article. In the lead the writer needs to include the most important of the 5 W’s and H but not all of them. You do not want to clutter the lead too much. There are several types of leads. They include the straight summary, the informal, and the feature.

When writing the body of the news release writers should follow the inverted pyramid style.  This is important because if the editor does not see something interesting in the first few lines more than likely it will not be used. It is also important because editors will usually cut from the bottom of the story so it is important to have the least important information towards the end just in case it does get cut. Another reason the inverted pyramid style is important is because the public usually won’t read the full story. It is important to get them to want to read the full story so you need to pull them in at the beginning. News releases should be short and to the point. They need to be fewer than 400 words or 1-2 pages in length. Emailed news releases need to be fewer than 200 words and only 4-5 paragraphs.

Now there are smart media releases. These are included on business wire, PR news wire and Market Wire. These can include photos, graphics, videos and audio components. Smart media releases have expanded the audience of news releases beyond the traditional media outlets. Popularity of social media has also been incorporated into smart media releases. These include blogs and online newsrooms.

I think this chapter was important because writing a news release is an important skill to have. It has been said that recently college graduates have not been able to produce great news releases due to their lack of communication skills since the internet and social media outlets. It has been said that recent college graduates are not great writers and that it is hard to find those skilled enough to write news releases that can be used in the media. This is something that I would like to see change for people my age. I want to be able to be a skilled writer when I graduate and I think that through blogging and practice we can be improved and become even better than those before us. I think that if we pay attention to the textbook and take all of the tips and guidelines into consideration we will be able to be great news release writers. If we pay more attention to our writing skills we should be able to change and turn around the recent stereotype.