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what is pr?

The way that your organisation is represented in the media can have a huge impact on how people will perceive your business.

Public Relations (PR) is a powerful way to communicate with a wider public, promote your business and build a positive reputation.  The role of a PR professional is to write and disseminate impactful, persuasive, copy that will influence the media to present your organisation positively. . .  and communicate your key messages.

Whilst there are no guarantees of publication, editorial coverage has a far more powerful effect than traditional, paid-for, advertising, which makes the extra effort that PR demands worthwhile.

writing press releases

The creative process begins with identifying an element of your commercial offering that is topical (of the moment, timely, new, or something that people are talking about), novel (is it going to surprise the audience?) and relevant. . .  not just to the locale, but to the target publication and its audience.  A new local wildlife tourist attraction, for example, would be unlikely to find a comfortable home in a Classic Car Magazine.

The challenge then is to stand out in a journalist's crowded inbox, which is where the importance of the email's subject line comes into its own!

[ BONUS:  The format of a Press Release ]

Keep it simple.  Don't over editorialise. . .  and avoid using complex or esoteric language to ensure that the message you are trying to convey can be easily understood by any reader.

A press release should always be sent in the form of an email, addressed to an individual, and follow an 'industry standard' format.  NEVER submit a press release as a PDF or Word doc;  they are difficult to preview (especially on mobile devices), a hassle to download and are often blocked by internal malware filters.  Plus;  the recipient can't use images embedded within PDFs.

The elements of a Press Release should include;

  • Date: This will tell the journalist when the story is 'live'.
  • Heading:  MUST be attention grabbing, but factual!
  • Opening paragraph:  A condensed summary of your overall message.
  • Quotes:  Attributed to named individuals, with contact details.
  • Images:  (see * below)
  • Notes to editors:  (see ** below)
  • Contact details:  (see *** below)

* To avoid burdening the file size of the delivery email, it is often preferable to employ thumbnails, with links to a simple .html page from which higher resolution images can be copied.  In either case, ALWAYS send images as attachments, rather than being embedded into the body of the message.

** Add links to research, facts, statistics or trends that support the contentions in your press release, and that could be helpful to the journalist writing the story.

*** Don't provide a generic email address such as news@yourcompany.co.uk as a contact.  Use a real, named, person within your organisation. . .  preferably the individual quoted within the press release.

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media distribution

There are many on-line Agencies who will promise, for a price, to distribute your press release to 'thousands' of local, regional and national journalists.

Although this 'scatter gun' technique may seem financially attractive at first, targeting individual journalists by name is far more effective. . .  but does require additional time and creative effort.

This is why the first step in any planned distribution is thorough, painstaking, research.

[ BONUS:  Who, Where & When to target? ]

Who?  It's not enough to send Press Releases, no matter how well crafted, to generic 'news desk' email addresses.  The primary aim of research is to identify named individuals who have a particular interest in, or responsibility for, your industry sector or region.

Staff turnover within media outlets tends to be high, so such research should extend to confirming the validity of an identified recipient through secondary sources, including social media.

Where?  If your market is geographically local, all media outlets within your footprint need to be identified, being aware that contacts, especially within free press networks, are often duplicated.

National Press  The way that news gathering works, especially in these globally connected times, means that the nationals will quite often pick-up stories from regional and local press, without direct targeting.

When?  Timing is surprisingly important!  Research has consistently shown that the best time to send a press release is between 10am and 2pm, when you can reasonably expect that around a third of journalists and editors will open emails that they've received.

Early mornings are less effective (opening rates for emails delivered before 10am fall off by half).  Worse still, emails sent before 6am, after 6pm, or at the weekend (including Fridays) are likely to languish, unread, in the journalist's inbox. . .  and then need to compete with

Thirsty Thursdays!  For whatever reason, (perhaps it is because journalists have put the majority of their stories to bed by this late in the week) Thursdays are, statistically, the most effective days to deliver a press release.  A day later and it's too late!

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Copywriting slogan: read, hear, speak

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