Public relations professionals are often accused of "spinning" a story, or stretching the truth. If you believe in stereotypes, the average public relations professional is someone who is trying to sell the public on half-truths to make the big bucks.
At Mack Communications, at least, this is far from how public relations works. The goal of public relations is to help individuals, companies, and officials tell their story. Many companies don't know how to do this best, or how to explain their work to the public in an clear way. Public relations uses "spin" to tell a client's side of the story.
Timeliness: For reporters, it’s one of the most important elements of a story. It can determine whether your big announcement has five journalists writing about it or none. But what is timeliness exactly, and how should you utilize it in your PR strategy?
According to dictionary.com, to be “timely” is to be “occurring at a suitable time; seasonable; opportune; well-timed.” In the media world, a timely story has some sort of “hook” that makes it relevant to the day’s news and events. Timeliness answers the question “Why am I hearing about this now?” for the public.
Tell your story: don't leave it to the media to get it right. You'd be surprised at how many businesses and organizations do exactly the opposite. Whether it's fear of the media or a bunker mentality, that kind of thinking is usually a recipe for badly damaged media relations.
How do you tell your story? Over explain the issue and the response. While you're dealing with the media, take the same information directly to the public through social media and your own website.
One of the best ways to turn off a reporter to your story is with what at least appears to be a self-serving press release. If you're prone to brag, you might think again about how your release or statement looks through the eyes of someone who has to write a legitimate news story.
There are three keys to keep in mind.
Great media relations is really hard work. It's where the term "earned media" gets its name. And while technology is making it easier and easier to get your press release into the hands of reporters and editors, it's also much tougher to get them to pay attention.
Don't gloss over that last point. It's really tough to get the media to pay attention.
So, how can you improve your odds?
A press release is a great way to convey your announcement or news item, but it's often not enough to do the job. There are often other resources that reporters will need and want in order for them to effectively tell your story.
Let's start with visuals, which can be anything from head shots of your CEO to shots of the factory floor to graphs depicting your latest quarterly results. Images are more powerful today than ever because most everything gets posted to media websites or Facebook. Even radio reporters who never had to worry about visuals in the past are now asked to snap photos and shoot video of the events they cover.
Think ahead to what images will help make your story more compelling. What parts of your announcement can be told in pictures? Can you supply the images or allow photographers access to key places where they can get their own?
If you want to increase the chances your release gets used, make the lead the lead. Press releases often go unread because the writer has buried the lead.
One of the frustrating elements of press releases is that one must often wade through sentence after sentence of preliminary information before getting to the real essence of the release. The lead gets buried under process and procedure.
The problem should be evident. Making it more difficult for a reporter or editor to understand the significance of the release increases the chances that they'll simply stop reading and delete the release before ever giving it much thought.
So, what would you rather have? Someone hitting the delete key after the first sentence or someone giving your release the attention it deserves?
Nothing like a fresh media campaign to remind you of what does and does not seem to work when it comes to media relations. We've recently gleaned the following points worth noting when it comes to dealing with reporters and editors, and why the process is more of an art than a science.
1. Reporters are not court reporters. They won't simply write what you script out for them in a press release. That being said, a press release can still influence how they write their story, often resulting in positive coverage.
2. You can't force the media to attend your event. No matter how good you think your story is, some in the media may not agree. This is why relationships with editors and producers are so important when it comes to pitching stories.
The question of how best to pitch a journalist came up again recently at a gathering of public relations professionals. We listened to a panel of editors and, in one case, a broadcast journalist, explain how they liked to be approached about a possible story.
In a nutshell, each one had a slightly different take. No two reporters or editors handle their jobs in the same way, although they had some points in common.
What that means for telling your story to the media is that you'll want to avoide a cookie cutter, one size fits all, approach. Some reporters will take phone calls. Some will not. Most like email, but are quick to point out that they over deluged with so many emails each day that they cannot carefully consider each one.
So, here are a few key takeaways:
We're living in a time of ever shortening attention spans. People are making snap decisions about whether to read this article or watch that video.
Same holds true for members of the media. They are inundated with emails throughout the day, many of which are press releases or advisories clamoring for their attention. Most of these same reporters rarely pick up the phone, so trying to call them to make sure they saw the release is fruitless.
The key, then, is to offer them something in the first eight seconds that will cause them to continue reading just long enough to consider the news worthiness of your release.
That's why the headline, the secondary headline and the opening sentence of the press release are so important. Here's why.