Tag: journalists

HELP JOURNALISTS HELP YOU! A STRUCTURED GUIDE TO FORMATTING PRESS RELEASES

At Open Communications we thrive on delivering result for our clients. The impact of the PR and content marketing campaigns we produce for different brands and businesses can be measured in many ways, but none more so effectively than securing press coverage.

This is the bread and butter of PR!

There is no better way of enhancing an organisations reputation than going straight to the media. And the modest press release still remains an essential tool to make this happen!

The process behind the press release

Although press releases may appear to be straightforward documents, creating a finished article can require a lot of time and work, whether it’s producing a snappy headline; writing the perfect quote for a CEO or seeking final approval from all parties involved. It’s not as easy as it looks.

But once this is all complete, the exciting part begins.

There is no better feeling in PR than sending out a press release to the media, waiting in anticipation to see your hard work shared across multiple news outlets. Conversely, there is no worse feeling than when it doesn’t get any coverage at all.

Creating compelling content   

As journalists are inundated with dozens of press releases every day, you must give them a reason to open your email and then actually read the content inside.

Before you begin writing the press release, you must identify what the most ‘newsworthy’ angle is. This will help you form the headline and introduction to the story and, most importantly, it is what will help the journalist when deciding whether to publish the article or not.

In order to create a news ‘hook’, you need to determine why people would want to read the press release in the first place and then try to make it relevant to as many people as possible. It’s important to remember that you are not just trying to appeal to journalists, but to those who read the publication that they work for.

Newsworthy or not newsworthy that is the question

If a client was completing a significant investment into their business, we’d identify what would appeal to people and encourage them to take time out of their day to click on the article whilst also fulfilling the client’s brief.

Although it may seem obvious to lead with the value of an investment, the impact that this will have on the business may also create an appealing angle and so should not be dismissed.

Hitting the headlines

For instance, a business will want to have a press release written regarding a six-figure investment programme over a 12-month period. Instead of going with a generic investment-led press release, it is worth digging a bit deeper to ask further questions; what are they investing in? How much will the investment be? Will this lead to new job creation?

After initially starting with a story focusing on ‘business announces major investment’, the finished article will have a more enhanced angle, such as ‘x number of IT jobs created following £200,000 investment’.

When a journalist is sent the final email, they will know the story is about job creation in a growing sector following a £200,000 investment. These three aspects will have greater appeal to more media titles than before.

The regional media will be interested in covering it due to the impact the new jobs will have on the local economy; trade media will be attracted to the IT element of the story and the business media will also be pulled in the direction of the investment.

So, not only is more detail revealed about the story just in the headline, but the number of media publications interesting in publishing it will have significantly increased. Ultimately, the final piece should leave you with a newsworthy article that meets with the objectives of all concerned; agency, client and journalist.

Final thoughts

When you manage a press office for a client you can be working on multiple releases at any given time. It’s not just about the content, but as mentioned above, it’s the audience too. Writing with the reader in mind will make all the difference.

A simple tip would be to remember the basics; who, what, when, where and why? If you answer these questions within your first two paragraphs, you should be providing all the information that a journalist needs.

Putting the headline in the subject of the email and making the angle clear will signpost the journalist to exactly what you have to offer. And finally, whenever possible, send an image! The less correspondence a journalist needs to have with you the better your chances are of securing coverage.

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Optimism, now, there’s a good word

The headlines can be depressing at times and although as a PR agency we are often trying to explain to clients that they need to see beyond the doom and gloom, it can be difficult. We try where possible to reinforce that the media promote a balanced account to the news (good and bad) in order to provide the reader with the chance to make up their own mind.

In the most part this it true however where the recession is concerned it can be tricky. How do you write an article about the fact that thousands of people have lost their jobs and keep it light hearted – it’s simply never going to happen and so I find myself feeling a little sorry for the journalists who are tasked with handling these stories, particularly when the announcements are coming through thick and fast.

It’s not often you will find a PR professional saying that they have any sympathy for a journalist but when all is said and done  they just want to get their copy filed and do their job.

I was pleased however to see that Ian Briggs from The Business Desk wrote a genuinely balanced piece last week, which took a look back on the good, the bad and the ugly of 2012. The piece, which was titled ‘Ian Briggs on why his glass if half full for 2013’, did make reference to the recession and also to businesses that had fallen into administration but he also took the time to focus on many excellent pieces of news from around the Yorkshire region.

Ian said: “For me the tide is turning from a ‘we’re never going to get out of this situation’ mentality to one where the attitude is ‘we are where we are so let’s get on with it’.

Here, here, I couldn’t agree more.

As a business at Open Communications we have tried to steer clear of those who harp on about the recession all of the time – you know the ones, those who you get lumbered with at a networking lunch who start the conversation with a long sigh and then proceed to say in a voice that should be saved for funerals ‘How’s business?’.

I’m pleased to say that this year does seem to have marked a step change in attitude with many people rolling their sleeves up, as opposed to putting their heads down and long may it continue. I appreciate we are only in January (and the second week at that!) but we need to pull together, stay strong and carry on.

I’m a great believer in attitude and if you go into a year thinking you will do badly the chances are that will be the case. If however you have a strong product or service, a passion for what you do and a desire to get stuck in, then at the very least you stand a fighting chance.

I know lots of businesses who have reported better than average performance during 2012 and there should be no reason why this shouldn’t continue.  In a further piece, written again by Mr Briggs, he mentions that confidence is rising in Yorkshire as profit expectations increase.

The report that Ian highlights (The Lloyds TSB Commercial Business in Britain survey) uses feedback collated from more than 1,800 businesses. With 98 of these 1,800 based in Yorkshire it made for positive reading to find that optimism is at its strongest since the UK first reported coming out of the recession in 2009.

In addition to these findings a poll from the IoD, which is cited within the piece, has also revealed that 31% of directors expect 2013 to be better than 2012.

This is all good news and should give every business leader, entrepreneur, employee and job seeker the confidence they need to go into 2013 with a positive attitude and the belief that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and whatever a balanced article may say it is not a train coming!

And finally…

The phrase ‘And finally…’ was often used by national and regional broadcast news channels to feature a positive story at the end of a programme. More often than not it was intended that this heart-warming feature would leave people with a smile, after the more serious updates from the day.

It would appear that this practice is less common than it used to be, possibly because there seems to be more bad news to report than good, leaving little chance for producers to include a light hearted piece to end on.

So why are we all so keen to hear bad news? Is it absolutely necessary that we surround ourselves with the disasters that face our daily lives? Is it not just as important to share in the good news and to keep our spirits up? And isn’t that what a balanced news agenda is all about – not necessarily just two sides of one story but some good and some bad?

Today there are some really positive stories hitting the headlines not least the announcement from Cancer Research UK reporting that deaths from certain cancers will fall by 17% by 2030. This is a great achievement and I’m pleased to note that it has ‘hit’ many national titles, as well as broadcast media.

Other good news today is the announcement of a new publication that has been launched called ‘The Positive’, which plans to only share good news. What a great idea – but the question remains, will it work?

I have to admit to being cynical about its chances of success because the simple fact of the matter is that people are more inclined to search for bad news than good. I remember a couple of years ago there was a paper which launched in Wakefield called the Wakefield Guardian and the idea was that it would share good news from the district.

Needless to say that the paper didn’t last and closed around 18 months after launching, which was a real shame.  I only hope that The Positive will have better fortune and that people will take the time to share good news. Sometimes I think we all need a good up lifting story to get us all going in the morning – and I intend to read The Positive and will tweet the best story from the day to share it with those who follow me.  In fact I might just add a hashtag #andfinally – who else is going to get behind the publication and join in?

BUILDING FUTURE SUCCESS

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed that the tides seem to be turning for developers in the Yorkshire region. Iconic sites such as the Lumiere in Leeds and previously mothballed  master plans, which have been on hold for a number of years, are now getting the attention and funding that they need to move forward.

This is fantastic news for our region. Not only will this turnaround means a greater experience will be had by visitors and shoppers, as well as there being more opportunity for those looking for residential properties in the cities, but it will also create jobs for the many labourers, developers, construction workers and bricklayers who have found recent years particularly difficult.

I have a real passion for development and was very fortunate to have the opportunity to work on two major projects earlier in my career; Bradford, the birth of a new city and Leeds Leads, the marketing of Leeds as a city to those outside of the region.

Working on two major areas within our region and promoting them to other cities throughout the UK, Europe and the World was hugely exciting. I had the chance to work with leading developers, to see sites as they unfolded and to witness and experience the evolution of a brown field site to a masterpiece, a mill building to luxury apartments and a run-down and deprived area to a community hub attracting people of all ages to work, visit and enjoy.

I arranged and managed a number of journalist visits during this time – we refer to them as familiarisation visits – with journalists from national and international papers coming to visit each city in turn. It was interesting to see their imaginations come to life when they were made aware of the projects that were planned.

Double page spreads featured in titles including the Guardian, Independent and Observer. The interest was astonishing, particularly as many of these journalists were based in London and at the time it could be difficult to drag them away from their desks to visit our humble region ‘in the sticks’

Two recent stories that have hit the headlines, which support the shift to greater levels of investment in property and development, are the proposed sale of the Leeds Victoria Quarter for £136million to Hammerson and the multi-million pound scheme to regenerate the neglected Gateway to Wakefield, which is close to the award winning Hepworth Gallery.

Both of these developments will have a huge impact on the areas that they are in. Hammerson are proposing an extension to the Victoria Quarter (let’s get saving ladies!) and the regeneration of the Wakefield Gateway will once again put the city on the map and reiterate that it is a place to work, visit and enjoy. Wakefield suffers from a lack of outside attention, which the Hepworth has certainly addressed, however this must continue.

Building and development to me is about more than bricks and mortar, it’s about more than high rise flats and iconic designs. The regeneration of our area needs constant marketing support and a sustainable communication plan which takes our messages to those who live outside of the region. We need to ensure that we attract the attention of those who will come into our cities to stay and most importantly to spend.

Regeneration needs to meet with objectives – we don’t want a beautiful collection of towns and cities that stand empty. We want a hub of excitement, which delivers shopping, leisure, art, creativity, socialising and what we are famed for – a friendly welcome.

The next few years will be very interesting. Buildings are already going up and with the Leeds Trinity Walk project underway there is already a feeling of anticipation in the city. I hope that I will be joined by others in celebrating the hard hats which are being dusted off and put firmly back on the heads of those who will make these changes happen before our eyes.

It’s this commitment to making our cities more appealing for us and those who come to visit that will keep Yorkshire firmly on the map.