The staff of PR Fuel (all one of me) has been hard at work on a new project that I think PR Fuel subscriber’s will find quite useful. So, in the time honored tradition of television sitcoms, PR Fuel is doing it’s first ever clip show. You know what I mean – the contract calls for twenty-six new episodes but the writers only have time to churn out twenty-five, so they cobble together a bunch of “clips” and call it a “best of” show.
At PR Fuel however, that means you’re getting a consolidated version of the best advice we’ve had to offer. Next week you’ll be rewarded with a fun and exciting new plot development!
From “How To Guarantee Your Press Release Won’t Be Read”
(episode originally aired on 8.09.02):
— I ignore any press release that includes a file attachment. Press releases should be written in the generally accepted manner — plain text. File attachments may contain viruses and it is ridiculous that a simple statement be sent in anything but the body of an email. A fellow journalist also tells me that he frequently downloads his email to his PDA and reads press releases on the go. An attachment will not do in this case.
— If the title of the press release does not clarify the subject, why read it? A simple title such as, “eReleases.com Announces Launch of Newsletter Service” tells me exactly what the press release is about. A title such as, “eReleases.com to Launch Exciting and Fantastic New Service” does little to help me.
From “The Don’ts — Nine Things You Shouldn’t Do”
(episode originally aired on 9.06.02):
— Do not call a reporter outside of the office if it can wait. Look at it this way, do you want your client or boss calling you on a Sunday when it could wait until Monday? Of course not. Reporters are people too and after deadline most just want to go home and relax. If it can wait, which is usually can, call during normal business hours and hit the reporter up at the office.
— Do not make follow-up calls on “boilerplate” releases, or have an intern/assistant do it. Ok, I’m a writer and I have a press release announcing something and the release is a “boilerplate” containing relevant information about the news and the company involved, and even includes one of those cute executive quotes. If I have a question, I’ll call you. As for the second part: anyone who has contact with the media should be ready, willing and able to answer questions and make statements to the media. Do not have an intern or assistant speak with the media unless they can speak publicly on behalf of your company.
From “Every Employee and Every Customer Is a PR Person”
(episode originally aired on 10.25.03):
— The PR professional needs to instill a sense of confidence in the company because you’re not only a public cheerleader, but an internal one as well. A Silicon Valley tech firm I did business with once sent out a survey to its 1,500 or so employees asking them for advice on how to get press for the company. The tech people suggested hyping their new product because it was “revolutionary” and the sales people wanted the price hyped because it was “going to be a competition killer.” Put two and two together and your job is made simpler. The company soon unveiled a new PR campaign utilizing the comments made by its own workers and spun it as a loving tale of a workforce happy with its work and its product.
From “Organizing Your Public Relations Online”
(episode originally aired on 11.08.03):
— Background Information: Consumers and members of the media like to know who they are doing business with. Including a company history, whether it be a biography of your business or a timeline of important events, is useful. For small businesses it’s always nice to know who started the company and why. Personalize your business by putting information about your founder or head honcho online. You’d be surprised what happens when word gets around that a University of Wisconsin graduate has opened a boutique in Atlanta. Give people every reason to identify with your company and the personalities behind it.
— The PR Page: For journalists it is imperative that we know who to contact at your company. The PR page should include names, phone numbers and email addresses for your public relations contacts. Some companies have numerous PR contacts who serve various purposes. Let it be known that if someone is seeking information on corporate issues they should contact Jane Doe. But if someone is seeking information about community issues they should contact John Doe (no relation to Jane, just a happy coincidence). This page should include links to any press releases your company has put out. Make sure to keep it updated. I’ve been to websites that are wildly out-of-date and there is no excuse for that. Be sure to include recent press clippings and if you’re a small business, consider mentioning what media outlets have given you positive coverage.
From “Words of Wisdom From Paul Tharp”
(episode originally aired 1.16.03):
— “You need to give the reporter a story idea. Think of yourself as an editor coming up with ideas to fill space. Help the reporter do their work.”
— “[PR people] have to deal with difficult clients, difficult reporters and difficult bosses. They’re in the middle with nowhere to go and sometimes they get desperate. I sympathize, but unless you give me a story, I can’t help you. You have to make up story ideas. Use the knowledge, use the inside information and develop it into a story.”
— “Think about your story as a grain of sand on the beach. All those grains of sand make up one big story. So you’ve got to be part of the bigger picture, the beach as it is. Or you’ve got to have a very specific picture: a close-up of one grain of sand. No stand-alone pitch really flies unless it’s absolutely unique or it’s breaking news that affects everyone.”
(These quotes are from Paul Tharp, Senior Business Reporter for The New York Post)
From “Green Is The Color Of Their Kind: PR Rookies”
(episode originally aired on 3.13.03):
— The Buddy System: Pair your young PR people with veterans and let osmosis takeover. As a journalist, I’ve learned more in the past two months just by sitting sandwiched in between three veteran reporters. I watch these guys deal with sources, editors, PR people, copy editors and the Fed Ex guy and I take mental notes. I’m not afraid to ask questions either. I realize someone with forty-years of journalism experience is someone whose been in the business twelve years longer than I’ve been alive. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out he knows more than me.
— Don’t Throw Them To The Wolves: Do not give a youngster a call list and tell them to pitch. It doesn’t work and it will demoralize them. Let them watch others pitch or even have them do role playing with each other. Even someone with a year or two of experience in the field can use a little role playing. It doesn’t do you or your client any good to have someone waste a perfectly good call list just because you need to put someone to work.
From “Is Your Client an Idiot?”
(episode originally aired on 7.17.03):
— From the very beginning of the relationship, the client needs to be told what they can expect and when they can expect it. When they push, push back and explain that while you’ve yet to master the concept of mind control.
— Question: As a working journalist, how would you react to a PR release or e-mail with an audio clip in it? Is it TOOO much?? Could it be useful? Like for example, real comments or interviews??”
— Answer: Personally, I would probably track you down and kill you if you sent me an email with a large attachment, such as an audio clip. An audio clip doesn’t do me much good because if it’s useful, I would need to transcribe it for a story. And if you’ve already transcribed it, why do I need to actually hear it? You’re better off posting the clip on a website and providing a link to it. We’re not quite at the point where multimedia content makes for good PR material. Stick with plain text and keep the bells and whistles on your website – not in my inbox.
This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.