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PUBLIC RELATIONS & PRESS RELEASE


 

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I. PUBLIC RELATIONS

  1. What is public relations?
  2. What is the public relations’ space?
  3. How can your company compete for the attention of the press?
    1. Understand the reporter’s role
    2. Customize for different publications
    3. Be a resource for reporters, not just a story

II. PRESS RELEASE

  1. What is a press release?
  2. How does press publicity work?
  3. How to succeed "in press release"?
  4. How to process press release?
    1. Writing a press release
    2. Press release’s recipients
    3. Sending the press release
  5. How does press kit and press release work?
    1. Press Kit components
    2. Cover letter
    3. Press release
  6. PR maximizes other marketing tools – Example: Trade Shows
  7. Selecting a Public Relations firm

Contact list and suggested reading

  1. Measurement Metrics

News clipping analysis

Press clipping services contact

  1. Publicity Services
  2. Internet Resources

III. SUMMARY


 I. PUBLIC RELATIONS


Even if your company does not have a budget dedicated to marketing, you can have a successful PR campaign. The key is understanding today's market and giving reporters what they want.

The old days of public relations are long gone. No longer can a PR professional send out standard press releases and get a lot of coverage. It used to be that at least trade publications would write stories straight from the press release. But no longer. Even trade publications demand something different. The only way you will get coverage is by delivering that something.

1. What is Public Relations? It's the practice of creating a positive image in your audience's mind so that your advertising and marketing and sales are more readily accepted. Public relations is the building of positive relationships with your audiences. Effective public relations are the foundation of successful business.

Public relations manages image and awareness and is usually subtler than the other marketing tools, gently nudging audiences and influencing their attitudes. Public relations takes a look at the big picture of business success, beyond the next sale.

2. What is the Public Relations’ Space? Primarily, it’s the media.

3. How can you compete for the attention of the press?

     a. Understand the Reporter's Role: A reporter isn't your company's personal mouthpiece. Most people think it is the reporter’s job to write down what you tell them to write down. They often think that they have the best product and the reporter should write that down. That's the wrong approach.

A reporter’s job is to look at the overall landscape and cover news or evaluate different trends and write about that. You should keep a reporter's needs in mind and respond to them. Don't sensationalize. Don't oversell. Just give reporters facts and a good story, and they will cover it.

b. Customize for Different Publications: Figure out the best outlets for your message or company. Then pay attention to what they cover. Learn what sections they include and what kind of coverage belongs in each. Customize the company package to make it interesting to a particular audience.

Target particular reporters who cover stories in your area and give them specific story ideas. Keep in mind the metrics by which to measure your PR activities: in the end, it’s not how many contacts you make that count, it’s how many contacts lead to a press release actually getting coverage.

c. Be a Resource for Reporters, Not Just a Story: Too many companies talk to the press only when they want coverage. That's a mistake. Reporters are businesspeople with whom you have a relationship. They are like a customer or a potential customer. This is an important business relationship that you keep up.

Be a helpful resource that means talking to a reporter on a story that has nothing to do with the company, but where you can provide some helpful advice or industry perspective and just be a useful source for a reporter. That pays off in the long run.

Just by using these simple strategies, you can increase your company's coverage. And the more coverage you get, the more customers you will have. PR does not cost much in real dollars. But the attention you earn can be priceless. Learn to work with the press.


 II. PRESS RELEASE


There is more to press release than telling your great story. It's also about making sure the right people read your story. Media releases, or press releases, generally follow the same format for any submission, whether for newspapers, magazines, TV or radio.

1. What is a Press Release? With press release, public relations become really a strategic advertising, and it is crucial to any business success, especially small business success. The press release is that one-page gem of an article that you need to write in such a way that it will catch the eye of editors who will take notice and print it for you.

2. How Does Press Publicity Work? Every print publication, from the New York Times to a 10,000-circulation trade magazine, has a resident editorial staff that creates some - but not all - of their content. Where does the rest come from? For newspapers, much of it comes from news services such as AP, as well as from well-paid independent writers and syndicated columnists. They are called "Contributor", "Contributing Editor" and "Senior Contributing Editor" and are freelancers, most likely working at home.

For trade magazines and lower circulation newspapers, many of the articles are written by individuals who receive little or no compensation in exchange for recognition for themselves or their employer. Most of these publications also have "News" sections, often consisting of brief pieces on new products, management changes at local companies and other tidbits of interest to their readers.

3. How to succeed "in press release"Getting ink through press releases is very similar to selling. Think of the editors of your target publication, as customers who have a continuing need for high-quality information for their readers.

If the editors perceive you as someone who is helping them do their job better or more easily, they will gladly print your information. If they perceive you as someone who is trying to use them for your own purposes, you will get very little cooperation. Since spokespeople from many companies are insensitive to the needs of editors, those of us who treat them with respect will always get the best coverage.

4. How to Process a Press Release? Step by step plan from writing to sending an effective release:

   4.1.Writing a Press Release: A press release needs to be three things:

                   1. Newsworthy:

No editor will print about your event unless they think other people will be interested in it. Find out who will be interested in your story.

                    2. Timely

If it is about a past event, it's not news unless it's something quite significant (election results, disasters, etc.)

                   3. Concise

Most editors don't have time to sit around and read a novel about your event. Make it to the point. Put the bottom line up front. The release should read like a good newspaper article. That is, use the "inverted pyramid". The main meat of the story goes in the first paragraph (who, what, when, where, why). The remaining details go in the following paragraph in descending order of importance. A full page is acceptable, but a release of just a couple short paragraphs will be far more successful.

What does a good release look like? Go to the websites of some major companies that have something to do with your topic and look at their press release archive. Look at several. Compare them to the criteria you see above and ask yourself "if I were a busy editor, would I publish this"?

   4.2. Press Release’s Recipients. You need to build a good database of release recipients. There are two options: you can build a list yourself, or you can purchase an existing database. If you want to build your own list, here are some tips and resources to help you.

First, identify media that will be interested in your event. Compile a media list from media directories available in the reference section at your local public library, the Internet, etc.

Press releases addressed to "editor" get less attention than those addressed to a specific person. The best way to build your press list is to start with a recent copy of each publication on your list. Near the front of each, you will find a listing of the key editors. Within the newspaper or magazine, you will also find by-lined articles.

Here are some resources that you will find extremely helpful:

AJR Newslink http://ajr.newslink.org/menu.html. Contains links to just about every media (newspapers, radio stations, TV) source that has a website. Follow the links to the media you think will be interested in your release and find out whom to send it to. This is great for building your contact base. Also contains some great articles and many other convenient resources.

Reporter's Network. http://www.reporters.net/. Among other things, contains a great searchable database of reporters. Want to find a reporter interested in software? Do a search here for "software" and a list of reporters who have reported interest in this will pop up. Very cool.

   4.3. Sending the Press Release. Now that you have a good release and have a quality list of press contacts, you are ready to send the release. There are three general routes you can go here:

1. Postal Mail

2. Fax

3. Email.

Fax is the most common method and will probably get your release more notice. Email is great as well, but your release may get deleted, as some editors do not accept releases this way. Generally, for an email release, you want to find a "Mail Merge" program and for Fax, you should subscribe to a "Fax Broadcast" service, if you intend to send press releases regularly and in large quantity.

As for Fax Broadcasting, there are quite a few companies that will do this for you. I recommend going to a good search engine such as altavista.com, google.com, infoseek.com, etc and search for the word "fax broadcast". Just be careful here. Some of these companies may be in the business of sending out unsolicited fax-advertisement, which is illegal and will give your company a very bad reputation.

Using these services properly, such as for a legitimate press release, is acceptable.

5. How Does Press Kit and Press Release Work?

   5.1. Press Kit Components. As with many of the guidelines for publicity activities, customization is the key for creating the ideal press kit. The forum for its use and the media recipient will dictate the kit's contents. The simplest press kit consists of a press release in an envelope. This may be all you need if:

  • Your company is well known to the publication, and the editors do not need more background information.
  • You have sent prior releases to this editor.
  • You have a simple story to tell in this release, such as an announcement for a local newspaper that you have appointed a new manager.

However, if this is your first release to this editor, and/or you have a more complex story to tell, you may need a full press kit consisting of:

  • Cover letter
  • Press release
  • Backgrounder(s)
  • Photography

Possibly a literature folder to hold everything. When designing your kit, keep in mind that every item you put in the kit must have a reason for being there. Editors who receive your kit are very busy people. Keep it clear and to the point, and they are more likely to act on it now.

   5.2. Cover Letter: If you are sending out a simple one- or two-page press release, an editor can quickly scan it to learn the story you are trying to tell. However, if you are sending a comprehensive press kit, you use the cover letter to give the editor a quick idea of what is inside. Some guidelines for your cover letter are:

  • Keep it very short, not more than 2 or 3 paragraphs.
  • Personalize the letter by addressing it to a specific editor by name.
  • Tell the editor what is in the kit, with a brief synopsis of the content of the release.
  • Help the editor understand why this information might be useful to the publication's readers
  • Communicate as if you are speaking from one person to another, not like an advertisement or brochure.
  • Express your appreciation.

   5.3. Press Release: The heart of your press kit and press mailing is your press release, which tells the story you wish to have printed.

The following are some guidelines for writing your release:

a) Place these two items at the top left corner:

Release Date:       | Contact: Your name

Editors want news that is new. A release date that coincides with the date you mail out the kit says this is fresh information that readers have not already seen in other places. The contact name tells the editor whom to call for additional information or background. This should be someone who can personally answer any questions raised by an editor, not a person who has to relay questions to someone else.

b) The Headline: The headline is normally written in all capital letters, centered at the top of the release, just below the release date and contact name. The headline is a brief, factual statement of your news, just as you would wish it to appear as the headline of your news item in the magazine. It includes no exaggerated language or benefit statements - just the facts stated as concisely as possible.

c) The Body

  • The body of the release amplifies on the headline by telling the complete story. The most vital facts should be in the lead and the next couple of paragraphs with less important facts covered later in the release. This is called the inverted pyramid writing style.
  • It will also allows, in case the editor has space for a small news item, and s/he wants to spend a minimum of time editing, to pick the first one or two paragraphs from your release and print them as-is or with minimal editing.
  • If some of your most important content is on the second page of the release, it will never appear in many write-ups. As you write the release, first make sure your headline and first paragraph tell a complete story. Then add amplifying paragraphs as needed to flesh out your story so the editor can start at the beginning and cut it off at any point.
  • Follow the newspaper style that answers the five Ws and H: who, what, when, where, why and how. Cover these high up in the story. You can expand on these points with more detail later in the release.
  • Write concisely and keep paragraphs short.
  • Write in an objective style. When referring to your firm or organization, do not state "our company" or use the word "I" unless this is in a quote. It should read "the company." Also, avoid puffery, jargon, technical terms and editorial opinions.
  • To help you organize the release, develop an outline first.
  • Read your release out loud. Often it is easier to hear awkward-sounding phrases than to look for them on paper.
  • Proofread, proofread, and proofread. Be sure that the release does not contain a single typo and that names are spelled correctly, phone numbers are accurate.
  • Lastly . . . make sure your news release actually contains news. What is newsworthy for the local community paper may not warrant a mention in the big-city daily and vice versa. For example, a community paper may run a news story on a local resident that wins a company award, whereas the major daily may run a one-line sentence or nothing at all. Conversely, a large daily would run a story on a company's annual national sales; for the community paper, this may not be local enough.
  • Tell only one story in your release, the one that you mentioned in your cover letter and your headline. If you have two important stories to tell, save one of them for your next release.

d) Typeface: Select a simple, readable typeface for your release, such as 12 point Times Roman.

e) Spacing: The prevailing custom is to double-space releases, giving the editor room to make notes in the space between lines. In a word processor, you can also use a line space setting of 1-1/2 lines (or 20 points). Use side margins of 1" to 1.25".

f) Page Identification: The ideal release runs no more than 2 or 3 pages. Print a page number on each page after the first, preferably at the top. At the end of the first page and other pages except the last, print the following in the bottom, center of the page:

         more –

At the end of the last page of the release, print the following, centered:

###

g) Stationery: You can use your company's standard stationery for the release or specially printed press release letterhead. Make sure that at least the first page of the release has the correct address, phone number, fax number and email in case the editor wants to contact you for more information. If the contact person is reached at a different number, put the correct number after the Contact's name at the top of the release.

h) Photography: If you are sending a new-product release or announcement of a personnel change to a publication that generally includes photography with such news, include a photo with your release.

Make sure the photography fits the needs of the publication: black-and-white for a newspaper that only prints black-and-white photos, color for trade magazine that prints color photos. Also check the format. Do the magazine usually print photos in a horizontal or vertical format? If so, make your photo fit the way they prefer it.

i) Backgrounders: Your press release should contain the complete story you intend for the publication to print. The role of background information is to provide additional information, which the editor may find useful. If you have a brochure, which describes your company, this can be a good piece to include with the first release. If the editor has room, he or she may refer to the brochure for additional facts about your company.

If you do not have an appropriate brochure, you might write a backgrounder. This document is similar in appearance to your release but a separate item. It might include facts about when your company was founded, who the officers or key executives are (particularly if one of them is prominent), your sales volume, cities where you have offices, and anything else which gives the editor a better understanding of why readers should be interested in news from your company.

Keep in mind when you put together a backgrounder that most of it will never appear in print, but nothing in your kit is "off the record."

j) Literature Folder: For a release, which includes several items, a folder is helpful in keeping everything together and protecting the photography. If all you are sending is a release with no supporting items, the folder is probably a waste of money.

If you use a folder, clip your cover letter on the outside so the editor can read it instantly without having to dig into the kit.

k) Following Up On The Mailings: Some of the releases you send will result in being printed, as long as you are sending useful information. However, since most editors get far more releases than they can print, it may take a follow-up call to raise your release to the top of the pile. Make sure that follow up are acceptable. Many editors consider follow up as intrusions.

When you call an editor, follow these guidelines:

  • Make it clear your sole purpose in following up is to make sure you are satisfying the editor's information needs.
  • Do not urge or pressure the editor to print your material. It won't work.
  • Respect the editor's time by keeping the call short, unless the editor wants to talk.

6. PR Maximizes Other Marketing Tools: Example: Trade Show. Trade show success is usually measured in terms of orders received, leads generated, contacts maintained or customers entertained. Often ignored is the value-added bonus public relations can achieve.

Two areas in which public relations techniques can enhance trade show participation are media relations and pre-show promotion. Publicity is much more cost-effective than advertising as a way to gain attention among trade show attendees and, at the same time, reach prospects who do not attend. Following are some proven techniques:

  • Provide trade publications with information far enough in advance to be included in special show editions. Reprint the published stories to use as a handout to visitors at your exhibit.
  • Develop a complete media information kit detailing your company and products for placement in the pressroom at the show.
  • If there is news about your company or a truly unique new product introduction, notify local media in advance of the show. Local newspapers and TV stations carry stories about such local events which help gain the attention of convention attendees and increase visits to the exhibit.
  • Conduct an informal poll of 100 to 150 attendees at your exhibit on an industry-related topic, then develop and distribute a news release based on the findings. You will gain credit as the sponsor of the "survey."
  • Build relationships with the media by scheduling appointments with editors to visit your exhibit and meet with top executives. Don't succumb to the temptation to hold a press conference unless your "news" warrants it.
  • "Guarantee" qualified attendance at your exhibit through pre-show promotion. A survey reported in Sales & Marketing Management magazine noted that less than 6% of exhibitors use any form of pre-show promotion.

Trade show participation is expensive. Public relations is a comparatively inexpensive response to that need.

7. Selecting a Public Relations Firm: Though the lines of distinction may blur, public relations and advertising are not the same. A public relations firm is responsible for determining the way an organization is perceived by the public. The first thing to consider when choosing a public relations firm is whether you want that firm to handle your company's entire public relations program or just its publicity.

A firm that handles publicity sees to it that a company's products or services receive media coverage in the form of articles or radio and television broadcasts. When a firm handles public relations as a whole, its job is to help craft a company's image.

Most PR firms do both. Here are some of the other ways they can help an organization:

  • Provide an outside viewpoint or perspective;
  • Increase an organization's overall visibility;
  • Support a product or an overall marketing effort;
  • Counsel in a crisis;
  • Communicate with employees;
  • Inform investors;
  • Strengthen community relations;
  • Act as a liaison with government agencies;
  • Measure and evaluate existing public relations programs;
  • Research public attitudes and behavior;
  • Stage media events.

Once the specific communication needs of an organization has been determined, choosing the right public relations firm involves a certain amount of investigation. Begin by looking through the magazines in which you would like to have coverage; call the companies that are written about in these magazines and find out which firm those companies employ.

After several options have been reasonably narrowed down begin the interview process.

Don't assume that a large company is necessarily better equipped to handle your organization's needs. While advertising often requires a large staff of people to create and develop a campaign, public relations can usually be handled by a smaller team that is responsible for writing press releases and getting them out to an appropriate contact list.

Before deciding on a firm, think about the following questions:

  • Does the PR firm have expertise in your company's field and understand your particular needs?
  • Do you want greater awareness of your product nationally/regionally or in a targeted market?
  • Do you want to pay your PR firm a flat fee, a retainer fee, a minimum monthly fee, or a project fee?
  • What is your company's objective?
  • How important is it to have regular access to the agency head and who is the backup?
  • Which of the media do you need your agency to handle?
  • How long will it take to learn about your account?
  • What reporting/measurement methods are used?
  • Must you have easy access to your PR firm's offices?
  • Do you want a company with a particular philosophy or one that is willing to work with the philosophy of its clients?
  • Who do you want to be in charge?

After meeting with key people, ask each PR firm to send a written proposal outlining how it would provide the public relations services your organization needs. When you have decided upon a firm, get references from other clients, and work out a reasonable budget so there are no surprises down the line.

For more information contact:

The Public Relations Society of America. 33 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003 Phone: (212) 995-2230.

Reading:

O'Dwyers Directory of Public Relations Firms, J.R. O'Dwyer. 271 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016 Phone: (212) 679-2471. This lists most existing public relations firms, noting their rank, specialties, number of employees, and clients.

8. Measurement Metrics: Measurement Metrics through News Clip Analysis. When companies:

  • Need to monitor their own or a competitor's press coverage or
  • Need to do subject research for a public relations campaign or a company presentation or
  • Need to evaluate the efficiency/ROI of their public relations

a clipping service is used.

These companies will read the country's major daily and weekly newspapers, magazines, and trade publications and monitor the wire services, radio, and network and cable television news broadcasts. They will clip all articles or transcribe or tape every broadcast that mentions any subject requested by their client company.

Clips may be received on a daily or weekly basis. Companies may find them useful when they need to know the exact words written about them for background research or for a company briefing, press release, daily news update or public relations campaign.

Most of these clipping services offer a range of services, including day-of-publication delivery, historical research, and news clip analysis of public relations performance, advertising analysis of competitors.

Measurement Metrics: Public Relations could be measured by itself (tangible) and/or in concert with other marketing tools (intangible):

  • Tangible: From the clipped articles or transcribed tapes, evaluate what would have been the cost to advertise in those media, if you had to pay for them. Then, either calculate the ROI (cost of your PR activities – total value of free ink) or against a specific financial objective, on a monthly, quarterly and yearly basis.
  • Intangible: When combined with other marketing tools, what is the added value and additional results (leads, orders, etc.) generated by Public Relations’ activities?

Some of the well-known press clipping services:

Allen's Press Clipping Bureau. P.O. Box 2761, Los Angeles, CA 90051 Phone: (213) 628-4214

Bacon's Information. 332 S. Michigan Avenue, Suite 900, Chicago, IL 60604 Phone: (312) 922-2400

Burrelle's Information Services. 75 East Northfield Road, Livingston, NJ 07039 Phone: (973) 992-6600

Luce Press Clippings. 420 Lexington Avenue, Suite 203, New York, NY 10170 Phone: (212) 889-6711

9. Publicity Services: Publicity services will, for a fee, take a company's press release or other publicity material and present it to a media outlet.

Radio-TV Interview Report

Bradley Communications. 135 E. Plumstead Avenue, Landsdowne, PA 19050 Phone: (610) 259-1070. This bimonthly magazine lists project pitches and is mailed to over 5,000 radio-TV talk show and TV news programming executives nationwide.

PR Newswire (PRN). Harborside Financial Center. 806 Plaza 3, Jersey City, NJ 07311 (800) 832-5522 or (212) 832-9400. This is a daily service that provides news releases and camera-ready photo transmissions to the world's largest media telecommunications network through satellite, fax, mail, and database.

News Broadcast Network. 149 Madison Avenue, #804, New York 10016 Phone: (212) 889-0888. This is a daily radio feed servicing 2,000 news and talk radio stations and all AP and UPI audiofeed wire service subscribers.

Derus Media. 500 N. Dearborn, #516, Chicago, IL 60610 Phone: (312) 644-4360 This is a monthly distributor of multimedia script and slide packages to radio and television outlets. They offer a full-service division for the Hispanic market.

Metro Publicity Services. 33 West 34th Street, Fourth Floor, New York, NY 10001 Phone: (212) 947-5100 This service mails to 7,000 newspapers monthly. It offers monthly theme sections 22 times a year featuring subject matter for targeted audiences.

Other Resources

Bulldog Reporter. 2115 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710 Phone: (800) 327-9893

Contacts. 35-20 Broadway, Astoria, NY 11106 Phone: (718) 721-0508

Partyline. 35 Sutton Place, New York, NY 10022 Phone: (212) 755-3487

Bacon's Media Directories. (Newspaper/Magazine, Radio/TV, Media Calendar, International Media)

Bacon's Information. 332 S. Michigan Avenue, Suite 900, Chicago, IL 60604 Phone: (800) 621-0561 or (312) 922-2400

Burrelle's Media Directory

Burrelle's Media Information Systems. 75 E. Northfield Road, Livingston, NJ 07039 Phone: (800) 631-1160

Marketer's Guide to Media

Adweek Directories. 1515 Broadway, New York, NY 10036 Phone: (800) 468-2395

Power Media Selects

Broadcast Interview Source. 2233 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20007 Phone: (202) 333-4904

10. Internet Resources

The Institute for PR, http://www.instituteforpr.com. Through publications, lectures, awards,competitions, professional development forums and other programs, The Institute has been at the leading edge of efforts to promote and encourage academic and professional excellence.

BSource, http://www.prsa.bsource.com. BSource is an online business matchmaker that helps small and medium-sized businesses find, evaluate and select outsourced services, such as web development, legal, accounting, human resources and public relations.

International Association of Business Communications, http://www.iabc.com. Products, services, activities and networking opportunities to help people and organizations achieve excellence in public relations, employee communication, marketing communication, public affairs and other forms of communication.

CompuServe PR & Marketing Forum, http://www.compuserve.com. CompuServe Interactive Services, a subscriber-based online content provider, hosts a discussion group called the PR & Marketing Forum. Available to CompuServe subscribers only.

Trade Publications for the US public relations industry: http://www.prpublishing.com | http://www.ragan.com | http://www.prweekus.com | http://www.odwyerpr.com


III. SUMMARY


If you have not yet incorporated a public relations campaign into your marketing plan, we highly recommend doing so. There is no more cost effective way to generate publicity and credibility for your business.

Remember: Working with the press is nothing more than a sales job. As in any other sales process, it is important for your company to establish clear goals and create on-going relationships with the press with which you are dealing.

Never stop learning and thinking out-of-the-box... "The only sustainable competitive advantage a company can have is the ability to learn faster than its competition." Theodore Levitt

Remy M. Mauduit


 


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