Most of the news we read, see or hear in the media every day, starts life as, or includes content from press releases in some shape or form.
Whether they inspire the story, provide a different perspective on it, give the right of reply, or add a position statement, they remain at the heart of the public relations toolbox.
Over the next three blog posts, I’ll cover some basic tips and advice on writing press releases, starting (appropriately enough) with introductions.
Every story must have a beginning, a middle and an end. The trick is getting all of them – or at least a flavour of all three – into one sentence.
Traditionally, the beginning of a news story (and that’s essentially what a press release is) has to cover the five W’s:
So, that single sentence of 20-30 words (ideally) has a lot of heavy lifting to do, in covering the essential facts, as well as being engaging and lively copy.
This also illustrates why a press release has to have an angle – a single idea that provides a hook and gives the narrative shape.
Imagine trying to sum up the entire plot of a complicated movie like one of my favourites, The Third Man, with all its twists, turns, character points and themes in just one line (try this synopsis for starters: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_Man#Plot).
But key events from the plot or elements of it can be encapsulated in a sentence covering all five W’s. For example:
Writer Holly Martins began a personal investigation into the mysterious death of his childhood friend, Harry Lime, in Vienna, today.
Not exactly Graham Greene but you get the idea: 20 words long and, at 132 characters, just the right size for a Tweet, too.
Keep an eye out for part 2.
The rule of three is a powerful one.
Whether it’s in speech, in print, or online, the fact is that emphasising three points in a sentence works.
Deploying the technique carefully can make you seem clear, knowledgeable and authoritative, which is why a lot of politicians pepper their speeches with moments like that.
But there are other ways in which you can make three words work for you.
At the centre of great brands and great marketing are great ideas. Many of the most memorable company slogans are key messages condensed into three words, for example:
Just do it
Every little helps
Vorsprung durch technik
Beanz meanz Heinz
In any business, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of branding. Everyday concerns like managing people, dealing with customers and balancing the books leave very little time to focus on the heart of what makes you stand out from the crowd.
And if you don’t have a strong grip on your brand, you’re probably just treading water.
Or you could be sinking.
Branding is about more than successful PR, marketing, websites, events, graphic design etc… Underpinning all that ‘fun stuff’ is a lot of hard work on making sure that every aspect of an organisation relates to a powerful central idea.
To see how three little words can start to make a big difference, try this exercise:
If you’d like to put more energy into getting to the heart of your brand and making it work harder for you, drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
All successful brands have a set of guidelines that underpin every aspect of the way they communicate – from marketing and advertising, through to key messages and PR.
I thought it might be helpful to summarise the main elements:
What’s in a name? Pretty much everything. The word, or words in themselves can’t convey too much in the way of ideas but whether a name is descriptive (Mark Wall Communications), associative (Vodafone), or abstract (Orange), its job is to become loaded with meaning… and it helps if it doesn’t mean something rude in another language.
Sometimes a picture speaks a thousand words and having a recognisable symbol, badge or insignia attached to your brand opens up a whole world of visuals, including…
From the style of your logo (whether it includes, or sits alongside your business’s name) to the choice of font your emails are composed in, using a distinctive form of typography (definitely not ‘Comic Sans’) creates and reinforces brand recognition.
Another key part of your logo and your overall style is consistency in the way you use colour. Think of Barclays, for example and it’s hard not to recall the particular shade of blue that’s used in everything from their signage to the edges of their credit cards. Or take the main supermarket chains: green (Asda), orange (Sainsbury’s), blue (Tesco) and yellow (Morrison’s). Colour is all about creating a sense impression and brands increasingly think about things like sound, texture and taste in the same way.
Tone of voice
What you say is important but not so much as how you say it and making sure that both things are consistent. Do you want your brand to sound calm and authoritative, or maybe your style is cheeky and anarchic? Getting your tone of voice right is vital – and it has to match your visuals.
For help with branding and making sure your business gets the recognition it deserves, drop me a line: email@example.com
‘Hope for the best but plan for the worst’ is a useful saying in any walk of life.
In my experience, most businesses – certainly the successful ones – tend to be run by optimists.
Enterprising, adventurous risk-takers tend not to wonder whether their glasses are half full or half empty. Instead, they see an opportunity to fill the glass… then sell more glasses and more drinks to fill them.
Most of the time, PR is about telling people the good news that their glasses are more than half full, or that they could be.
But sometimes things go wrong and (to stretch the metaphor) people can see the glass is half empty, because it’s cracked or broken and making a mess.
Tough times like these call for ‘crisis management’, which is often the point where people realise they never planned for the worst.
And this is where the first rule of dealing with a crisis comes in:
The second rule (unless you’re happy to see all your hard work wasted) is to get help – particularly with your communications and public relations.
I’ve worked in PR long enough to have seen businesses and organisations through some very serious difficulties – everything from making people redundant, to being accused of killing someone.
Ask for my professional help and what you tell me might surprise me but nothing you can say will faze me and none of it will go any further.
I can’t make the media go away but I can help you manage your crisis communications; then help you rebuild your reputation once the rest of the world has moved on.
So, whether you’d like help preparing for the worst, or it’s already happening, give me a call on 01823 271508, or drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
Understanding what a ‘brand’ is can be a terribly confusing business.
Ask most people and they’ll probably mention logos but they’re just signifiers of branding – there’s much more to brands than creating recognisable visuals.