Under PR Pressure

English: A backspace key in its natural habita...

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Do you ever start typing the introductory paragraph of a press release in urgent need of creativity and positioning, that’s news worthy enough to make sure your PR friends will publish it; but then you keep pressing the backspace key without a lick of an idea for how to strategically make that happen? Do you check the time on your dashboard (Mac fans) or the lower right hand corner of the tool bar (Windows lovers) just watching the time tick away? All of a sudden 5 minutes have gone by…10 minutes… uh oh 20 minutes and you don’t even have your first paragraph! Yes, writer’s block. Although, this is even worse…it’s writer’s block under pressure.

I know I’m not alone and this happens to me all too often to not have a game plan. The intent of this article is to help readers break through the block and turn pressure into a piece of cake!

State Your Purpose

Who are you, the publicist or the promoter?

I ask because each has a different style of presentation, organization, content, and length. Each has a different purpose and target media. Pressure Level: Zero!

What is your intended publishing medium: print, radio, and/or television?

Depending on which, they should be written differently. Print requires and focuses on information via words because it stimulates thought. Radio & TV require orally spoken words and visual images to evoke an emotional or physical response. When taking these differences into account when writing, you’re more likely to give the media what they need to do their job. Don’t forget, the goal is to persuade a media member to take action:

  1. write about your story
  2. request more information
  3. interview you about the subject matter

Pressure Level: Low

What are you trying to convey?

You need to carefully identify what you want people to see/learn about your company that will professionally and accurately brand you. You could be promoting a product, a professional service, an invention or an event, etc. The goal is to appropriately convey that message to achieve a desired publicity, which will result in a return on investment that can exceed even your best marketing. Along with media interest, press releases need to be designed to equally trigger public interest. You must deliberately and wisely select and then present information that:

  1. interests most of your target audience
  2. has significant perceived value for that audience
  3. is easy for media to verify and run with

Pressure Level: High

Know Your Release Type

Whatever you’re trying to accomplish, the first step is to know your release type. These types will generally fall under the following 6 categories:

1.  General News

This is the most common type of press release. When most people think of the word “press release”, this is what they think of. It is simply, news that must be distributed through media members. The goal here is to generate interest, coverage and exposure for your company. Maybe your company received an award, posted a new video on You Tube, has some news about an executive, made a significant change to the website, and had organizational changes, etc., all fall under the category of general news releases. Pressure Level: Low

2.  Launch Press Release

This is formatted just like a general news release, but has very specific intent. Here the goal is to simply create buzz. This is a high pressure release for the writer because it’s urgent and has to be timed appropriately. You could be detailing the launch of a new company, product, website, program, or some sort of initiative. Pressure Level: High

3.  Product Press Release

This is typically formatted differently than a general news release. This is because a product press release typically includes product specs and is used in conjunction with a launch release. (Although not always. You could be announcing a product award, milestone, upgraded version, etc.) What is the key to success here? Photos! Make sure the photos are highlighting the benefits/features described in the release and show the product in action. Also, depending on the product, timing can be crucial. Pressure Level: Medium to High

4.  Executive or Staff Announcement News Release

This release is what you send out when there are staff changes or promotions in the company, typically involving high management levels. This type of press release is different from a general news release because it can contain biographical content to support the primary information (with more detail). This type of release can also include photo(s) of the person subjected in the release. Pressure Level: Medium

5.  Expert Positioning Press Release

This release is less urgent compared to a general news release. The focus of a positioning release can be company reports, which include statistics/results or news from another organization with supporting information. The focus is on showing an individual’s expertise in a subject area or industry with the goal of building his/her rapport to media members. Pressure Level: Low

6.  Event Press Release & Media Advisory

An event release is formatted differently than a general news release primarily because it needs to clearly communicate to media members the 5Ws: who, what, when, where and why. It is typically written as a list or outline instead of paragraphs. An event press release has the intent to persuade the media to make your event known to the public. A media advisory is intended to get media members to attend your event. The goal in both releases is to focus on the “why”. Be compelling in your writing about why an audience should attend your event. (Many people accomplish this by providing food, contests, participation opportunities, etc.) Pressure Level: Medium

Find Your Creative Angle

Here’s where a reader’s feedback transitions from “eh” to “wow” and it’s most often the biggest challenge.  This is when I try to think of outside of the box and here are some ideas that have worked for me:

Is there a current event happening in the news you can tie this too? (Get inspired by watching broadcast news programs and follow the headlines on major web-based news sites.)

Is there a government statistic that will support the topic?  (i.e.  You want to talk about your new solar panel system installed on a building in Arizona, maybe there’s data that the area reached record high sunlight during the month after and here is the result…)

Would your release be better communicated or more persuasive as an advertorial? (i.e. Maybe you’re writing about your new and improved roof shingles. Is there a contracting company you can highlight and mention their use of the product…)

Is there an attention-grabbing gimmick or theme you could use? (i.e. You’re launching  a revolutionary face firming cream and positioning it as a cheap alternative to Botox…That’s a savings that’s up-lifting [not only for your face, but your bank account! – Ok, that may be a cheesy one, but you get the idea!].)

Brainstorm! (Jot down on a piece of paper every word that comes to mind when you think about your target audience.  What makes them tick?)

Figure out the trends.  (Check out the latest articles published by your top of the list publication.  Don’t use the same topics. Can you align your release to compliment these topics in some way?)

Creative Distribution

This is where you can be just as creative as your release angle.  Get out of the mindset that you should distribute your article about your company’s new solar panels to media members at Solar Panel Magazine.  Although, it’s not a bad idea, there is so much more you could do!  With a little tailoring, how about sending this release to School Planning and Management Magazine, NPR radio, or Architect Magazine (Magazine of the American Institute of Architects), to name a few.  The key is to really think about your reader and find mediums that would exploit your release in an interesting, inventive, professional, and compelling way to both the media and the public. 

Now, next time you find yourself abundantly hitting that dreadful backspace key and excessively time checking…think of this article.  I hope it can break through the worst writer’s block and produce your best, pressure-free writing!

Branding is in the Eye of the Beholder

Pablo Picasso, 1937, Guernica, protest against...

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To my business owners:

I’m thinking about corporate branding…yes, branding and beauty have a lot to do with each other and both of them are viewed differently by various types of people.  When building a company brand, whether branding a small business or corporate-scale image, I’m a firm believer in digging deeper into personality, quirks, culture, beliefs and goals of the “beholder” (the company) as your strategy.  Personify the company.  If ABC, Inc. were a person, how would they present themselves to friends, family, acquaintances, and people they first meet?  That’s what a brand should say without words.  When you look at a logo, icon, or any sort of identification graphic, do the descriptive words, feelings, and opinions of the viewer coincide with the personification choices you were going after?  And this viewer (your audience or target market) may feel differently than another.  I think it’s best to look at your target audience and personify them too. What is beauty to this person?  If people (potential partners and clients) are attracted to your (company) beauty (brand), you can potentially establish long and fulfilling (profitable) relationships with them.

Let’s look at a world renowned artist, Picasso, known for his intellectual portrayal of politics through the artistic style of Cubism. Some viewed it as beautiful and some not. (And I’ll stay neutral in my opinion of his work.)  It’s obvious that his artwork was his brand.  Although, on the contrary, the painter said, in a 1945 interview with Jerome Seckler,  “I am a Communist and my painting is Communist painting. … But if I were a shoemaker, Royalist or Communist or anything else, I would not necessarily hammer my shoes in a special way to show my politics.”

He built his brand by personifying his political beliefs by abstractly painting them. Without his works and personal portrayal of his political beliefs, his branding, we may not remember him today.   If you were a successful shoemaker, you WOULD hammer shoes in a special way to show your competencies (beauty)  in a competitive market.

Reflection:  Does your company brand portray its true beauty?  How can you build a beautiful brand that will produce chemistry with your specific target market?