Posts tagged ‘journalists’
What’s to do when press releases aren’t fashionable anymore ? Some tips here from Claire Celsi via PR Daily.
1. Pitch email. More than 90 percent of reporters claim they want to receive pitches via email. Given that you’re already emailing, just put your pitch in the form of a story, with bullet points emphasizing the most important details you want the reporter to know. Here is the key to a successful pitch email:
• Google the reporter’s name. After ensuring that she still writes for the news outlet, click on one of her recent articles. Make sure it is within the same genre as your pitch. In other words, if you are pitching a health-care story, make sure she covers health care.
• Write a one-paragraph personalized intro for every email you send. “I read your series on health-care abuses in the nursing home industry…” Show some interest in the reporter’s work.
• The remaining portion of the email can be the same for every reporter. This is your brief opportunity to capture the reporter’s interest with your pitch. Make it short, and make it interesting.
• Write a subject line that gets attention and describes your pitch. “For your information” is not a good subject line.
2. Make a website posting (preferably a blog post). If your client has a newsroom or a blog, post your pitch material in the form of a Web article or blog post. Use story-telling language, not a standard press release format. Tag the post with keywords, and link to the company’s website or to other information, if possible. You can start a new blog on Posterous in less than 15 minutes.
3. Send a Tweet. Turn your key idea into a tweet. With a little practice, you’ll be a pro at getting your message across in one or two tweets. Ideally, it would be great to send these messages to a reporter as a direct message, but if all else fails, go ahead and say: @JeffZeleny, did you know that the most outstanding pork tenderloin sandwich in Des Moines is at Smitty’s?” (Of course, you’ll want to come up with your own tweet material.) If the reporter does not respond, follow up with an email pitch.
4. Send a Facebook message. I’m friendly with a lot of local reporters on Facebook, but not so many national reporters. Even if you’re not friends with a reporter on Facebook, you can still send them a message. Attach a link or photo if you have one.
5. Pick up the phone. Sometimes a quick conversation to gauge a reporter’s interest can save you a lot of time, especially when it seems as though a reporter is no longer covering that beat. If you keep your call brief and courteous, the reporter will be happy to point you in the right direction. If they don’t answer or are on deadline, follow up with a pitch email.
6. Offer to meet a reporter for coffee if you’re both in the same city. Sometimes reporters are looking for any excuse they can to get out of the newsroom for a while.
1. Attention-grabbing headline. You need a short, catchy headline that will grab somebody’s attention when they’re scanning dozens (or maybe hundreds) of e-mails. Not sure what that looks like? Look at the front page of The New York Times (or any major newspaper or magazine worth its salt) on any given day. You can tell when somebody takes the time to write a great headline. Your headline should sell the story—in this case, your news. If you can’t sell it in your headline, good luck with your pitch.
2. Picture this. Just like a listing on eBay gets more bids relative to the number and quality of pictures used, so, too, will your news. Is there a great picture that tells your story? Spend the extra money and distribute it with your release. At the very least, include a logo with your release—it will stand out. I’m referring primarily to wire distribution of your release. If you’re e-mailing your release, don’t include the images. Instead, link to them with an accurate description in the release.
3. Paint (your story) by numbers. Back your stuff up. Don’t fill it with fluff. For instance, here is a good release that begins with an attention-grabbing stat about the problem of bullying in the U.S. to promoting anti-bullying. Love it. The headline is too busy for me, but it’s one of the best releases out there this week. There’s a lot a journalist could start with here.
4. Keep it short. You don’t need to put the kitchen sink in your release. Get in and out. Give them the high points, and they’ll contact you for the rest. Most wire services charge more when you exceed 400 words. Keep your releases under 400 words, and you’ll save money and increase your chances of getting covered. If you can pitch a journalist in 140 characters, there’s no reason you can’t compose a press release that’s fewer than 400 words.
5. Funny how? Like a clown? It’s OK to use humor. Is there a clever (not cheesy) hook you can use with your release? Work for a bakery? Use a “best thing since sliced bread” reference. Humor is highly subjective, so tread lightly. If you’re in an industry not known for humor, it could work. Ben & Jerry’s just issued a press release that said the company is “proud as peanuts (in a chocolate swirl)” about the announcement. Subtle humor makes releases more interesting.
6. Write it like a news story. Learn to write in inverted pyramid style. Answer the who, what, why, when, where, and how in the first paragraph or two. Read the first two paragraphs of the press release you’re working on. If that’s all you had, would you know what the story is about? Practice writing one-paragraph press releases as a first draft. Then add any necessary supporting information. Your headline and first paragraph are the most important components.
7. Kill the canned quotes. Executive John Smith is so excited about this news. It’s really special and makes everyone feel wonderful. Really? Read a couple of executive quotes in press releases, you’ll see they’re always the same. I know journalists rarely use those quotes (except when a release is used verbatim, of course). Either kill the quotes, or give them one they can use. Read the quotes that make it into print, and model your press release quote after that. They probably still won’t use it, but you’ll give them an idea of the quotes they could expect to get in an interview with the source.
8. Use some bullet points. Use bullets to break up your information. Just as they make it easier to scan a blog post, so, too, do bullets help you scan a press release. Unfortunately, very few press releases (that I’ve seen) contain bullet points. What would happen if you included a section of your release that said, “Here are five things you will learn in this press release:” with the five things? You might get the strongest response you’ve ever had from a press release. Test it, and let me know how it goes.
Source: Jeremy Porter
Days ago, I wrote an article about do’s and do not’s for media interviews, from Crisis Communications A Casebook Approach written by Fern Banks. Today, I’m going to write trick questions that journalists use to obtain more spicy information.
- speculative questions begin with if – “If an earthquake had happened during business hours, how many people would have been killed or injured? “
- leading questions imply that the reporter already has the answer – “You do agree that the company could have avoided this tragedy, right ?”
- loaded questions are designed to elicit an emotional response – “Isn’t it true that you knew there was asbestos in the ceiling and failed to do anything about it ?”
- naive questions indicate that the reporter had not done any homework and does not know what to ask – “Tell me, what does your company do ?”
- false questions intentionally contain inaccurate details in them – “You fired half of over-50 staff, right ?” where the public relations professional, knowing the statistic is wrong, could counter with “No, only 40%”, not realizing the reporter was aiming for that information all along.
- know-it-all questions begin with “We have the story. I just need a few wrap-up facts.” The reporter may want you to merely confirm an already formed viewpoint.
- silence is used by reporters who want you to spill your guts, to talk on and on.
- accusatory questions are designed to force you to blame others
- multiple-part questions can be confusing to you as well as to the public. Ask which part you should ask first, then answer each part as separate question.
- jargonistic questions are those in which technical words or professional jargon are used.
- chummy questions are those in which the reporter, pretending to be your buddy, may ask – “Say, pal, off the record, what do you think … ?”
- labeling questions aim to make issues negative or simplistic by seeming to ask for clarity – “Would you call the company’s work schedule stressful ?”
- good-bye questions are posed at the end of an interview and may even come after the camera or tape recorder is turned off – “By the way …”
If you want to discover what these trick questions can do, I highly recommend you to watch All the President’s Men , where two journalists Woodward and Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Nixon’s resignation.