Influencer 101: A guideline for influencer marketing campaigns

Social media post example of influencer marketing

By Corie Fiebiger –  Communications Coordinator

More often than not, businesses and brands are turning to social media influencers to help spread their messages, gain awareness, and win over the masses. These pay-for-play personalities make it their jobs (literally) to make you happy and can change the way your business engages and interacts with potential customers. Successful social media campaigns must be a comprehensive mix of your personalized voice, authentic engagement, worthy visualsbranded and topical posts, and now influencer content. 

Relevant influencer content is great, but not all influencers create equal content. Here are some tips and tactics on what to look for when selecting the right influencer to meet your marketing goals.  

Create Campaign Goals & Targets  

Having a clear idea of your must-haves, required stats, and overall influencer objectives will help you understand the type of influencer you need and can keep you on track if you get overwhelmedNot everyone will be a fit, and it’s important to be particular.  

It will help to have campaign “must-haves” in place to help narrow down the sea of options at your fingertips. Are you looking for influencers in a particular geographic location? Do they meet your minimum follower counts and data markers? This could even be something as specific as what university they attend. 

If your campaign plans to use both paid and unpaid influencers, what are your musthave stats for both categories? Creating a list of influencer and campaign goals at the very beginning of your search will save you invaluable time.  

Find Your Influencers 

Though there might be a plethora of “perfect” people to choose from, finding the right influencer for your brand can be harder than you expect. There are numerous online tools and databases that can help you plug in requirements to find potential influencers. However, depending on the size of your company, brand or campaign, and therefore your budget, paying for influencer vetting software might not be an option. 

Even if you opt for one of these services, you may find yourself having to do additional vetting, as there is no software that can tell you that an influencer’s vibe and esthetic matches what you are looking for.  

If you are trying to build brand loyalty, then you will want to focus on influencers in the same genre as your brand. However, if you are trying to expand your brand awareness and build your audience, then trying out influencers within different categories will be important. For instance, a travel brand might seek out a lifestyle influencer to expand brand awareness by targeting yoga enthusiasts. Or a clothing brand might target a high-end fashion influencer to cement their brand’s reputation as trend setters in the fashion industry. 

One free yet timeconsuming way to find the right influencers for your campaign is by doing a simple search. Google is your best friend. A search for “top lifestyle influencers” delivers almost 24 million search results; each writer has a different opinion and has decided on the best influencers by looking through their own individual vetting lensesEach blog or article will have its best choices represented, so look at a few on a couple of lists to see which writer’s vision you most identify with. You may even find that there are influencers that are represented on multiple lists!  

There is a blog for every topic and an excess of writers to choose from. Another search that is helpful will be “top ____ blogs.” You will be hard pressed to find a blog that isn’t also tied to that blog’s specific social world. Depending on what you are looking for, and if you have the budget to support it, securing an influencer with a blog has its own benefits.  

Create Your Wish List 

You may feel overwhelmed by the large number of influencers to choose from. Staying organized and listing your favorites will be helpful, because this is where the real work and in-depth research begins. An easy place to start is with your must-haves and data dealbreakers. Look at their social sites and review their follower counts. This is an easy way to shorten your list.  

With that said, if you feel there is an influencer with amazing pictures, great content, and good engagement, but who doesn’t meet your minimum numbers, don’t discount them yet. You may find you have to readjust or re-evaluate your goals as you go along, especially if you have a very specific demographic. At the very least, these particular influencers might be a great way to get some free user-generated content that you can share on your own social channels.  

Vet Your Targets Against Your Criteria 

Another easy way to cut down your list is to consider the demographics and psychographics of the influencers you are vetting. Now that you have your list, it comes down to whether they represent who you are. 

Are they the right age, gender, geographic location, or does that matter? What are their interests and motivations and do those align with your product or brand values? Do they have previous sponsored content on their page?  

By looking through various influencer’s platforms, you will eventually get an idea of what you are looking for, whether that is a certain esthetic or something that will resonate with your already loyal following. Read their posts and study their digital habits; a simple “vibe check” can go a long way.  

More important questions to ask yourself: 

  • Are they relevant to your topics or brand? 
  • What is their credibility to products in your category? 
  • What is their sponsored engagement rate vs overall engagement rate? The only one that matters is sponsored engagement. 

There are currently over 570 million blogs out there and 86% of content makers use them, so it is more likely than not that your influencer will have this additional platform for you to utilize. With blogs I suggest looking at the esthetic and vibe. Does it look like someone threw together pictures of their family vacation on a WordPress template, or are there nicely organized sections and tabs to filter their content?  

Many blogs will offer media kits with extra information about their audience, previous branding sponsorships or partnerships, or how many subscribers they have to their newsletters. It is worth noting that previous sponsorships are great, but it will be important to ask what the success rate of that partnership was. Did they just make pretty pictures, or did they increase followers and sell product? 

It will also be helpful to know the blog’s unique visitors per month (UVPM) and domain authority (DA). These could also be featured on the blog. The DA is a search engine ranking score that is a measure of the site’s relevance to a subject area or industry and shows how successful a site is based upon search engine results. Generally anything over 50 is considered good. You can get this free overview of search engine performance from a software development company called Moz 

Budget and Negotiations 

You have your list, yay! Now it is actually time to reach out to your chosen influencers. After all of that time you spent on finding and vetting them, you want them to be a right fit and they want to be a right fit too.  

Just like your own “deal-breakers,” your budget may narrow down your list even further. Determining which one will offer the right results to fit your campaign will come down to feel and your marketing budget.  

Price tends to go up with the number of followers. If a blog post and newsletter mailing is part of your deal, the price can go even further. You may want to use paid influencers, unpaid influencers or both, depending on your budget and size of your campaign.  

Do some research online to find an example of the approximate influencer pricing for various types of campaigns. Many influencers who are trying to gain followers and popularity will work in exchange for product/experience, or whatever it is you are promoting. You can always ask them to do it for tradethe worst they can say is no.   

Online research should reveal the approximate influencer pricing for various types of campaign participation.

You’ve signed a contractnow what? 

Many times, companies will want a firm list of deliverables from their influencer. It is definitely okay to have a must-have shot list. If there is something you would like to feature, a certain product demonstrated, or event highlightedtell them. You are paying and they want you to be successful because it helps them to have successful content. 

Do nothowever, script their entire campaign. Give them creative prompts but not exact messages. Provide the message and vibe you are trying to communicate, but also give them some control and let them play to their strengths. They know their audience and what they will respond to, so work with them to decide the look of the posts and then let them do what they do best. Together, you may even go viral! 

Influencer marketing may not be right for every brand, but we find it to be an influential tool for brand awareness on specific campaigns. With a little time, clear idea of what you are looking for, the right tools for searching, vetting criteria and a contract in place, hiring the right influencers combined with unique and relevant curated content will help create a fully integrated marketing campaign.  

Four Reasons Publicist is a Dirty Word

 

By Julie Wright —President
Twitter: @juliewright


Has your mom ever used your childhood nickname in front of your adult friends? That’s how I feel when someone uses the term publicist or publicity to describe my work.

Generating positive media coverage is definitely among the many functions performed by a public relations professional. But the word “publicist” says nothing of the research, strategy, messaging and many other thoughtful, and even artful, activities that go into a successful public relations program. The word, in my opinion, minimizes my work.

For that reason, I would like to see “publicist” buried next to “flack” and “spin doctor.”

Public relations professionals are strategic communicators.

Two years ago, PRSA’s 2017 Chair, Jane Dvorak, addressed the PRSA Western District Conference in Riverside, Calif. urging attendees to see themselves as leaders, strategists and analysts. To my ear, “publicist” is a label that says none of those things. Two years later, I continue to hear this term applied to describe work that is only about 10-20 percent producing media coverage.

If you’re not convinced that “publicist” needs to go, give these four points careful consideration, and let me know if they help change your thinking. (If you already agree, these may help you convert or at least educate others.)

1. Publicists Produce Transactions. PR Pros Build Relationships.

We work in a very transactional environment today. Marketing and communications outcomes are boiled down to clicks, likes, links and conversions, but the stakeholders who need to receive your messages are not clicks and conversions—they’re real human beings who crave meaningful emotional connections with other real human beings.

This absolutely includes journalists.

Media databases like Cision and Meltwater make it much easier to build a big list than a targeted one. Journalists become email addresses and not people. Instead of building a relationship with the media, this transactional approach plays a numbers game. Ultimately, when the media gripes about getting a PR pitch addressed to the wrong name or that’s a country mile off the mark, it’s because they’re not being communicated to as human beings.

Public relations requires building understanding, changing perceptions and motivating behaviors and beliefs. Those kinds of outcomes need a relational versus transactional approach, which requires understanding your audiences and treating them as humans. This can be accomplished through surveys, interviews and focus groups and using that information to create personas.

Publicity is just too limiting a term to encompass these approaches.

2. Publicity is a Tactic. Public Relations Requires Strategy.

As public relations professionals, we can’t fulfill our role and responsibilities with a tactical mindset. We must think strategically.

From research to message development and testing to creative—strategy drives the choices we make, and those choices drive our campaign results. Did we communicate in a manner that earned our audience’s attention and resonated with them so that their perceptions, beliefs and behaviors were impacted?

I equate publicity with none of the above. Instead, I picture someone producing a bunch of press clippings which is useful if stroking your client’s ego is the only goal of your campaign.

3. A Publicist’s Communication is One-Way. PR Requires Listening.

There is far more pitching, posting and publishing than listening on social media and the web these days. I like the term coined by Mark Schaefer five years ago, Content Shock, to sum up the impact of content marketing run rampant. Schaefer pointed out then how the pace and volume of content being produced far exceeded the pace and volume of content being consumed.

Anyone today who is pushing content or a message without creating a way for the recipient to engage, respond and be heard is missing a huge opportunity to build relationships.

Communicators who create space for their stakeholders to be heard are the ones doing it right. When a crisis hits, they’ll be able to engage in conversations with their customers or investors rather than an avalanche of angry or outraged Tweets and Facebook posts.

The brands that weather crises more easily than others are those that have built relationships and goodwill with their stakeholders. And those are the brands being stewarded by strategic communicators and not publicists.

4. Publicity is About Earned Media. Public Relations Crosses All Media.

A decade ago, traditional media outlets underwent an implosion, while podcasts, online videos, blogs and social media storytelling platforms exploded. In the aftermath of these two trends, traditional media gatekeepers like the daily newspaper or evening newscast have lost their ability to influence public perception at scale.

Earned media was once the bread and butter of the public relations function, but today, it is just one of several communication platforms our profession employs to reach and engage with its stakeholders.

The contemporary integrated approach, sometimes referred to as the PESO Model, combines paid, earned, shared and owned media. Paid media can include social media ads and boosting or Google AdWords. Earned media includes press coverage but can include analyst relations, awards and speaking opportunities that imply and/or impart third-party validation. Shared media refers to social networks like Facebook but also review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Owned media describes all of the creative assets at your disposal to engage your audiences and to interact with them directly including print, digital and multimedia content.

Publicity is a component of only one of those four platforms, making it an inadequate label for describing what today’s strategic communicators do.

So, Let’s Retire the Term Publicist and Champion the Role of Strategic Communicator.

It’s time to toss this transactional, tactical, and out-of-touch term. It’s old school and perpetuates a narrow stereotype of what public relations today actually is. Publicity is about as apropos to what my team and I do every day at (W)right On Communications as my childhood nickname is to my adult identity. Now, if only I could get my mom to stop calling me Oobies.

PR Best Practices Can Restore Public Trust in the Post-Truth Era

By Julie Wright —President
Twitter: @juliewright


It is not business as usual in the media industry.

Some say we’re in a post-truth era. One thing is for sure: the role and honesty of spokespeople, the press and state-sponsored fake news has us all talking. And, it turns out, this controversy has had an enormous impact on public trust.

Trust levels in the U.S. and around the world are measured by the Edelman Trust Barometer. This annual report provides an in-depth analysis of trust in the U.S. breaking it down by trust in the media, CEOs, businesses, experts, NGOs and more. This year, the Edelman Trust Barometer showed a crisis in trust in America. The deep plunge recorded year over year was akin to a stock market crash.

It found that  63 percent of the U.S. general population struggles to distinguish between what is real news and what is fake. Trust in U.S.-based companies dropped from 55 to 50 percent continuing a decline that began in 2014. Trust in NGOs fell from 58 to 49 percent.

This is the environment in which public relations professionals, their employers and clients are communicating. Information from most sources is greeted with skepticism or outright disbelief by the public.

So, here we are. The scarcest commodity in the U.S. today is trust.

Last week, I interviewed Lynn Walsh, project manager of the Trusting News project to find out how the media is working to restore trust with its readers, viewers and listeners. This week, I’m asking how PR pros can work to restore trust with the public?

The answer is to stick to PR best practices and good media relations fundamentals and to recommit ourselves to the crucial role that public relations best practices play in building and restoring trust.

Let’s Refresh on Media Relations’ Primary Goals

Media relations strategies typically start with two high-level goals in mind.

The first is to raise awareness of a brand’s story and messages with its target audiences through well-placed articles, features and other media mentions.

Since earned media cannot be bought, unlike paid media (advertising), it is more credible—with the public and with Google too. Have you noticed that news articles in major media outlets have a much higher search engine ranking? That’s because the websites that they’re published on have a much higher search engine authority, so Google ranks them higher. (This can cut both ways: it’s awesome when the news in such links is great, and terrible when it’s bad.)

The second goal is to influence perceptions and preserve or build an organization’s reputation.

This starts with ensuring media coverage is accurate and fair. It continues with proactive strategies to communicate a brand’s excellent financial performance, corporate social responsibility program, product innovation or corporate culture.

As brand storytellers, the PR team is approaching these communications as an ongoing process or narrative and not as a one-off event or announcement.

When both of these goals are achieved, the news stories topping your brand’s Google search results are the stories you’re most proud of and not the cringe-worthy ones. Plus, you maintain your organization’s trust with its stakeholders (customers, employees, constituents, vendors, partners, patients, donors—whoever you need to keep onside in order to operate effectively).

In short, PR’s first goal is to get you into the media spotlight and its second goal is to ensure, once you’re there, that you’re lit to show your best side so that your audience applauds, or at least understands, your behaviors and decisions versus throwing tomatoes at you.

Along the way, we apply media relations best practices: knowing what’s newsworthy, building good media relationships and being authentic, timely, accurate and transparent.

Truth and Accuracy are PR Best Practices

We are also ethical. Most PR professionals are members of the Public Relations Society of America. As such, we are expected to uphold the society’s professional code of ethics (PDF). This means that we are advocates for our clients and respect their confidential or privileged information, while also being honest, accurate and truthful in our representations to the public. We take responsibility for the authenticity of the information we represent in our communications and outreach.

It’s not an easy task. Public relations is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 most stressful jobs in America, and it’s not a thankful task to be the media spokesperson when the chips are down or the heat is on. (That’s one big reason why so many of us appreciate our thankful clients and employers so much.)

But, here’s the point of this refresher. Ethical PR that follows PR best practices like transparency, accuracy, authenticity and timely communication is what builds trust.

And trust matters. It has an ROI. There’s even a name for it: brand equity. When brands and people are trusted, they’re valued. When things go wrong, trusted people and brands get the benefit of the doubt. When you look these benefits, an investment in PR best practices makes incredibly good sense.

If this resonates with you as either a PR pro or someone who can influence a company’s PR strategy, I encourage you to fight for PR best practices, to remember that PR is not happy talk and spin. It is also tough talk and the hard work and soul searching that sometimes come when tough conversations are required with your stakeholders.

Remind your colleagues in the C-suite and at the board room table that when they hold strategic communications to the same high standard as you do, the public will hold your brand in higher regard. And when your brand consistently communicates with transparency and truthfulness, you’ll earn the public’s trust. Trusted brands have higher valuations because trust is a precious commodity. So, stand up for standards and stand up for trust.

 

Five lies about PR measurement that can sink your strategy and career

By Julie Wright—President and Founder

Twitter: @JulieWright


Last month I attended the Ragan PR Daily PR measurement conference in Miami. The two-day event was crammed with hot tips and excellent case studies on PR measurement–how to design measurable campaigns, incorporate analytics, conduct surveys and develop metrics that matter.

Businessman pointing graphs and symbols Free PhotoIt is increasingly clear to anyone in the public relations profession that PR measurement is something our industry needs to embrace. With marketing budgets and margins under constant pressure, companies are looking to optimize their investments across paid, earned, shared and owned strategies. Not only does PR need to stack up against highly measurable digital strategies, it also needs to take digital paid, shared and owned tactics under its wing to produce more integrated, measurable campaigns.

After two full days of discussion in Miami, I was even more convinced of these truths and returned to San Diego fired up to confront some of the biggest whoppers about PR measurement head on. So here are my top five falsehoods. I’d love to hear your take on this list and maybe together we can all help move the PR field in the right direction.

LIE #1: PR just isn’t measurable.

If you are in PR and truly believe this, you’re toast. Sure, PR is not as easy to measure as digital marketing, but it is far from impossible to measure!

It requires a little more legwork and setting aside some campaign resources to do it well. But, keep in mind, the gold standard for PR excellence has always started with research and ended with evaluation—a.k.a. measurement.

Don’t believe the lie that PR isn’t measurable. Instead, refresh yourself on best practices in PR research and evaluation.  

  • Read “Public Relations Research for Planning and Evaluation” by Walter K. Lindenmann on the Institute for Public Relations’ website.
  • Check out the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation in Communications and their Integrated Evaluation Framework. AMEC has developed an interactive online tool that walks you through each step in the PR planning and evaluation process. The tool is designed to help support campaign evaluation; however, you can just as easily use it to guide campaign development to ensure you’re creating measurable campaigns from the start.
  • Read how others have designed measurable campaigns. AMEC has an annual awards program and shares case studies about the winning campaigns.
  • Check out the measurement resources provided by the Public Relations Society of America. It has collected all the measurement resources and links you could wish for in one place.

LIE #2: Our campaign goal is to raise awareness.

This is also a lie. As Joseph Ogden, BYU public relations professor, threw down in Miami, “If anyone tells you their only goal is awareness, they’re lying.” No one wants their PR campaign to simply raise awareness. They want their campaign to drive people to take some measurable behavior—to buy a product, drink less soda, visit a destination, attend an event, enroll in a course, submit their email, visit the website, vote, download the white paper or make a donation.

Hold yourself to a higher standard and help your client or boss understand that you do more than just “create buzz.” (Eye roll.)

It’s easier if you start by developing an objective that clearly states the behavior you want your stakeholders to take, by when and how often. Once you know your behavioral objective, work backwards and think about your informational objective–the message or knowledge your stakeholders need to receive and internalize—and the motivational objective—the emotional connection they need to make—to drive them to take the desired behavior.

Once you’ve set your intention from awareness through motivation and behavior, you can start to research your stakeholders to find out what their level of awareness and knowledge is and what motivates them so you can develop your strategy.

LIE #3: PR people aren’t numbers people.

That’s B.S. Don’t be boxed in by this lie. Good PR people are good storytellers, and one of the most powerful storytelling elements available to you in 2017 is data. Don’t shy away from it.

IBM Digital Experience Manager Brandi Boatner put it another way during the Miami conference: “Congrats, you’re all data scientists.”

Boatner pointed out the many data streams at our disposal today. There are internal sources that are coming from your advertising, website and internal processes. Analyze them as well as external streams you can study such as news trends, social media trends and competitive intelligence.

Google’s Louis Gray pointed conference attendees to Google Trends, a site where you can see in real-time what the world or the U.S.A. is searching, what news stories are trending and find interesting reports on search behaviors.

If you’d like to dig deeper into your audience’s awareness, beliefs or behaviors, check out Google Survey. Use this tool to cost-effectively add your questions to consumer surveys pushed out to targeted demographic groups via a network of publishers.Image result for PR measurement memes

Or if you have data of your own that you’d like to put into an impressive visualization, Gray pointed to Google Public, a data visualization tool. And don’t forget plain old Microsoft Excel. It will recommend the optimal charts and graphs for you based on your spreadsheet data.

It’s a data-rich world. Your company and clients are collecting data all the time. Extract that data to find amazing trends or to dispute conventional wisdom. Maybe there’s a surprising correlation between weather patterns and shopping behaviors, or day of the week and donations. The point is, you won’t know if you don’t look. And you won’t look if you think it’s outside of your skillset.

So, call a meeting with your company’s data guru and start spit balling with your new best friends in I.T.

LIE #4: More data is the answer.

It’s not about metrics. It’s about insights. And it’s not about the quantity of data points. It’s about their relevance to your goal.

Over a third of social marketers reported recently that they struggle to “distill data into insights and actions.” And it’s no wonder. Facebook and Google Analytics are just two sources that can generate a massive amount of data on your target audiences’ behavior.

Going back to your informational and behavioral objectives, it’s important to pinpoint a handful of key performance indicators to show that your message is reaching your target audience and that they are taking the behaviors that your client or boss really cares about.

You don’t need to track them all. You just need to focus on the metrics that matter and then go beyond tracking to analysis.

LIE #5: Setting measurable PR objectives sets you up to fail.

The old saying applies here: you can’t improve what you don’t measure.

It is not a failure to set measurable objectives and then fall short of them.

The failure is in not understanding why you didn’t meet your objectives. Were they not SMART enough–specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time dimensioned? Was your strategy missing an element? Was your target getting the information but not motivated sufficiently or too inconvenienced to take action?

If you’ve set measurable goals, you are forced to ask yourself these questions and better understand your successes and challenges, which will make you better.

The only real failure that should scare you is the failure to even try. Or as another old saying goes, no one plans to fail, they just fail to plan.

Let us know what you think. How has your experience with PR measurement been? What tips or tools have you discovered? What obstacles have you encountered with your team, boss, budgets or clients? We’re all in this together and I’d love to hear what you think. Tweet me at @juliewright or @wrightoncomm.

Dear Journalists, We Can Explain: Things PR Pros Want You to Know

letter to the editorBy Erica Schlesinger, Communications Strategist

If you’ve been in the media relations game long enough – on either side – you’ve seen many a blog, article, and social media post lamenting the mess-ups of PR professionals. There are different ones here and there, but most tend to center around incessant follow-ups, not understanding beats, mass emails and the dreaded… dun dun dun… follow-up phone call!

follow up callNow, don’t get me wrong, journalists – those things are annoying, misguided and a mark of poor (or no) research. So I assure you, I feel you. But I also assure you that for every off-base pitch or umpteenth follow-up you get, there are more carefully-crafted notes from PR pros trying very hard to make you happy. We read your media profiles, we catch up on months or even years of your articles, we make notes about your beats and interests in our media lists and we set ourselves reminders in our calendars to follow up a sane amount of times over a reasonable timeframe.

I asked my conscientious colleagues, some of whom have multiple decades of experience in the field, to share their top things they want journalists to know. Here’s what they had to say:

“PR people are accountable to their clients and/or employer and have a job to do. Part of our job is avoiding speculation and hypotheticals being printed in the media. Another is respecting confidentiality, which might include personnel issues, financial data or a legal matter. We want to provide timely and accurate information to reporters but do sometimes have to hold back. In most of my interactions, the media do understand that and are also just doing their job. We also spend time crafting our pitches to target a reporter’s beat and interests. We are not blasting off topic story ideas, and we welcome feedback from the media to help us improve. We know the media get a gazillion pitches per day, but we crave your feedback and value your time.” – Julie Wright, President

 

“I think a lot of journalists assume we want to insert ourselves or take over their process when we just want to be sure they’re getting everything they need. Journalists often want to talk to the client, but the client is busy running a business and doesn’t have the time to send images, headshots, product fact sheets, etc. Our job – and desire – is to make the journalist’s life easier. Journalists also tend to assume we just want our clients to spew talking points that mean nothing but sound great. The reality is, our clients are passionate about their product. They live and breathe it. We know the best interviews are when they convey that passion in an authentic way, and that’s what we try to help them do. The only difference is during crisis management when showing hot-running emotion – compassion being the exception – isn’t the most helpful for anyone involved.” – Chance Shay, Communications Strategist

 

“I think one thing everyone in the industry forgets is that a lot of PR people were once media and vice versa. So, many of us do ‘get’ what it’s like to be a journalist and what they need to make a story a good one. Also, most of us get the benefit of a good relationship and will often go out of our way to help a journalist. PR people can help with leads or connections that can prove useful and often have their finger on the pulse of what’s hip, new and trendy in a number of industries. Smart media professionals can use their PR contacts as solid resources for story ideas.” – Shae Geary, Senior Communications Strategist

 

“PR pros and journalists need each other. In the age of information overload, we can help journalists do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. And I promise, some of us do have interesting and intentional things to say! It’s really hard for me to see Tweets disparaging PR people when I just finished writing an entire article for a journalist because he was too busy to write it himself, or saying we can’t meet basic deadlines when I have a whole system in place to ensure I always do just that. I get it – when you see a cringe-worthy mistake, it can put a bad taste in your mouth. But most of us do put effort and care into what we send you.” – Molly Borchers, Senior Communications Strategist

 

“If we don’t hear otherwise from you, we’ll assume our pitches work for you on some level. If the approach doesn’t, but you’re interested in the news itself, let us know. I’ve received emails simply saying, ‘Hey, this is cool, but my deadline is always X day – can you send to me another day of the week next time?’ or ‘My lead time is a little longer than most monthlies – in the future, get the info to me four months in advance.’ It’s quick feedback that’s appreciated, and we’ll take heed. And if you’re not interested, let us know. We won’t follow up. But I’ve had media people on many occasions say, “Yes, I love this idea, I’ve just been swamped – thanks for reminding me” after circling back. We don’t want to annoy you. Oh, and unless the situation truly calls for it – I won’t call you. Promise.” – Erica Schlesinger, Communications Strategist

journalistBoth media and PR experts are under lots of pressure, day in and day out. There are deadlines to meet, pieces to write and people to please. So no sympathy needed, no snark involved – let’s just keep it copacetic and make great stories happen, together.

PR pros, what would you add to the list?

Journalists, what do you think? Do you find most PR pros you deal with are worthy of a bit of a break – or still don’t get it?

 

Four Press Release Best Practices

By Danielle Cobb, Communications Coordinator

Every couple of years the press release is declared dead. Yet the thousands of press releases issued over newswires each and every day are proof that its obituary hasn’t been written yet. Companies don’t need to issue press releases to get media coverage, but doing so has its benefits:press release seo

  • Establishing credibility
  • Showing business momentum
  • Search engine optimization
  • For public companies, communicating valuable information to shareholders

Press releases get a bum rap because some companies issue them to announce trivial things like new websites, minor upgrades to products, and other things that frankly, no one cares about. That said, if your company has important news to share, the press release is still the best vehicle to get the word out.

Your press release is a direct reflection of your brand. You don’t want it lining your media contacts’ trashcan, do you? Are you making press release writing mistakes that you don’t even know about?

Here are four press release best practices:

Give Your Headline Some Sizzle

I hate to say it, but most press release headlines are boring. This is your opportunity to bring the reader into your world. Don’t squander it! It’s a cutthroat world out there and the headline might be the reason someone decides to give your story a chance…or look the other way. Powerful adjectives and active verbs are a great start for eye-catching headlines.

As a rule, the headline should be simple and short so people (and search engines) don’t get lost. Clear language is essential, and avoid jargon at all costs. Make it interesting and always consider the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?).

Take the Leadinverted pyramid

It’s a best practice to write press releases in the “inverted pyramid” style. That’s why the lead is so important. It’s the first thing people see (after the headline, of course), so the most important details should come first. Also, it should be engaging enough to capture the reader’s attention.

Creativity is key here. How many times have you heard a boring, static lead that reads, “Today, company X is excited to announce…?” And that’s supposed to be enticing? Think again!

After you’ve written your standout lead, the first paragraph should cover all the bases – the 5 W’s: who, what, when, where and why.

It’s All About the Verb, Baby!

Press releases are different from an article in that you aren’t trying to paint a picture, but rather give a piece of news with all the facts. You need to be clear and concise, but also keep it interesting. A good way to do that is to use active rather than passive voice. There’s a big difference between “Molly ate the pizza” and “the pizza was eaten by Molly.” An active voice is more engaging and brings your verbs to life.

Another important element to consider is “person.” Person shows who or what does the action. Never use the second person, “you.” Always write in the third person. (i.e, “the reader,” “the buyer,” etc.)

Let Your Creativity Flow with Quotes

ideaJust because a press release provides serious facts doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with it. Every press release needs a bit of excitement, and quotes are a great way to add some color. A best practice for quotes is to limit them to two – three sentences. They should also be written more colloquially than the rest of the press release. Here is the standard format for quotes:

“This is the first sentence of my quote that should introduce the big picture idea,” said Danielle Cobb, communications coordinator, (W)right On Communications. “The second sentence validates the first sentence of the quote. The third sentence can provide supporting facts or an emotional appeal to back up the big idea from the first sentence.” Finally, keep in mind that the punctuation should always be placed inside the quotation marks.

These are just some of the guidelines we follow when drafting press releases. If you have any other best practices, give us a shout in the comments below!