Don’t Be Guilty of the Two Worst PR Writing Habits

If I read another Tweet, Facebook post or quote in a press release that starts with “We are excited…,” I’m going to shoot myself.

There’s only one person in the world who is excited by your excitement, and that’s your mom.

What I need to know is why I should care. Why is this at least interesting to me?

Call it WIFM (What’s In It For Me) or just common sense, but your communication—be it 140 characters, a 10-minute speech or an entire campaign—must meet some basic need in your target audience for it to be effective.

The only sin worse than “We are excited…” or “We are pleased…” in a press release quote is to open your release with the awesomely redundant lede, “XYZ Company announces today that…”

A press release is an announcement so it’s quite unnecessary, Captain Obvious, to tell the reader you’re announcing something. That is assumed. Seeing this laziness makes me want to put a stick in my eye.

What if every press release followed this mundane structure? Then, I beg you, put two sticks in my eyes. (I’m sure journalists who look at hundreds of press releases each day feel the same way. If you’re a journalist, I’d love to hear your press release beefs in the comments section below!)

Sadly, a search of PRWeb’s news feed showed over 20 releases with quotes containing “We are pleased…” in just one day!

These are the bane of even mediocre, let alone good, PR writing.

So fight the urge to boast.

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Add a touch of creativity to stand out.

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And avoid stating the obvious.

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How can you avoid these writing traps? First, just try harder and think before you write!

If you are stumped, an easy fix is to pay attention to the verbs. They are the most important element of speech in your communications. What is the action you are announcing? Winning an award, reporting financials, signing a major contract, acquiring a company, advancing a cure for cancer?

Replace “announce” with that action so that the lede is focused on the newsworthy action.

Here’s another essential writing tip: Always put your audience’s needs first. This is the first commandment of good communication. And when you live by it, you’ll avoid the sin of self-serving excitement—a.k.a. press release masturbation.

Put your audience’s pleasure ahead of your own if you want a loving and lasting relationship with your target market.

This is particularly helpful when you must write about events of questionable newsworthiness but great C-suite excitement. These include industry awards, new executive hires or partnerships.

Try applying these strategies:

  • Does your news meet an emotional need in your customer? Share it in a way that makes them feel good or better. “Even Grumpy Cat nearly broke a smile when he learned about our Super Duper industry award!”
  • Tweeting about a new CEO? Rather than “Our company is excited to welcome…” try engaging your followers to welcome her. “What do you want new CEO Juanita Doe to know about our products and service? #welcomejuanita.” Share responses and show your new CEO that the company’s social media network is a source of important feedback and input from customers and employees.
  • Did you win an award thanks to the support of your loyal customers or the work of your dedicated employees? Make that your message and instead of saying “we are excited,” try “we are grateful.”

Instead of a one-off post about the award on social media, plan a series of posts over a few weeks that profile an employee or a customer who contributed to your success. Create a campaign to raise awareness about the honor as well as grow your community and build goodwill with your most important stakeholders.

This could work for a tech company’s Most Innovative Product award or a resort’s success in reaching #1 on TripAdvisor. Who helped you get there?

What creative or strategic approaches have you had success with?

Sometimes the challenge is convincing decision makers at your client or company that being engaging and interesting is more important and productive than chest beating. Ask them to share the news with mothers and then with their teenage kids. Somewhere between those two extremes is the true indicator of whether anyone cares.

I will concede there are times when your audience may be just as excited about some news as you are, and it’s valid to share in that. A San Diego company might Tweet, “We’re excited that the San Diego Chargers are going to Super Bowl.” That would be legitimately exciting to people in the local market.

Just resist the urge to Tweet, post or speak like a cheerleader—particularly if you’re cheering for yourself—unless conditions really call for a cheerleader.

And never, under any circumstances, announce an announcement. Announce your news.

By Julie Wright, President

 

Twitter’s New “Buy” Button is Ready to Shake Up Your Social Media

Twitter's New Buy Button Ready to Shake Up Your World

In today’s digital-loving environment, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t shop online. Retailers tempt with exclusive products, special deals and shipping incentives; and Cyber Monday is quickly on its way to taking over Black Friday, just about the biggest brick-and-mortar shopping day ever. So e-commerce has the world wrapped around its proverbial finger – but what about s-commerce? Yes, s-commerce, or social media commerce, is A Thing. Platforms like The Fancy (like a purchase-minded Pinterest) are in on the game, and Facebook started sussing out a Buy button in July. But people today move at a rapid-fire pace, and need something to keep up – enter Twitter’s new Buy button.

“We are beginning to test a new way for you to discover and buy products on Twitter,” the company announced last week. “This is an early step in our building functionality into Twitter to make shopping from mobile devices convenient and easy, hopefully even fun. Users will get access to offers and merchandise they can’t get anywhere else and act on them right in the Twitter app.” Already tested out by influential retailers, nonprofts and music acts including Burberry, The Nature Conservancy and Pharrell Williams, the “Buy” button works like it sounds – within the Twitter app, users can view a tweet offering a product. If they like what they see, they simply need to tap “Buy Now” to pull up more details, enter shipping and payment info and – done. Although results of the test run haven’t been provided, we at WOC think this will be a game-changer in terms of how brands do business on the Web – and on social media to boot. It’s a streamlined and straightforward way to make a purchase, and it’s intuitive – it speaks to the ever-present need to get things done and get them done fast. Where networks like The Fancy and Facebook encourage browsing, Twitter’s buying feature works just like the platform itself – real-time and easily consumed on the go. This tool is in beta for just the elite members of the Twitterverse for the time being, but it doesn’t mean you can’t plan ahead. Brands with marketable goods and services are wise to start thinking about how they can leverage this for success once it’s available to all. Sure, clothes and music are a great fit for this, but ponder how you can step outside the box and be an early adopter in your industry. For hotels, for example, this feature could act as an excellent sales tool. When new seasonal packages or meetings promotions roll around, tweet them out with the option to buy. Booking directly isn’t supported (yet), but a Twitter follower could easily purchase a voucher and connect with you to arrange their visit. You could take it one step further and create a great first impression, as well as maybe secure a true social media evangelist – when Twitter-sourced fans check in, greet them with a special treat and a note encouraging them to tweet about their stay with a preset hashtag. Nonprofits could use “Buy Now” to sell event tickets and donations by creating buy amounts, then let people buy $5, $10, $20 and so on. Much easier to manage – and more likely to make people feel at ease – than a buy-with-hashtag situation. Or, for agencies or inidviduals touting thought leadership, you could peddle whitepapers and access to webinars reserved just for your loyal Twitter fans. Any brand could build excitement and high-quality followers by releasing regular specials on a certain day, too – people would quickly look forward to “Travel Deal Thursday” or “Webinar Wednesday.” Have you tried out s-commerce, or will you now that it’s becoming so easy? Talk to us about it @wrightoncomm. By Erica Schlesinger, Communications Strategist

Being a Know-It-All Isn’t such a Bad Thing

know-it-all

The know-it-all: you know that person. It seems everyone has one or two in their life. The not-so-humble person who elicits an eye roll every time he/she begins to speak. The person who pontificates on everything, and the minute you bring up something new, they claim to have known about it yesterday. They’re annoying, right?

But in the field of communication, we have a responsibility to be know-it-alls in the least obnoxious way. What do I mean?

Chance Shay and I went to a presentation on influencer marketing where Mark Fidelman quoted Google’s Eric Schmidt, saying that every two days we create as much information as we did from the beginning of time up to 2003. Every day it seems that there is more and more information to be consumed, and it’s tougher and tougher to cut through the noise. That presents a challenge for marketers because it makes it more difficult to reach customers in a meaningful way. But it’s also a challenge because technology is forcing us to do more than ever before. We have to be the experts. We have to filter through the junk for our clients so they don’t have to. We have to be ahead of trends so we can present the best possible ideas for our clients. Phew!

It’s a tall order, but that’s why I make it a personal mission to be a know-it-all. And in the best way possible: you won’t find me bloviating at the water cooler. But I do like to share trends and important articles with my clients the second that they’re relevant. I also think it’s important to incorporate up-to-date information into my work in real-time so I’m serving clients to the best of my ability.

That means taking time daily to stay on top of it all. But I’m no magician and I don’t have a 25th hour in my day. To make it work without being a time suck, I use a number of resources and work-hacks. Here are some of my favorites:

  • The Skimm: a daily enewsletter that skims the headlines & provides the most important information in a simplified manner.
  • The Muckrack newsroom: I visit this once a day to read the stories that are the most tweeted by major journalists.
  • To accompany that, I subscribe to the Muckrack enewsletter. I hate email newsletters just like any other schmuck. So if I sign up for one, I like it to do multiple things for me. This one also highlights the day’s most important news but it also reports on changes at major publications.
  • Newsle: enewsletter with news stories that feature your Facebook friends & email contacts. This serves as an alternate way to monitor for client stories, but it’s also a great tool for networking. What better way to reach out to a contact than by sending a quick note? “I saw your article in Forbes! Congratulations! And by the way, I’d love to catch up soon.”
  • Twitter lists: I have created twitter lists for media, colleagues in the industry, brands I’ve got my eye on, and clients/partners. I also get push notifications to my iPhone every time @BreakingNews tweets.
  • Feedly: the RSS reader of choice to keep up on all my favorite industry blogs, including but not limited to: Mashable, TechCrunch, PRDaily, All Things D, The Verge, Fast Company, Venture Beat, Forbes, NYT Bits, Inc., Waxing Unlyrical, Sarahsfav.es, Spin Sucks, Brian Solis, and more.
  • MediaGazer & TechMeme: MediaGazer aggregates the day’s top news stories and TechMeme does the same for the tech industry.
  • Cir.ca iPhone app: a beautiful iPhone app with the day’s top headlines, presented in a user-friendly format. Perfect for when I’ve got five minutes in between meetings or I’m waiting in line at the grocery store.
  • The Li.St: One of my favorite enewsletters from media veterans Rachel Sklar and Glynnis MacNicol (Huffington Post, Mediaite, Business Insider, Mediabistro). It comes out only a few times a week, but I read it to the end every time.
  • TED and NPR iPhone apps: I only have time to consume my beloved TED talks or NPR while I’m driving, running, or at the gym. These apps make it possible.

What are some of your favorite tools for being a know-it-all? Feel free to tell me in the comments.

Labels: feedlyknow-it-allmediagazermuckracknewslepublic relationsSan Diegoskimm,techmemetips