Articles Tagged with journalist

Don’t let your hangover be the only awareness of your award win

An award win gives you a big opportunity to obtain press coverage.
If you’re a finalist, Robert Zarywacz suggests preparing in advance so you don’t waste your big moment.

It’s the morning after the regional awards. What a hangover! But what a win! And, boy, did we celebrate!” 

(Enough to warrant three exclamation marks.) 

“Now it’s time to tell everyone about how great we are. I’ll just get another cup of coffee and sit down to write the press release.”

pressme: Don’t let your hangover be the only awareness of your award win

Make best PR use of your award win

It can be a big achievement to win an award and it’s definitely useful for obtaining media coverage, but an award win isn’t always enough on its own.

As our bleary-eyed winner sits down to compose their press release at 9.30am on the morning after, a journalist on their target publication has already been writing an article on these awards since 9.00am.

What’s more, another four businesses won awards last night, one of them winning two awards, so they are going to be the main focus of the newspaper article. The journalist has received a press release from one of the other winners and has already spoken to the winner of the two awards.

Add to this press releases sent to the newspaper from two other businesses which have each won national awards that outrank the regional awards, and our friend’s press release is an also-ran even before it’s written.

Does this really happen? Yes, this is based on my experience as a journalist when I observed award winners working to get my attention when it was too late.

Now, there are other ways of generating publicity from winning an award – in newsletters to customers, on social media and on web sites – but free coverage in the press and media is usually worth a lot. Think how much you would pay to advertise.

What can you do to improve your chances of media coverage?

Plan – write your winner’s press release before the awards event. You won’t be able to put in all the details, such as judges’ comments, although ask the awards organisers at the event when you have been named a winner. Get as much material as you can in advance.

Competitors – you will not be the only award winner. What makes you different? Will you win two awards? Will it be the third year you’ve won this award? Have you won other awards this year? What is it that will get you noticed by journalists so that your story becomes the focus of their awards articles?

Photos – usually an official photographer takes photos at awards ceremonies. Find out how the press can obtain photos of your award win. Sometimes photos can be a pain to obtain, so any help you can give journalists will make their job easier.

Move fast – contact the media as soon as you can. If the awards were announced during an evening event, do it first thing the following morning. Remember our journalist who was writing the article at 9am. You may be hungover, but the journalist will probably have a clear head and be writing to a deadline.

Respond – if a journalist calls you or emails, respond immediately. They’ll have other articles to write if they can’t get a response from you.

With a small amount of preparation you can do a lot to help your chances of getting media coverage of your awards wins. And that’s another reason to celebrate.

Whose time is your PR wasting?

Effective PR requires time and effort,
but we need to focus activity clearly to make sure we’re not wasting others’ time as well as our own.

Whose time is your PR wasting

If you’d put a lot of effort into writing and distributing a press release or article, how would you feel if a journalist started reading but then stopped and asked: “What is this all about?”

If it’s a really interesting topic and the journalist wants to pursue it, they’ll call you to get the real story.

It’s more likely that they won’t have much time and are up against a tight deadline and will give up.

How much time would you have spent putting that press release together?

What do you think the journalist’s opinion will be of your business?

Does it ever happen?

It happened twice to me recently when I received two vague press releases. I like to give people a chance and re-read them to see if I was missing the point. No, they were too vague. They referred to awards or achievements, but did not give any specific details.

I did a bit of investigation. I try to check facts wherever I can as I know that people often mention things without checking them. There was nothing on their web sites.

I now reached a point where the value of the stories in my view was not worth more of my time. I had other news to follow up that I knew was of interest, so I did not follow up these two any further.

What improvements could have got them published?

If the press releases had set out precisely what the awards were, what organisations made them, why they had won them and what it meant to the businesses to win them, it would have told me all about the stories.

Perhaps they would have been newsworthy.

In the event, they wasted my time and, I imagine, wasted theirs too.

My advice when looking to start any public relations activity is to establish what your news is, who will find it interesting and what you want it to achieve.

If you can’t provide the answers to these questions, I suggest spending the time on something more likely to be useful.

What’s bubbling away in your business?


This morning I was thinking about blog topics for today when the boiling water in the kettle brought to mind a blog by Suzan St Maur about selling the ‘sizzle in your sausage’.

I thought of some of the press releases I receive as a journalist which often have the potential for a good story bubbling away, but never quite reach the boil.

It reminded me that when I receive a press release, I want to be excited by it. Yes, I want to understand it fast, I want it well written, I want accurate details, but above all I want to be excited enough to publish it.

In her blog, Suzan asks Do you know what you’re REALLY selling before you write about it?. Suzan’s blog comments on an article by Tsufit on ‘How To Attract New Clients in Just 30 Seconds’ which asks “If you don’t know what you’re selling, how can you sell it?”

As well as knowing what we’re selling – and Suzan’s blog covers this brilliantly – there is a danger when preparing PR material that the process takes the heat out of the story. This can happen where a press release is written, then circulated to a distribution list for comment and approval, passed by the corporate style police and perfected by committee to leave it stone cold.

But it’s not just big organisations that can freeze a story that is so hot it needs handling with oven gloves. Often we can be so engrossed in form and detail that we forget the story. It’s vital that we maintain the excitement in any story unless we want it to end up as a bedtime tale to send the reader to sleep.

That means expressing all the energy, enthusiasm and excitement of our business or product or service and the reason we love what we do. If we can get all this across, we can excite journalists and editors, and, in turn, their readers.

Thank you to Suzan and Tsufit for bringing me to the boil!

What is bubbling away in your business?

 

Why are some press releases like lost baggage at an airport?

Why are some press releases like lost baggage at an airport?

When I worked in communications for an international airline, I remember a tour behind the scenes at a Heathrow passenger terminal and seeing heaps of suitcases and bags piled up.

Sometimes I imagine there are similar heaps of press releases which haven’t reached their intended destination or were not clearly labelled.

Where do press releases go?

If you send a press release to ‘the editor’ or not addressed to a specific individual at a publication, you can expect it to land on a heap somewhere.

Press releases sometimes get passed from one journalist to another at a publication with comments such as ‘any use?’ attached.

Is that the response you want when it’s taken hours or days to get information, obtain a quote from a customer and get them to approve the release, met with your PR consultant and paid them to write and distribute your press release?

How much has ‘any use?’ cost you?

Does this really happen? Yes.

Is it your lucky day?

With luck, press releases do reach the appropriate journalist. I always take a look at press releases passed to me, even if I wince at their content and decide not to use them.

I suspect that many more end up on the ‘discarded’ heap.

This is a shame, considering the work, resources and time that have gone into producing them, especially when a little research and targeting could have prevented this.

It’s useful to keep the image of lost baggage in your mind when distributing press releases and, just as when you jet off on your hard-earned holiday, think: destination.

Mix the right raw ingredients to cook up the perfect PR meal


Mix the right raw ingredients to cook up the perfect PR meal
I really enjoy cooking as a way to wind down.

I don’t know if it’s because it takes me away from my keyboard or because it results in a physical product, but anyway I find it very relaxing.

How do you make a meal from individual ingredients?

One of the things that fascinates me is how you take raw ingredients – today it was raw beef mince, onion, celery, carrot, tomato, butter, flour, milk, herbs and pasta – and combine them to make something new and totally different, but hopefully tasty. I was lucky in that today everything came together as a lasagne.

Combine your PR ingredients

It got me thinking that it’s the same with PR. You take your raw ingredients – your story, facts, quotes and photographs – to produce a tasty PR dish. The higher the quality of your ingredients, the tastier the story is for journalists. So if you have a mouth-watering photo, journalists are more likely to bite.

A press release on its own will not necessarily achieve success. It needs to be served in an appetising way, so a spokesperson with an energetic and enthusiastic manner is more likely to be asked for an interview on radio or TV and an eye-catching photo is more likely to be picked for the cover of a magazine.

As in cooking, we have to select the finest PR ingredients and combine them in a way that produces a ‘complete dish’.

Yikes! What is stopping you?

Many of us have things that we put off doing.

Yikes! What is stopping you?

Last weekend I started installing loft insulation we bought four years ago. It’s a horrible job and there are plenty of good excuses for doing something else. However, winter is here and the difference in warmth it has made already is amazing.

Of course, now I am asking myself: “Why didn’t I do this before?”

Not trying avoids disappointment

It’s the same with many things in business, especially PR. People think about it, but it can seem a bit scary. What if I send off a press release and no one is interested? What if I call a journalist and get a grumpy rejection? Sometimes it’s easier not to try so we don’t get disappointed.

With my journalist’s hat on, there is nothing that delights me more than an email from a small business that I have featured in the business pages I write. Many are so pleased to see their photo and read about their activities. And many say they get business as a result of their article.

Could we have succeeded?

Although this approach avoids disappointment, it also prevents us from fulfilling our potential. Could we have succeeded? Who knows? But our competitors will probably lap up publicity if we don’t try.

Is there anything stopping you from using PR for your business?

We’d like to hear from you if there is anything stopping you from using PR in your business. If you leave a comment below, we’ll try to provide an answer that helps. Lack of budget is a common barrier, but there is a lot you can do yourself if you have time.

So if there is anything stopping you and you’d like to ask about it, now is your chance.

Catch that PR request before it slips through your fingers

Catch that PR request before it slips through your fingersYou’ve done all the hard work, developed your strategy, planned your campaign, gathered all your information, identified your target audience, written your press release and distributed it.

You come out of a meeting or leave an area with poor mobile reception and your phone bleeps to say you have voicemail. It’s a journalist who wants a comment on the issue you want to talk about it.

It’s the opportunity you’ve worked for, the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.

Take it. Call back. Fast.

Journalists spend a lot of time trying to get hold of people for comment. If they have a deadline, they’ll probably call the next person on the list and forget you.

They will be very grateful when you do call back. I know I am when I’ve got my journalist hat on. And if they know you call back, they are more likely to call you when they want comment in the future.

Don’t let that chance slip through your fingers and disappear downstream.

What is it worth to you?

Target relevant publications with your press release

Even before you start writing your press release, think who you want to read it and where you will send it. If you leave this until after you’ve written it, you could find that your press release is not suitable for the publication(s) you are targeting.

Taking a scattergun approach and sending it to everyone is not a good idea either. As a business journalist, I receive so many irrelevant press releases that waste my time. While I try to remain helpful at all times, sometimes this does stretch my patience too far.

Does this matter? Well, if it puts a journalist off reading anything you send them, it could mean you miss the one big opportunity when they are interested.

I am really grateful when people take the time to find out what news I am seeking.

Overcome fear to tell your story

All businesses need to create a presence so that customers know that they are there. Whether this is through marketing and advertising or from word-of-mouth recommendations, awareness is essential for getting work.

I find that many people are still wary of trying out many of the marketing tools that are available to them. In my role as a business writer for a local newspaper, I often receive phone calls starting with a business owner saying gingerly “I don’t know if you’ll be interested in this . . . ” and then going on to tell a cracker of a story. Of course, the opposite of this is the business owner who sends in press releases regularly with ‘news’ that is only of interest to them. I believe many businesses have good stories to tell and need the confidence to tell them.

While an effective PR consultant can help, businesses without a budget can . . . and do . . . achieve media exposure through their own efforts. With thought and planning, a clear idea of what you want to achieve and a focus on what you will and what you won’t talk about, public relations can be a very cost effective tool.

This applies not only to PR but also to blogging, social media and more. Perhaps you see your competitors getting exposure and feel that you offer a better service than they do, but how will people find that out? Often a voice can tell us that “no one wants to hear about that”, but it’s probably that we’re afraid of standing up and telling our story, a bit like the fear of public speaking.

I’m often encouraging people to talk about their businesses because so many are fascinating and deserve wider exposure. With social media, colleagues and associates can help to share your stories and support you.

There really are many opportunities to tell your stories and people who want to hear them.

Robert Zarywacz is a copywriter and journalist who has written thousands of magazine and newspaper articles. He also researches and writes press releases, case studies and newsletters for clients as well as managing social media and PR campaigns at z2z.com. Robert is the business writer for the North Devon Journal, chairman of COMBEbusiness and courtesy consultant for the National Campaign for Courtesy. Follow @robertz on Twitter.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t call back . . .

. . . if you don’t want to take advantage of publicity for your business.

In my role as a newspaper writer I continue to wonder at how many businesses lose out on media coverage simply by not returning calls or responding to emails from journalists. If they’ve got more business than they can handle, that’s their decision, but how many businesses are operating at full capacity or don’t need more business?

I know people are busy and can’t always respond instantly, but an attempt to return a call to get a comment or article in the paper at no cost would seem to be worth the effort. Perhaps they think it won’t do them any good.

I know from writing for a local newspaper that editorial does generate enquiries. That’s why many businesses I’ve covered previously contact me again when they have some news they think will interest me.

Perhaps they think they won’t be able to talk about their business coherently. Surely they talk coherently to their customers or else they wouldn’t make any sales. There’s not much difference.

And what if the call is about something negative, such as the horsemeat scandal? If you can comment knowledgeably or have a food business where you can demonstrate traceability and quality, you do have the opportunity to benefit.

So the next time a journalist calls for a comment, take a moment to think about the opportunity and what you want to say before calling them back promptly.

 

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