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’.

If a picture can paint a thousand words . . .

. . . why are they all questions?

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What is that? Where is it? When was it? Why was it there? What was the point? Who did it? Is it still there? Is that an inflatable? What gas was used to inflate it? Who chose the colours? Where did it come from? Will it be there again? Is that a mountain or a hill? Is it inland or on the coast? What are those brown patches on the hill/mountain?

That’s already 15 questions in just 72 words, so just think how many questions you could ask in a thousand words.

So does that mean words are more effective for communicating than pictures?

Of course not: both are useful in different ways. A picture or photograph can grab attention specifically because people want to find out more about a stunning image. For example, the BBC England website news page often has an ‘England’s Big Picture’ feature showing a partial image to tease viewers into opening it up to see if it is what they think it is. Stunning photography or images that tease can be useful in PR and marketing to attract people to read accompanying text.

In the same way, intriguing headlines can grab readers’ attention so that they read an accompanying article or text. News papers and websites make imaginative use of words in this way and, within reason, press releases and articles can do the same, as long as they do not mislead.

So what are more effective: words or pictures?

Neither. When applied with skill, one will not be more effective but will complement the other. If anything, a great photo will be let down by lousy writing, while a well-written article can be buried by poor illustration or layout.

When they work well together, the reader won’t take any notice of the composition of a photograph or style of writing but be totally engrossed in the message they convey.

That’s certainly our aim.