Most people think of PR as some kind of highly expensive black art that usually involves high-priced agencies, beautiful people and champagne. Of course some of it does, but in most cases PR works at a much more prosaic level. The job is simple – to get stories published in the press for free.
Stories appear in magazines, newspapers and on the Internet because people put them there. It requires a little effort but, if you do it right, the rewards can be much greater than simple advertising.
Subjects for stories can include: new personnel, new facilities, new contracts, new ideas, letters to editors, technical stories, customer advice, charitable events, and much more. Virtually anything new that happens at a company could be turned into a press story.
However, it is important to remember that a press release should be a genuine news story, not an advertisement. Stories that are too self congratulatory or are really just a sales pitch will end up in the editor’s bin. If you give editors what they want, they will use it; if you don’t, you’re wasting your time.
The trick is to make the editor’s job as easy as possible. Give them a story that is interesting to their readers, not too long, with a good photo and presented in a form that they can ‘cut and paste’ into their magazines and websites. The harder you make it, the less chance you have of seeing your story in print.
Keep these tips in mind when preparing a story:
- The editor wants you to use as few words as possible to answer the following questions: What happened? When did it happen? Why did it happen? How did it happen? Who was involved? And what is the message for everyone else? Preferably all that should be included in paragraph one with the story expanding as it progresses;
- Make sure quotes are believable and actually sound like someone has said them. Make it too long or unbelievable and the editor won’t use it;
- Use simple, straightforward language. Don’t write your press release in industry jargon. Keep it simple so that those not familiar with your industry will still be able to understand it; and
- The photo is often as important as the story itself so don’t send out your PR stories without a good quality, relevant photo with a caption to say what’s going on. Pictures should always be sent as JPG or TIFF images and never embedded in a Word or PDF document.
Making the editor’s life easy is easy. Just send a concise, relevant story, written in Word, to his e-mail address and attach a good quality, high resolution JPG photo that helps illustrate the story. Do this and you will have the best chance of getting your stories published and allowing your PR programme to work effectively as part of your company’s communication mix.
Charlotte Freestone is editor at The Words Workshop.
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