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Tuesday, September 1, 2020, 13:27

Now, be honest, do you truly understand how the media works or do your eyes instantly glaze over when the subject comes up? Me, I tend to stay awake because a) I deal with the media for a living and b) I’m told my snoring instills murderous thoughts in others.

 

Actually, there’s really no mystery about it: the PR/media relationship is one that’s fundamentally about storytelling for mutual advantage. Everybody wants to be seen and heard in a positive light - it’s human nature. Companies and brands want to be regarded in that way by the wider world because they know that positive awareness helps get the phones ringing and orders racking up.  

The truth is, however, that the media generally takes a dimmer view, insisting that the stories and features they run should primarily be of interest to their readers and subscribers, rather than merely a means of revenue generation for you. Outrageous, I know, but there you are.

So how can you get the rotters to play ball? Simple: make sure your stories and pitches are genuinely newsworthy. Whatever your proposition, there has to be a hook somewhere in there that an editor thinks might draw in their readers, educate them, inspire them, spark a few synapses etc.

Now I’ll be blunt, story-telling is what I do 24/7, I live for it (and chocolate-coated Biscoff biscuits). But I know that a lot of folk labour under the misapprehension that writing releases is easy-peasy, child’s play, if you will. If you’re one of them - and you’re wondering why the hell nobody has replied, much less featured, your last 12 press releases - here’s a free bluffer’s guide as to what you’re probably doing wrong…

  1. Hacks receive dozens, often hundreds of emails a day: they simply haven’t got the time to read all of them. For there to be even a slim chance they’re going to open yours you need to craft an arresting, compelling headline that’ll stop them dead in their tracks. The best way to do that is make your headline highly relevant to their readership. This always works, trust me.
  2. OK, you’ve got their attention, they’ve opened your email, you’re half-way there. What does your first para say? Why is that important? Because that’s where you have to encapsulate the most important elements of your story or pitch. Use the news journalist’s own mantra to figure out what needs to go in here. Ask yourself the 5 Ws: Who, What, When Where and Why.
  3. Why do you have to pack so much into the first para? Because if a hack is short on space the first para of your story/pitch might be the only bit that makes the final ‘cut’, as the saying goes. It’s more of an issue for print than it is for online but brevity and conciseness are always desirable.
  4. Having been a journalist in a past life I can tell you they have to work ferociously hard to earn a crust. Anything you can do to make their lives a mite easier will be rewarded. Ensuring the text you craft is factually accurate, free of hyperbole and well-written is the least you can do and will get you BIG brownie points. If your copy is really good then a time-poor hack might even just cut and paste what’s needed, changing just a word or two here and there. That’s the biggest compliment a press release - and your writing skills - will ever get.
  5. Pictures matter. It’s staggering how many brands still fail to understand that good quality images are an absolute must-have, not an optional extra. Don’t, however, be tempted to simply attach dozens of massive multi-gigabyte JPEGS… that’ll get you more hate than Nigel Farage turning up at a Labour party dinner and dance. Far safer simply to provide links to online galleries where images can be perused at leisure

OK, I’m going to stop now - there’s plenty more wisdom to impart but I’ve got to long this content creation thing out for months yet. Something to do with SEO, apparently...

Needless to say, if you can’t be bothered to wait for the next of my 329 nuggets of wisdom (believe me, you’ll be much older by the time I’m done) just drop me a line with a brief and I’ll happily get the job done for you quick-smart.

And yes, for the avoidance of doubt, and to paraphrase the immortal Kelis, my milkshake will definitely bring more boys to your yard... 


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