Wylie Communications Inc.
Most press releases are pretty easy
Just ask Benny Evangelista, a
technology reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. In a Softletter
survey of media professionals about the quality of public relations,
Evangelista complained of an increase in the number of “boilerplate”
press releases — formulaic releases that all “sound basically the
‘XYZ Co. Inc., a leading supplier of the world’s integrated real-time
advanced software-aided microchips, announced today the availability of
its latest product, the XYZ 4.2, version 3, which will revolutionize the
software-aided micro-technology chip industry. “This will revolutionize
the software-aided micro-technology chip industry,” said Joe Blow, XYZ
Co. Chief Executive Officer and Founder.’”
Why do PR professionals flock
to the fill-in-the-blanks model? Certainly not because it stands out in
the crowd of all the other releases a reporter is likely to get in a day.
Instead of conforming to the
conventional approach — which is dated, formulaic and, let’s face it,
dull — choose a better model to follow. Study the winners of PRSA’s
Silver Anvil Award, the highest honor in the public relations business.
Here are some great approaches I found in the latest crop:
1. Write a feature
Contrary to popular opinion,
reporters don’t hate feature leads. They hate crappy feature leads.
Instead of the conventional
“today announced that” lead, why not make your release stand out from
the crowd with a lead like this one, from Pfizer Animal Health:
Imagine the first few hours
in the recovery room following a hysterectomy or … ligament repair.
Consider what post-surgical life has been like for some pets undergoing
common surgical procedures; intense hours WITHOUT pain medication. …
2. Lead with the
Want to get your story into Forbes?
“Present the key
element … that explains how your story can benefit Forbes readers,”
suggests Bruce Upbin, Forbes senior editor.
No surprise, then, that many
Silver Anvil winners lead with the reader benefits. This example is from
Employers now have a better
way to measure, monitor and manage employee absences, thanks to
UnumProvident Corporation’s expanded online Comparative Reporting
& Analysis information services.
Beats by a mile the tired
traditional approach: “UnumProvident Corporation today announced the
expansion of its online Comparative Reporting & Analysis information
3. Try a tipsheet.
Take the benefits approach to
the furthest extreme, and you wind up with a value-added, or service,
piece. Explain “how to,” and watch the media pick up your release.
Some Silver Anvil-winning approaches:
- “Infuse your party with
style: Tips and trends for a spectacular summer soiree,” from VOX
- “Interview opportunity:
Tips on how people can get more use out of their health coverage,”
- “UPS offers 10 tips for
worry-free packing, shipping”
4. Drag them in with
your subject line.
“With print, at least
they have to pick it up to throw it away,” says Pat Jones, a
communicator at TDS Telecom.
Not so when you’re sending a
pitch via e-mail. Online, you’re just one click of the delete key away
from obscurity. Your only chance to get the message read: the subject
A provocative subject line,
like this one from Enterpulse, can get your message opened:
New survey stats for
Internet “Death Penalty”
This brisk pitch outlines
Internet usage trends, including a “Silent Killer” that can keep
people from returning to a company’s site.
5. Give great bio.
Do your executive or director
bios read like a resume?
Wake your bios up with
human-interest details and storytelling. Here’s a great example from
Embassy Suites hotels:
It all started (when)
Carlton Calvin (was) reading a brief item in the Los Angeles Times about
the growing popularity of push scooters in Japan. With a spark of
creative thinking, Carlton, president of Razor USA LLC, spawned the
“Razor scooter,” one of the hottest trends to hit the United States
within the last two years.
Hint: “It all started when
…” leads draw the reader in. The moment of creative inspiration is a
great place to start an executive or director bio — or any story, for
6. Use human interest.
What’s more compelling: an
announcement about custom-fitted breast prostheses? Or a “breast cancer
Let people tell your story
with leads like this one, from ContourMed:
In 1989, Elizabeth McCann of
Spring, Texas, felt a knot in her left breast. Her physician told her
that she needed a biopsy, but was 99 percent sure it would be benign.
McCann kept putting it off — until the pain in her breast woke her up
at night. …
Instead of just filling in the
blanks, use any or all of these approaches when you write your next
release or pitch. Make your copy creative and compelling, not just one
Write a better
Want more tips
about what goes into successful media-relations
materials? Look for Ann's upcoming teleseminars at http://www.wyliecomm.com/training/calendar.shtml.
works with communicators who want to reach more readers
and with organizations that want to get the word out. To learn more
about her training, consulting or writing and editing services,
contact her at ann@WylieComm.com
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© 2005 Ann Wylie. All rights reserved.
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