On the two-day international course I was running in Budapest, there was a there was a highly enthusiastic delegate from an exotic part of the former Soviet Union we shall call “Independent Country X”.
The course was on how to write effective press releases and give great answers in media interviews in order to help participants attract positive free media publicity across Eastern and Central Europe.
This was why it was being run on the banks of the Danube.
One of the things I do on such courses is to ask participants to send in advance examples of their recent press releases.
This is so we can examine what they’re doing right and what needs to be refined in order to maximise their prospects of making a bigger, better, bolder media splash.
If there were a prize for the worst press release contributed ahead of the Budapest course, alas, it would have gone to Independent Country X.
Of course, Australian professional speakers are far too warm, sensitive, caring and diplomatic to offer such a prize!
Besides, in this particular case the press release was so outstandingly bad a prize wasn’t necessary to make the point.
I came to believe that the key reason for the enthusiasm of the Independent Country X delegate was that he had an inkling of how dire his office’s press releases had been – and he was as eager as I was to solve the problem.
The awful Independent Country X press release had been aimed at publicising a forthcoming visit to the capital city by a group of British business representatives.
The crucial first line of the press release – which often determines whether the story will make it to the top of the news agenda or miss out altogether – would hardly have set newsrooms alight!
It said something like:
“Once again, a delegation of British businessmen will be coming to the capital of Independent Country X.”
It was the “once again” reference that was the killer.
The fact that the visit was being presented as merely a repetition of what had happened before made it all the less exciting and less newsworthy.
It became a bit of a running joke on the course, with visions of journalists crawling yawning from newsrooms saying things like: “Oh no, the British businessmen are coming yet again!”
MAKING YOUR PRESS RELEASES STAND OUT
While press releases must only contain truth, one of the tricks is to avoiding cluttering them with unnecessary background information at the start in a way which clouds the real story.
Fortunately, our conference room discussions uncovered a much more newsworthy angle which we focused on.
The British businesses were seeking to build trade relationships, develop partnerships and strike deals with fledgling Independent Country X businesses.
So all the participants on the course were able to see how – by focusing on these potential benefits – they could come up with a much more powerful press release with much lower chances of, as we say in journalistic world, being “left on the cutting room floor”.
Once you know what journalists need to fuel their stories and captivate their audiences, you can write press releases that command more attention – and win more column inches on the page, screen and airwaves with more captivating headlines.
This publicity can, in turn, lead to more inquiries and more sales.
Better press releases also trigger more invitations for a company representative to be interviewed where – if impressive answers are given to the journalists’ questions – you can capture still more media space!
SHAPING THE ONLINE VIDEOS TO HELP
Speaking of interviews that result from good press releases, my high-tech colleagues and I are developing a new online video series to help you and your team give great answers to tough questions in all challenging business conversations.
This includes conversations with clients, prospects, investors, job selection panels, journalists and others.
Details of how you can influence the nature of the video series are at the foot of this column.
And in this quest there really is a prize for the best contribution!
AVOIDING JARGON AND BUREAUCRATIC-STYLE WRITING
When running sessions on “Position Your Business For Free Media Publicity”, I draw attention to some bad news and some good news regarding press releases.
The bad news is that newsrooms for TV, radio, newspapers and their associated online and multi-media empires are flooded with press releases – and they only have space for a limited amount of news.
The good news for your prospects is that most of these press releases are appallingly written.
They are routinely full of jargon, bureaucratic-style waffle and miss the real story – if indeed there is a real story to miss.
This means is that if you and your team learn how to write effective press releases then – when you’ve got a real story about your business – this can shine out in newsrooms ahead of all those terrible press releases.
To write an effective press release, you need to know what factors to highlight which will grab the attention of editors and journalists.
These include factors like topicality, economic impact and emotional impact.
When you know what to look for within your own organisation then you’re well on the way to writing press releases which will make it in the news.
PRESS RELEASES THAT WORK
Here’s what can happen with a press release that works.
The publishers of “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work” – John Wiley And Sons – put out a colourful, well-crafted press release just before publication which attracted the interest of The Daily Express among others.
This led to the author being invited for interview in a London hotel lobby with the Express star columnist, Carole Ann Rice.
The resulting story – which concluded that “Every briefcase and bookshelf should have a copy” – happily remains online at: https://www.express.co.uk/comment/columnists/carole-ann-rice/688061/Happy-Mondays-Hindsight-provides-100-per-cent-clarity
It must be stressed that this resounding endorsement was the judgement of The Express, and was not something Wiley put in the press release or that I claimed in the interview.
Press releases – and the media interview responses they can generate – need to maintain a certain aura of objectivity.
Leave it to the columnists or editors to make their own judgements.
YOUR LOCAL NEWSPAPERS – ON LINE AND ON THE STREETS – ARE HUNGRY FOR GREAT PRESS RELEASES
One of the areas where you have enormous scope for free business publicity is through your local news media – on paper, on air and particularly on line.
This is, sadly, partly because local newsrooms have far fewer journalists than they used to.
It means that time-strapped journalists are more dependent on press releases to inspire stories to fill their pages than they used to when reporters were out and about more sniffing out more news for themselves.
So well-written press releases with a strong local angle are gold dust for local journalists.
If your company is based in Birmingham or Frankfurt or Sydney, and you develop a revolutionary new product or service, then where are the news outlets that will be most interested in running the story?
The answer is Birmingham, Frankfurt or Sydney respectively.
If this local aspect is highlighted in the headline and in that vital first sentence of the press release, then it can leap out as a priority story.
I live in the village of Bovingdon on the outskirts of London – served by the newspaper based in the bigger neighbouring town called the Hemel Hempstead Gazette.
So after the launch of “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work”, we sent the Gazette a locally-angled press release about the book highlighting the fact that, by virtue of my address, I’m a local author (despite having being born 12,000 miles away!).
Local news media outlets love stories about local people.
So we also sent a photo of one of the high profile speakers at the launch, Carole Spiers, having her book signed by the local author.
The paper ran the story and the photo – and both remain on line at:
Book aims to help people cope with ever tougher questioning in workplace
Michael Dodd at the launch of his new book
When you get that mention in the local news, you can then magnify the impact by spreading the link through social media.
And once one outlet has run something the media, being somewhat incestuous, will often pick it up and spread the story further.
HOW YOU CAN WRITE YOUR OWN NEWS STORY
Another skill imparted in sessions on publicising your business equips you to go beyond a press release and pitch and write articles directly for the media yourself.
Here’s a “by-lined” article by my professional speaking colleague, Nicci Roscoe, who provides “Mind Medication” to help people manage pain, stress and anxiety and build confidence.
I’m in constant pain, but I’ve learned to love every day… and you can too, says chronic pain sufferer and health coach NICCI ROSCOE
Note how the article touches on emotion and highlights potential benefits for readers.
The Mail On Sunday couldn’t resist it.
The article remains online long after it first appeared on the streets in paper form.
GAIN THE SKILLS TO GENERATE FREE PUBLICITY FOR YOUR BUSINESS
Writing press releases and your own by-lined articles to boost publicity for your business is a learnable skill.
If you’re interested in discussing customised master class sessions for your team – or getting one-to-one guidance on generating free media publicity – then email firstname.lastname@example.org about your aspirations and requirements.
Feel free to identify the media outlets you’d like to target – and what your business is doing or planning that might interest their audiences.
I can then give you details of how we can boost your ability to supercharge your organisation’s publicity-generating skills to achieve your aims.
A well-written press release identifying a real and relevant story can make a splash in the trade press for your industry, the national media and, if it’s big enough, even the international media.
And if you identify a powerful local angle, you can most easily gain that first burst of free publicity for your business at the local level – whether in Birmingham, Frankfurt, Sydney, Hemel Hempstead… or even in Independent Country X.
P.S. Your Chance To Help Shape The New On Line Video Series:
GREAT ANSWERS TO TOUGH QUESTIONS IN THE BUSINESS WORLD
This series will provide online videos to equip you to give better answers… to help you
* Get promoted
* Inspire your team
* Impress prospects
* Reassure clients
* And give great answers in media interviews…
The series will consist of videos you can access online – and which will contain demonstration bad and good answers for you and your team to learn from.
There will be practical exercises designed to take your answers to a higher level and enhance your confidence.
The series will be made in conjunction with the video production company, Five on a Bike: www.fiveonabike.com
It will aim to help those who’ve never taken part in a face-to-face session on giving great answers – and to be a valuable refresher for those who have.
We will be conducting a quick and easy-to-complete survey to get wide-ranging views in order to make the series as helpful as it can possibly be.
If you’re interested in taking part in the survey to help shape the video series, please send a “count me in” email to email@example.com and to firstname.lastname@example.org
Feel free to include any thoughts you have on anything you would particularly like to gain from the online video series to help you and your colleagues give great answers.
And please identify any particular question-answering challenge that you would like the video series to help you overcome.
A prize – an author-signed copy of “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work” – will be sent to the respondent who makes the most useful suggestion!
Five on a Bike and I look forward to hearing from you.