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Thursday, 30 October 2014

Freddie Starr ate my hamster: how to write a perfect press release

By Felicity Fox, E=MC2 Public Relations

If your press releases aren’t cutting the mustard, here are some tips to help you improve:

Is it news?

Before you even start writing your story, ask yourself is it newsworthy and will people find it interesting?

Use short, attention-grabbing headlines that tell a story

You have about seven seconds to hook your editor so cut to the chase. A good press release should summarise the key points of your subject in the headline and the opening sentence. Keep it concise and cover ‘who?’, ‘what?’, ‘where?’, ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ Keep in mind that editors will cut the story from the bottom up.

Write in the present

You don’t want your story to sound like old news. That includes quoting people in the present so write ‘says Jane Smith’ rather than ‘said’.

Use good ‘search’ words

Press releases can provide significant content to news search engines and can rank well in standard search engines like Google or Yahoo. The importance of using words that people will search the internet for can never be underestimated. With online and the internet becoming more vast and powerful than traditional media, it’s vital that your stories can be found easily.

A great image is worth a 1,000 words

This can be a compelling photograph, computer generated image or an artist’s impression which visually tells your story. As the image is often the first thing that people see, it’s vital that it promotes a good initial impression that complements the information that is given in the text.

Double check your facts and stick to them!

Check your facts, dates, figures and your sources and references. Check your spelling and grammar too and get another professional in your team to proof it for you. The slightest mistake undermines your professionalism, your client’s credibility and the media’s confidence in your story.

Don’t forget your contact details

Make sure you provide your name, phone number and email details at the bottom of the release so journalists can get in touch with you.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

10 reasons why most press releases get binned…

By Liz Coyle-Camp, managing director, E=MC2 Public Relations

As both a PR agency and a publisher, we receive external press releases, many of which go straight into the bin because they don’t pass muster and this is why:

  1. Irrelevance.  One size fits all press releases go in the one-size fits all bin.  Shape your story for the publication you are sending it to – print, online or broadcast. What interests you may not interest your target audience so make sure your story is ‘customer-focused’ which means making it relevant to readers, interesting and helpful.
  2. Spelling and grammatical mistakes.   The fastest way to lose credibility is to send out your press release without spell-checking it for spelling, punctuation and grammatical mistakes and making sure it also makes sense!  Silly things like ‘to’ and ‘too’, ‘it’s’ and ‘its’ used incorrectly are an instant turn-off.
  3. Verbosity. Cut to the chase – you have just a few seconds to grab the editor’s attention. If your story isn’t in plain English in the headline and the first paragraph of your press release, it’s in the bin! Lay-off the acronyms, corporate speak and product jargon too – they will just irritate and alienate your journalist.
  4. Pomposity.  References to I, we, us, or ours don’t belong in a press release unless they are quoted speech. So, if they’re not inside quotation marks, rewrite your sentence. Report the story and don’t taint it with your own subjective spin. Keep your opinions and comments in the quotes – that’s what they are there for.
  5. Puff and fluff.  There is no place for self-serving sales and marketing puff and fluff in a press release. If you want this, buy an advertisement.
  6. Factually incorrect.  Check that your facts are correct and quote your sources. Check your dates too – if you are inviting press to a photocall, make sure the date, time and location of the event is consistent and correct.
  7. No media contact. Make sure you provide your correct phone and email details so the media can reach you.
  8. No boilerplate or website address. This is a short description or an ‘about us’ paragraph about your organisation with your website address so the media know you are for real and can look you up.
  9. Format.  Stick to a press-friendly simple presentation format: 1.5 spacing, Arial or Helvetica sans serif typeface, 11 or 12 point size. Bold your headline, don’t indent and keep your text black.
  10. No images or poor ones. Support your story with a high quality, engaging photo, graphic or artist’s impression which visually tells your story.
If you can avoid these top 10 press release-writing mistakes and follow up your story with a phone call to the journalist (to make sure they have everything they need from you) your story has a very good chance of being used.

Have questions for Liz? Contact her at: E=MC2 Public Relations 01747 871752

Friday, 21 February 2014

The art of hyphenation

by Liz Coyle-Camp

To hyphenate or not to hyphenate? This is the question so many nervous writers deliberate. How can such a little dash cause such a dither and so much angst when all it wants to do is bring a little clarity to your communique?

And where would we be without the humble hyphen? We’d never tell difference between a man-eating snake and a man eating snake with possible fatal consequences!

You can beat the hyphenation blues by remembering this:

Hyphens connect words, prefixes, and suffixes and bring clarity to the meaning of a word.

And following these simple rules….

Hyphenate when:
  • Using a two-word adjective: her decision-making skills, work-related stress 
  • Creating a compound noun: added-value, get-together, an add-on 
  • In prefixes: where a hyphen avoids awkward wording such as anti-inflammatory, re-enter, re-adjust, or a word has different meanings like re-formation and reformation, re-sign and resign 
  • Explaining a word spelling: H-Y-P-H-E-N

When to make a ‘dash’ for it

The hyphen has two similar-looking cousins - the en dash and the em dash. This is what they do…

Em dash (—)
  • Use instead of brackets to indicate a separate thought or additional information: She worked out in the gym — at least that’s what she told me — every day 
En dash (-)
  • Use to indicate values or ranges: 10-15 staff, 2004-2007, May-June 
  • To contrast values or illustrate the relationship between two things 

Happy hyphenating!