As a PR, I’ve often taken to Twitter to see what and who is being named and shamed alongside the hashtag #PRfail. If you’re a PR, you will no doubt have done the same; secretly to keep an eye on the competition’s failings but, more than that, as a guide of what not to do in PR and to check no one is naming you as a total failure at all things public relations.
PR is a competitive game and, as a PR agency, you always want to be doing the very best for your clients to make them stand out against their competitors. I’d probably hazard a guess that my press releases land in some inboxes with hundreds of others in the same minute, so it’s vital PR stories stand out.
So, what’s the best recipe to follow for a prefect PR story? Forget chocolate cake and cookies – this, my PR friends, is the only recipe you need in your life:
A dollop of data – Any public relations activity that revolves around honest and interesting data is likely to catch a journalist’s eye, proving it is sent to someone covering the subject of the press release on their beat. Stats, facts, figures and numbers; whatever you want to call them, just make sure you have some newsworthy stuff.
A dash of humour – A thin spread of humour often helps to make a story stand out, as long as it fits well with the subject of the release and it isn’t in bad taste. Obviously, if your story is more of an announcement about something negative, kept humour in the cupboard for your next story.
A pinch of controversy – When it comes to press releases, a sheep-esque approach that follows in the footsteps of PR professionals everywhere, saying the same old things but maybe just in different ways, is likely to be deleted before it’s even opened by a journalist. Try to add a controversial element to your story - a smidgen of ‘spice’, if you will. Just tread carefully and don’t go too far past the line, otherwise you might wind up being named and shamed as a #PRfail.
A sprinkling of superlatives – if whatever you’re talking about is the greatest, biggest, largest, most recognisable, latest, fastest, juiciest, most groundbreaking thing on earth, that’s good for PR. Basically, if something is the first ever or best ever thing that’s half your PR battle done. Just don’t say something is the biggest, best or most popular if it isn’t. Too many PRs are guilty of that and journalists see through it.
1 punchy headline – Your headline is your chance to make sure a journalist double clicks on your email to open it and have a read of your release. If it’s unclear, spurious, confusing or just plain boring, you’re in trouble. Highlight the most interesting part of your release in a few words and hope that it’s more eye catching than the hundreds of other press releases pouring in to your target journalist’s inbox. Also, avoid words in headlines that might cause your email to queue-jump into the junk folder. Spam filters won’t appreciate offensive or explicit words in headlines and neither will you when your email doesn’t even get seen.
A wedge of words – Quotes are always important in the releases, as they allows a bit of free reign for your client and are a good place for the controversy I spoke about earlier. Your release may need to be factual and informative, but a quote is a place for opinion and expertise. A journalist will almost always include a quote from your client when running your story, so make sure it’s there and it’s good.
1 heaped tbsp of images – I’m a firm believer in the fact that a press release with supporting images is twice as likely to be noticed and covered by the media as a release with no supporting material. Providing the images don’t look like they’ve been snapped by a 3 year old on their Vtech Kidizoom, a picture might be the different between coverage in a national and no coverage to speak of.
Garnish with video – As with images, video is also something PRs should think about when releasing a story for a client. With news consumption moving more and more into the digital sphere, journalists are often on the lookout for strong video stories. After all, video will keep readers on their news websites for longer and it gives PR people more control over content, so everyone’s a winner.
So, there you have it – the best recipe for the perfect PR story. Good luck and good day!