PR case studies
What makes a good press release?
You must steer away from selling your firm and product, and write news. Anything else is advertising and will be discarded. You're not writing an advert, you're telling a story to interest the readers. A simple attractive statement of facts is all that is needed. Cut out the waffle and come to the point in the first sentence. Nobody's going to wade through six paragraphs to find out who did what and when. Editors are busy people - they just won't bother. The first sentence is the most vital part. You should ask yourself `Will it make the reader want to read on?' Avoid detail and sidetracks. The paragraphs should have bite and flow. Keep the sentences reasonably short. State the main point of the story early on and isolate the news. For example: not `Delegates from 20 countries watched as the Lord Mayor opened the first International Congress of Snuff Taking at the Wigmore Hall', say `The First International Congress of Snuff Taking was opened today by the...'.
Quotations from your speaker should never open the story. The readers' impression of the value of the remark entirely depends on the standing of the personality. You must know who is speaking before any weight is put on the reported remarks. "England will never win the world cup", says the current England manager' is far more newsworthy than if it were said by the manager of another country's team, or the chairman of Torquay United, or the landlord of your local pub. It all depends who says it. Put the speaker's name first. There is another rule to remember: statements of opinion should be printed in quotes " " or statements of fact should be left alone.
Watch the tenses when changing a statement into reported speech. Avoid starting the story with a present participle or `As', eg saying, telling, announcing, etc. It's a poor way to begin. `Announcing the start of the Round Robin Wheelbarrow Race, the Sports Minister foretold a big demand for cornplasters.'
Finally, try to keep lengthy titles, official bodies and complicated names out of the introduction. Write with a light touch and save the essential details (if any) until further on in the piece. Don't discourage your readers too soon.
A good picture may tip the balance
Every picture is worth half a page of text if it's a good bright subject. News photos are definitely best left to the professionals. Editors are always on the look-out for good examples. And make sure they are sharp: output at 300 dpi.
If the story is strong enough the paper will send its own photographer. Don't forget to ask for copies - always useful.
Once in a lifetime you'll come across a scoop picture. Always keep a camera in the car.
Occasionally a press pack is called for. This is not just the release but supporting literature on the firm, background notes on the directors, product leaflets and photographs. Wrap it up in a nice folder. There are several specialist binder firms which can do a very professional-looking job on very short runs using hot-melt glue or slide binders. Save the treatment for the big occasion. Press packs can tend to be pretentious.
You will get better results by following up afterwards with a quick phone call. It is distressing to discover how few get past the first sifting.