Long live the PR poppet

Over the years I’ve been referred to as somebody who can make documents ‘look pretty’; somebody who can ‘chat up’ journalists; and my all-time favourite: a ‘PR poppet’.

There’s a fraction of truth in all of these statements of course, although at 43, juggling my consultancy work with family responsibilities, it’s fair to say I’m probably more ‘PR haggard’ than ‘poppet’ (see footnote).  I never enjoyed any boozy lunches with journalists in my 20s and 30s… although I frequently worked late to meet deadlines and ensure all ‘i’s were dotted and ‘t’s crossed.

The sad fact is that misconceptions about PR – the poor cousin of marketing – remain, with some still believing that it is little more than faffing around with press releases and keeping bad news from the door with our witchlike charms.

More frustrating still is that some managers think it’s a skills which anyone can just pick up and so cost cutting exercises often see the PR resource reduced or amalgamated into another role, with the end result that great PR opportunities are missed or copy for websites and newsletters etc. lack consistent messaging or relevancy to readers.

Perhaps PR itself could do with… well, some good PR?

As PR practitioners it’s essential we bang the drum for our profession.

PR should not be an afterthought or a ‘nice to have’, but should be embedded in strategy, policies and staff training. It’s about listening and responding to stakeholders and ensuring that the values we espouse in our communications are embedded in the organisation’s actions and behaviours.

Skilled story-telling continues to be at the heart of the service we offer, but today the proliferation of the media means it’s all about creating great content which can be re-nosed for a variety of channels – be that a company blog, stakeholder newsletter or indeed, a press release.

Great newspaper coverage still goes a long way in helping to build the trust and consent which Henry Ford, one of the first exponents of PR, set out to achieve back in early 1900s America; but opinions about organisations are now formed 24/7 in the vast open talking shop we call ‘social media’.

Social Media campaigns can gather momentum like wildfire and communities are formed to champion a cause, challenge authority, as well as inciting fear and prejudice.

Having a two-way dialogue continues to be the basic premise of PR, but today it’s important we utilise all the communications channels available to truly protect and shape the brand of an organisation.

I now describe myself as being in the business of ‘reputation management’.  I help organisations to create compelling copy that resonates with or motivates their target audiences.

So, call me a ‘PR poppet’ if you will, but I can help you engage new audiences, gain credibility amongst your professional peers, start new conversations with thought-leaders and demonstrate your impact more effectively. Please do get in touch: kate.dawson@wellreadpr.com

 

Footnote: Poppet: ˈpɒpɪt’ , noun

British, informal, an endearingly sweet or pretty child (often used as an affectionate form of address). “‘Here you are, poppet,’ the nurse said”

historical, a small figure of a human being used in sorcery and witchcraft.

 

Image courtesy: pixabay.com

 

Top ten tips for writing a press release that cuts the mustard

Getting coverage in print and online helps to raise the profile of your organisation and builds trust in your brand and if you’re a charity, having an awareness of your cause can really boost your fundraising efforts.

The challenge is getting the attention of journalists who are looking for something that’s fresh and relevant to their readers.

So, to give you a head start, here are my top 10 tips for producing press releases that will get followed up:

  1. Journalists should be able to get the gist of the story in the opening paragraph – the ‘who, what, where, why, and when’. Critically, don’t forget to include key dates, such as the announcement of a research finding or an event, so the news outlet can publish the story before it becomes old news.
  2. Write in Plain English and avoid technical or scientific jargon, except when this is intrinsic to the story, in which case explain in layman’s terms. Ditto use of acronyms: don’t assume journalists will know what they stand for, so write in full the first time around.
  3. Try and link your story topical issue or event; for example how your organisation is responding to the impact of austerity measures, or a guide to successful project management inspired by the TV show, The Apprentice.
  4. Include a supporting quote from an independent authority, be that a service-user or expert in your field of business, in addition to your own spokesperson’s quote. This will add credibility and avoid it reading as PR ‘puffery’.
  5. Send your release to a named contact rather than you firing it off to everyone at the publication or website. Get to know your target publications and journalists, follow them on Twitter and find out which topics they’re interested in.
  6. A great picture tells a thousand words and can often make or break a PR pitch. If your promoting a prestigious event or if there are particular conditions on photo usage, (for example the photographer needs a fee for any front cover usage) it’s a good idea to set up an online photo gallery and ask journalists to request the large files.
  7. Ensure that your company/charity spokesperson is available for interview 24 hours following distribution of the release and that a back-up is available. Nothing annoys journalists more than a story which they can’t get their own unique angle on, or fresh quotes for.
  8. Keep it succinct. Use Notes to Editors to provide essential information about your mission, turnover etc and attach case studies separately if necessary – this is especially useful if you’re pitching to broadsheets and consumer press.
  9. Find out when the publications goes to print and avoid issuing releases at their busiest time. Keep follow up calls for those journalists you know are happy to chat. If you are given short shrift by a journalist or editor – keep a note and don’t do it again.
  10. Remember to thank journalists if they do run with your press release / story. A little thank-you email, tweet or even a hand written card for something really special will go a long way to nurturing you future relationship. Journalists are only human after-all!

For help telling your story in the media why not drop me a line to arrange a chat? kate.dawson@wellreadpr.com

Before you start writing, know your Pooker

Do you know your Pooker? It’s who I have in mind every time I sit down to write. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Pooker is some kind of imaginary friend, a kind of “binker” *or “Pig that never was”*, providing inspiration and perhaps companionship during those lonely hours at my desk. But no, Pooker is not a friend in the usual sense; if that were the case it wouldn’t be such a challenge getting him to read every word I write. I know I’ve only got a paragraph, maybe only a few words to get his attention.
It helps if I’ve met one or two of Pooker’s latest circle of friends and can tap them up for what’s getting Pooker fired up at the moment. Pooker’s acquaintances can be found in all sorts of places: in hospital wards, visiting an art gallery, in the student bar – it really depends what’s flavour of the month for Pooker.
Thankfully, I can now stalk him on Twitter and suss out who his current media bedfellows are – although being the fickle fellow he is, these can change on a whim.
What I’ve learnt over the years is that if I really want to get Pooker’s ear, I’ve got to talk his language. He can’t bear it when I try to baffle him with science, or simply don’t get to the point quick enough.

Above all, Pooker likes it best when I give him some nugget which he can share with those he likes to chew the proverbial fat over with; something to help keep him ahead of the pack.

He also likes it when I grasp the challenges he’s facing, and best of all, when I help get the ‘movers and shakers’ on board with his latest passion.
Pooker comes in many guises; he’s often illusive and he’s undoubtedly my harshest critic; but despite all the effort required, it’s never too long before I’m tapping away again at my keyboard trying to get Pooker’s attention.
Pooker’s name has been imprinted on my brain since attending a National Union of Students feature writing course, many moons ago. And in case you haven’t guessed it by now, ‘Pooker’, dear reader, is you (and yes, ‘he’ can be a ‘she’, too! ).

** A A Milne, ‘Binker’
Nanette Newman, ‘The pig that never was’.

image credit: http://www.canstockphoto.com/dagadu/