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Writing for PR can be simple if you follow 4 golden PR rules:
1. Brief—make every word matter. Learn to give bloggers and reporters the one quality they find irresistible.
2. No intro needed—get to the point, FAST. learn how to cut words but keep your message intact and unforgettable. Remember - who, what, where, when and how.
3. Lead—you have to market your writing! Learn to write a headline that anchors readers to your teaser and first paragraph every time. That means being creative and having some fun.
4. Tell the story—if your story isn’t interesting, dramatic, with a real human for a hero, it doesn’t matter how well written it is. Readers crave a story, so you have to give them what they want - a powerful narrative.
Every piece of PR writing is a tool that needs to be carefully crafted. Follow the 4 golden PR rules, and you're set.
If you’re in the business of public relations, then you’re in the business of persuading people.
This happens at two levels:
1 - the wider PR practice – the reason for media interaction and coverage is so we can reach an organization’s PR goals. In essence we’re persuading the target audience to act in a way that is congruent with our objectives. Most often for the clients we represent this is persuading a group of people in a set geography to purchase a given product or service. Of course, when we move into crisis communications, then this objective is often to change the perceived opinions a group of people have about an organization.
2 - at the day-to-day level, if we’re a PR pro that interacts with the media to gain coverage, then we are simply trying to persuade reputable journalist to listen to our message and include it in their reporting.
Either way, we’re in the business of persuading.
So, wouldn’t it be great if we could increase our persuasiveness?
As it turns out, there is quite a considerable amount of scientific research that can make us more effective atpersuading others. It is scientifically validated and often doesn’t cost us any money to implement.
Want to know what the 6 main drivers to increased persuasiveness are?
To sum up – they are:
I could write about them for a long time, but better still, watch this fantastic video and in under 12 minutes you’ll have mastered how to ethically increase your persuasiveness. A much needed skill in the world of PR.
How good are you at persuading?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, author Daniel Pink notes in his new book To Sell Is Human, 1 out of every 10 Americans works in sales. Is that less than before? Certainly. But have the Internet and online shopping brought the sales function to the precipice of extinction, as so many have predicted? Not quite, Pink writes. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics data (replicated by corresponding statistics in other developed countries) vastly understates the amount of "selling" going on when we consider what selling, according to Pink, really entails: "persuading, influencing and convincing others."
This is what he calls "non-sales selling." Most people, Pink explains, are involved in non-sales selling, no matter what their profession. Examples cited by Pink include physicians who sell patients on a remedy, lawyers who sell juries on a verdict, teachers who sell students on the value of paying attention in class, entrepreneurs selling to funders, writers selling to producers and coaches cajoling players to play their best. In fact, it’s no longer completely accurate to see producing and consuming as the two most important economic activities, Pink writes. "Today, much of what we do also seems to involve moving," he explains. "That is, we’re moving other people to part with resources — whether something tangible like cash or intangible like effort or attention — so that we both get what we want."
Why Sales Is So Important
Why are so many people devoting their valuable time to selling when the practice is allegedly in decline? Pink offers three reasons:
- Entrepreneurship. The past few years (thanks in great part and a bit ironically to the Internet) have seen the rise of small entrepreneurship — small shops or one- or two-person enterprises selling, as Pink writes, "services, creativity and expertise." For these small-business owners and micro-entrepreneurs, there is no dedicated sales force to bring in the customers; they are their own sales forces.
- Elasticity. Once upon a time, Pink writes, "if you were an accountant, you did accounting." However, intense competition and economic conditions have forced organizations to go "flat" — or at least flatter. As a result, functions are no longer rigidly separated as in the past. Job descriptions are broader and usually involve some kind of selling.
- Ed-Med. Education and health are among the fastest-growing industries, and as the examples of the teachers and physicians above demonstrate, much of education- and health-related work involves non-sales selling. "Of course," Pink notes with characteristic humor, "teaching and healing aren’t the same as selling electrostatic carpet sweepers. The outcomes are different. A healthy and educated population is a public good, something that is valuable in its own right and from which we all benefit. A new carpet sweeper or gleaming Winnebago, not so much."
The New ABCs
When selling is mostly "moving" people, the old rules of selling no longer apply. After making his case for the predominance of non-sales selling in our lives, Pink outlines the different strategies for 21st-century selling. He begins, in the second section of his book, by showing how the traditional mantra of selling, "Always Be Closing," has been replaced by a new set of ABCs: Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity. Attunement is to be in harmony with those around you — which is why, Pink writes, extraverts are not the best salespeople. They don’t take the time to become attuned. (Introverts aren’t necessarily the best, either, Pink notes.) Buoyancy is knowing how to always be "afloat" in a difficult world of constant rejection, thanks to one’s resilience and optimism. Clarity, in Pink’s approach, refers to the art of problem finding — different from the traditional emphasis on problem solving. Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity are the attributes of the new successful salesperson. In the final section of the book, Pink outlines the three core abilities — knowing how to pitch, how to improvise and how to serve — required to succeed.
Pink, a best-selling author whose books include Drive and A Whole New Mind, has once again expanded his readers’ perspectives on how the world really works, with insight and humor bolstered by solid research.
So what does this mean to marketing and PR?
From what we can tell, marketing and PR becomes even more important when we're not involved in the heavy sales cycle. Need to persuade? Need to motivate? Need to build credibility? You need PR.
Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity are the attributes of the new successful salesperson.
And if you need Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity you need PR.
There was an interesting story we tweeted about a few days ago originally written by our friends at PR Newswire that suggested there is some disagreement about the skill set PR pros need to succeed in today’s environment, and there are three points of view emerging:
- The traditionalist, who values the ability to write, build relationships, isolate and convey key messages and build publicity strategy above all else.
- The digital enthusiast, who values social media acuity, digital content production and editing and coding skills highly.
- The quant, which focuses on data, analytics and how PR integrates with business processes.
At NettResults we like to think of it as multiplying and dividing.
If you have a list of 1,000 subscribers or 5,000 fans or 10,000 supporters in a social media world, you have a choice to make. You can create stories and options and benefits that naturally spread from this group to their friends, and your core group can multiply, with 5,000 growing to 10,000 and then 100,000.
Or you can put the group through a sales funnel, weed out the free riders and monetize the rest. A 5% conversion rate means you just turned 5,000 interested people into 250 paying customers.
Multiplying scales. Dividing helps you make this quarter's numbers.
So it is with PR. You want to ever increase your sphere of influence, or put another way, you want to increase the number of journalist you can call up. At the same time you want to concentrate your time on the 5% (or is it another 80/20 rule?) that don’t just passively receive your news stories, but actively read into them, converse with you and find the story they can report on.
This is why an intellectual rivalry between traditional PR pros and digital enthusiast PR pros is a loose/loose battle. To be good at PR in today’s rapidly evolving media market, you need to be both a traditionalist and a digital enthusiast. Gone are the days when having one Millennial digital evangelist in your PR agency’s office was enough – today each of your teams need to be made up digi-traditionalists.
Oh, and they better be able to measure that success. Results are king.
As Jeremy Porter wrote in Journalistics, “If you work in media relations today, and you’re having a hard time getting coverage for your news, you’re doing something wrong. Journalists exist to write about news. If you have a legitimate news story, you shouldn’t have a hard time getting coverage.”
‘Straight from the horses mouth’ as they say from where I come from (OK half my family made their living as journalist – the others as bookmakers).
If a journalist can tell you that they want to cover news, why are so many companies not getting the coverage they want?
Basically it comes down to two things: either your story isn’t actually newsworthy or you are not speaking to the right journalist. Here’s a little help:
1 - Speak to the right journalist.
OK, this is the back-office stuff that needs to be right. To sum it up, do your research.
Who covers your news? Which reporters write the most about the topics related to what you do? You should know who they are off the top of your head.
Then you actually need to read what these journalists are publishing.
Next up – get to know these people. You can do this through regular communication and networking. Don’t just contact a journalist when you’re pitching a story. Provide them with tips throughout the year when you come across information that’s of interest to them – even if, especially if, it’s not related to your organization.
They’ll quickly start to value you as a source – and they just might call you the next time they’re working on a story. The trick is to get yourself inserted into their Rolodex or whatever “trusted source” file they use.
OK, so I’ll admit, in the world of cross boarder, multi-language communications, this is far simpler if you have a professional PR team compared to one person trying to hold all the relationships.
So, that was easy right? Now on to the second, and possibly the more complex element.
2 - Make your story newsworthy
First up – not everything is newsworthy. Whether you take directions from a client or from a CEO, not everything they think is going to be newsworthy is actually newsworthy, so one important talent is managing expectations.
What makes a good news story? Your topic should be timely and relevant for the audience of the outlet you’re pitching. Even if your story is timely and relevant to the outlet you’re pitching, it might not be a fit for the reporter you think writes about that stuff. Sometimes newsworthiness is merely a factor of how you package the news in your pitch. You have to adapt the pitch to each journalist and outlet.
To help you adapt your pitch to the right journalist or outlet, NettResults offers seven golden tips for refining your pitches:
Localize – is your story not a fit for national news, but a good fit locally? Get strong local coverage in the outlet with the widest coverage. If your company is hiring 20 new employees this year, it’s not a fit for The Wall Street Journal. If you’re hiring 2,000 employees this year due to a big contract you just landed, it might be. Find local angles and see your placement success go up. And more often than not we’re looking at not local and national newsworthiness, but also country and regional newsworthiness.
Timeliness – if your story has a time element to it, you need to be able to act fast. If the world is talking about unemployment figures and you represent the company that is about to open a new office and hire 1,000 new staff how can you capitalize on news coverage? To capitalize on current events like this, you need to have the right reporters on speed dial.
Numbers – Journalists love numbers. Pretty numbers are even better – which is exactly what a good infographic offers. You’re probably sitting on a bunch of recent facts and statistics about your industry you could package as an infographic to support your news. Not only will the infographic help you break through the clutter of competing pitches, but it also provides the journalist with a potential visual to use with their story. We often work with clients to develop their ‘top 10’. So, for example, an anti-virus company may know the top 10 viruses this month, which could be interesting. Then, as you delve deeper, start comparing month-to-month and individual penetration rates to quickly produce stories.
Seasonality – What seasonal events create PR opportunities for you? Right now, we’re in the midst of spring. Which means Valentine’s is done with, Easter is right on us, a plethora of mother/father days and soon enough the school holidays will be here. Considering that a lot of these days are locally/regionally/nationally specific. You need to build out a years calendar of relevant days. Next you need to back out about 6 to 8 weeks so you can actually pitch the right seasonal news story when the journalist is writing it (and not when it is about to be read). Yes, I’m sure there are journalists working on 2012 Christmas issues right now…
Bounce-backs – What do you do when a reporter writes a great story about your industry and leaves your company out? Do you ignore it and take the abuse from your superiors? Do you write a scathing letter, lambasting the reporter – asking them how they could have possibly overlooked you? No, you educate them on your organization and the value you could bring to the table on future stories. Start by acknowledging that the story they wrote was on-target – in some cases, it might be appropriate to highlight some elements that you felt were left out. Journalists like to get reader feedback in most cases. It’s okay to share your side of the story. Even if it doesn’t get you in this article, they’ll think of you next time around if you’re polite and professional.
Name-drop - if your story is related to well-known organizations or people, get that stuff in the first paragraph of your pitch. While it’s not a guarantee for coverage, the better known the players are in your news story, the more likely you will break through the filters. Look, about 1% of the world’s brands, companies, organizations and celebrities actually get 90% of the world’s coverage… so be aware of who’s in the news and use that.
Copy Success – Look at the coverage in the target publications you are going after. If you start to analyze the news, you can start to identify the formula for how coverage happens with each outlet – and each reporter. From there, you can develop strategic approaches to getting your organization or experts included in the mix.
A lot of the tips above will seem old-school to seasoned PR pros, but you know what, while many things in the world of PR are changing quickly, the ability to pitch well hasn’t changed much in years.