When you send a press release to the media, do you send a good quality photo with it?
By good quality, I mean a portrait shot taken by a professional photographer who understands lighting or, at the least, a clear photo taken on a camera at a high resolution.
In my role as a business writer for a newspaper, I still receive poor quality photos, some taken on mobile phones with low resolution cameras. Sometimes even marketing and PR professionals send these, which astounds me. When this happens, I have to ask them to send a better quality photo.
A high resolution, well composed photo with interesting subject matter can be very powerful. It can persuade a journalist to include an article based on the press release simply because they want to include the image.
Another good practice is to send the photo as a separate JPEG file and not embed it in a Word document or PDF. Often this results in a call or email to send the original file.
As to the composition and lighting, I’ll leave that to the professional photographers, whose expertise and art I admire.
A good photo will make you look good and it’s easy to arrange with a bit of thought and planning.
All businesses need to create a presence so that customers know that they are there. Whether this is through marketing and advertising or from word-of-mouth recommendations, awareness is essential for getting work.
I find that many people are still wary of trying out many of the marketing tools that are available to them. In my role as a business writer for a local newspaper, I often receive phone calls starting with a business owner saying gingerly “I don’t know if you’ll be interested in this . . . ” and then going on to tell a cracker of a story. Of course, the opposite of this is the business owner who sends in press releases regularly with ‘news’ that is only of interest to them. I believe many businesses have good stories to tell and need the confidence to tell them.
While an effective PR consultant can help, businesses without a budget can . . . and do . . . achieve media exposure through their own efforts. With thought and planning, a clear idea of what you want to achieve and a focus on what you will and what you won’t talk about, public relations can be a very cost effective tool.
This applies not only to PR but also to blogging, social media and more. Perhaps you see your competitors getting exposure and feel that you offer a better service than they do, but how will people find that out? Often a voice can tell us that “no one wants to hear about that”, but it’s probably that we’re afraid of standing up and telling our story, a bit like the fear of public speaking.
I’m often encouraging people to talk about their businesses because so many are fascinating and deserve wider exposure. With social media, colleagues and associates can help to share your stories and support you.
There really are many opportunities to tell your stories and people who want to hear them.
• Robert Zarywacz is a copywriter and journalist who has written thousands of magazine and newspaper articles. He also researches and writes press releases, case studies and newsletters for clients as well as managing social media and PR campaigns at z2z.com. Robert is the business writer for the North Devon Journal, chairman of COMBEbusiness and courtesy consultant for the National Campaign for Courtesy. Follow @robertz on Twitter.
. . . if you don’t want to take advantage of publicity for your business.
In my role as a newspaper writer I continue to wonder at how many businesses lose out on media coverage simply by not returning calls or responding to emails from journalists. If they’ve got more business than they can handle, that’s their decision, but how many businesses are operating at full capacity or don’t need more business?
I know people are busy and can’t always respond instantly, but an attempt to return a call to get a comment or article in the paper at no cost would seem to be worth the effort. Perhaps they think it won’t do them any good.
I know from writing for a local newspaper that editorial does generate enquiries. That’s why many businesses I’ve covered previously contact me again when they have some news they think will interest me.
Perhaps they think they won’t be able to talk about their business coherently. Surely they talk coherently to their customers or else they wouldn’t make any sales. There’s not much difference.
And what if the call is about something negative, such as the horsemeat scandal? If you can comment knowledgeably or have a food business where you can demonstrate traceability and quality, you do have the opportunity to benefit.
So the next time a journalist calls for a comment, take a moment to think about the opportunity and what you want to say before calling them back promptly.
What is it like? Would you recommend it? What are the plusses? Don’t you just love it? Will you share it?
Is it just a numbers game?
I’m not sure I know what any of these mean any more as we’re constantly asked to give approval for a blog or a photo of a ‘cute’ animal or to recommend someone for services that we have not actually used.
I ‘like’ to give recommendations where I know a person or have had an excellent experience from a business. I am happy to ‘share’ content that I find entertaining, amusing or useful and hope others will too.
I find I have now stopped saying ‘I love’ things and pause before saying ‘I like’ something.
Perhaps it’s because ‘loves’ and ‘likes’ are precious and I don’t want to throw them away.
How about you?
Sometimes we can spend too much time worrying about the latest Google update, smartphone or OS version and forget that effective communication – for that’s what all these tools are there to support – often needs to be clear and simple.
This runs throughout our lives, as I found when I was booked into my local hospital for a medical procedure. I had a preparatory appointment with a nurse to brief me and took home a leaflet giving detailed instructions. I also had a preparation to start taking on the day before the procedure.
On that day, I found some of the information from the nurse, the leaflet and on the box containing the preparation conflicted. It was a Sunday so I used my common sense to work out the problem: a minor niggle that didn’t matter much.
I was getting concerned because the leaflet said the procedure would take 30-40 minutes to complete and, knowing that it was likely to be uncomfortable and that sedation would not knock me out completely, I braced myself for this mentally. I felt it was going to be tough. As it turned out, just before my turn the doctor mentioned that he was timing each procedure for a study and that the average time was 6-7 minutes: I breathed a sigh of relief.
I am glad to say the procedure was quick, painless and the results were fine. However, I had approached it in completely the wrong frame of mind as a result of the details in the leaflet.
Such gaps between perception and reality can be created by any written instructions. Whether we’re selling a flat-pack wardrobe, an electrical gadget or a holiday, it can be easy to plant the wrong impression in a customer’s mind. Once planted, that seed can grow into a dream or worry that bears no relation to the real product, service or experience.
For businesses selling products and services, this can create unrealistic expectations, impossible to deliver; for doctors it can cause unnecessary worry in patients.
Consistency and clarity are essential when writing instructions or descriptions. Not only do they prevent confusion and wrong impressions, they help to create happy customers . . . and patients.
Way back in 1985, in the infancy of online media, I helped build a kind of web site. I say kind of web site because the internet as we know it had not yet been developed. A colleague and I at British Airways built what we called an electronic brochure in Prestel, the BT videotext system. Like Ceefax and Oracle but far more responsive, we created 7,000 screens, or pages, of information uploaded into this early system.
Much of my contribution was to summarise every air fare charged from the UK to 140 destinations and to describe the features and benefits of the classes of service, eg Economy, Business, First and Concorde. I also published the complete USA Flydrive holiday brochure online and each month changed the Concorde on-board menus. At that time 95% of UK travel agents used Prestel and I seem to recall we achieved some 500,000 page views a month.
Then I obtained another promotion and moved department. Unfortunately, Prestel was ageing even then and was being superseded by more sophisticated computerised travel reservations systems and, ultimately, by the internet.
I suppose one day those 7,000 pages of information were turned off and discarded. They were customised to fit the 40-character x 22-line screens with no photo facilities, primitive graphics and limited colour choices. Compared with the simplicity of technology like WordPress, it could be excruciating work to fit everything on to one screen with no scrolling.
This brings me, after meandering via 140 destinations it seems, to my point that content is invaluable. While learning to use social media services such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+ is important now, how long will we use continue to use these? What will we use in two or five years? How will we maintain our changing online presence, develop our brands, port our important content to new formats, evolve our messages and presentation, and keep it all fresh, compelling and useful?
I’ve often wondered what happened to those 7,000 pages when Prestel’s screens went blank. Did they just fade or float off into the ether?
Sometimes when I read blogs I think I’m back at school. It seems I’m always being told “three things you must do” or “You shalt do this”, especially in the world of social media. Really?
It’s a bit like going a on a training course and remembering that you know nearly everything the trainer tells you, but that you need refreshing and, more importantly, need to put it all into practice.
We seem to be becoming a world of advisers, but is anyone taking any of this advice?
Giving advice is easy, following it is the difficult part.
Of course, much of this advice is marketing disguised to advertise a blogger’s own services. And why not?
The trouble is that I start to feel sore after being beaten with a stick too often.
That is why I want to ‘share’ and ‘like’ things I see rather than berate readers for what they’re doing wrong. Who do I think I am I to do that?
So my advice . . . to myself . . . is to . . . take my advice . . . and put it into practice.
Recently I was asked if it was possible to link to a Facebook post from a web page, blog post or email?
Go to the post that you want to copy. Hover over the time stamp (the time and date shown for when the post was published) to display the web address (URL) for the post in your browser status bar.
The time stamp is a link to the post. Click it to open the post and copy the web address from there or use CTRL+click on a Mac or right-click mouse on Windows to display a dialogue box containing the option to copy the link.
Paste this link into your web site, blog post or email.
Clicking on the link should bring up the post on its own.
What’s the best time to manage production of a long document? All too frequently, reverse engineering is required when questions that should have been asked before writing started are asked just before the document is due to go to print.
What style do we want? How can we manage content written by multiple authors? Do we need consistency in how industry terms are written? Does it make sense?
A style guide and an active editor can manage all this.
When all these questions are addressed at the beginning, they can guide contributors to write in the desired style and put in place a process to manage production and flag any problems before it’s too late. Brand names can be written correctly, capitals used consistently and the document can appear as a unified article that makes sense rather than many separate ones joined together in confusion.
Does it matter?
Yes, if you want to get the best value from all the resources invested. If employees are putting a lot of time into writing and if money is being spent on design, printing and distribution, I’d want to see the most effective document possible. Most importantly, I’d want a document that was useful to readers and gave them value.
Where this doesn’t happen, many things have to be corrected at the last minute. Rather than polishing the material, it has to be patched so that it is at best ‘satisfactory’.
You can find tips and advice on managing long documents at editorialresources.co.uk.