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Getting PR right

Jan 09, 2013
As well as being the editor of The Mover, and having published magazines for the moving industry for approaching 20 years, Steve Jordan runs a successful PR company: The Words Workshop. Here’s some advice from him on how to give your press releases a fighting chance of getting published, not just in this magazine, but anywhere.


I first started working in PR in 1992.  In those days it was a purely professional industry.  Without the benefit of technology it required skill, knowledge and a large diary of contacts; it was only those who had acquired those attributes who were successful.  You had to know how to do it otherwise it wouldn’t work.

Today we live in a much more immediate environment where so much of what we do has been de-skilled.  Even in the moving business, for example, people are prepared to fill in their own survey form and accept an e-mail quotation in a way they wouldn’t have dreamed of only a few years ago.  There are still professional estimators of course, but their services are sometimes viewed as optional.


Similarly, in the PR business, it’s easy for an unskilled person to look up an editor’s name on the Internet and send them a press release with a photo attached.  It’s easy, but it’s rarely right.  Even some, so called, professional agencies nowadays seem to take a throwaway view of PR; just sending out information any old how and hoping that an editor will craft it into beautiful prose.  Well, I’m telling you: some will, most won’t.  You need to do better than that. 

At The Mover I am grateful for any contributions I receive.  This means that I will probably make more effort than most to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.  But imagine sending your press release to the editor of FMJ, The Portal, The Director or even your local newspaper.  I promise you, they have other things to do with their time than try to make sense of your rantings. 

But being better than most and giving yourself a good chance of being published, is not that hard.  The very fact that most people make such a lousy job of it means that you don’t have to be brilliant to be above average.  Doing the simple things right can make all the difference.


There are three main problems: writing style, document format and photos.

Writing style
Stories in magazines are written about companies.  This means that they are in the third person, not the first.  If you write a story in the first person (i.e. “We are pleased to announce” or “ABC removals would like to advise all our partners that …”) the editor has to re-write it.  If he’s busy, he won’t … it will go in the bin.

                                    Rule 1: Write your press release in the third person please.


Document format

Many press releases I receive here are in pdf format.  For an editor that’s virtually useless.  The point of pdf is for documents that you do not want to be changed: terms and conditions, contracts, etc. are all fine in pdf.  But a press release will always be changed (particularly if you have written the thing wrongly in the first place (see above)).  Every publication has its own style so you must not expect your story to be published verbatim – it won’t be.  It is possible to extract the text from a pdf document but it’s hard and all the formatting goes haywire.  Present your document as a Word document and it’s easy for the editor to cut and paste the text as required.

Rule 2: Use Word for press releases not pdf please.


Photographs

Send a good quality photo with the story.  A good photo will ensure that the story is printed even if the story itself is a bit thin. It should be relevant, high enough resolution for print, reasonably well framed and in focus.  Try to include people in the picture whenever possible.  You would not believe how many photos I get here that are unusable because they are too small and/or out of focus.  May I suggest that before you send your photos you look at them! I am sure most people don’t.  If they look a bit fuzzy, change the picture or change your glasses.  I also suggest that you take the picture on a camera not a telephone.  Your new iPhone might give you 5 trillion pixels but it has a lens the size of a pinhead: you just get a very high-resolution picture of a lousy image - useless.  

Do not send the photo embedded in a Word document: it cannot be successfully extracted for print or even to go on the website: send it as a separate JPG file of at least 1Mb but bigger if you can. 

Rule 3: Make sure the picture is a high res JPG, relevant and in focus.



There are lots of other things you can do to make an editor’s head explode and have him walk outside for a breath of air.  Writing in corporate impenetrable gibberish that would need a trip to Bletchley Park to decipher is a good one; using acronyms that only their deluded coiners understand works well too; including totally implausible, 100-word quotes from the managing director is another; then, of course, there’s the relentless sales message and self congratulation that’s always worth a try.  I could go on, but I won’t.

I can accept all of the above from small business owners and their staff who are doing their best at PR and I am grateful for them sending their stories to me.  I’ll always try to knock them into shape if I can.  But the easier you can make it for me the more chance you have of getting your story in the magazine and the better chance I have of getting your story right. More importantly, however, is the improvement you will get when you send your stories to publications that don’t have such a social agenda as we do.  Make the life of your average editor easy, and your coverage in the press will improve.

For the increasing number of moving companies that employ PR agencies, I have less patience.  If your agency is ever guilty of any of the above, they demonstrate their incompetence, are fighting with one hand tied behind their backs and are making you look ridiculous too.  I recommend that you call The Words Workshop and let us do the job properly for you – 01908 695500.
 

 

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