Media professionals cannot sit around waiting for pitches if they expect to have an impact on their audiences. The velocity of the newsroom has sped up and with so many publishing options and communication platforms, it shows no sign of slowing down.
So how can communication professionals keep up?
We turned to the top arts and entertainment editors at the Los Angeles Times for answers.
On Wednesday, May 18, editors John Corrigan, Marc Bernardin, Sarah Rodman and Richard Nordwind gathered at the Times’ headquarters to give an in-depth look at the evolving entertainment journalism landscape.
Moderated by John Corrigan, the Times’ assistant managing editor of Arts and Entertainment, the four panelists discussed the influence of the Internet and social media on the newsroom, what communication professionals can do to step up their outreach game and how they decide which pitches to follow up on and center their stories around.
Here’s a glimpse at a few questions asked at Cision Connects with the Los Angeles Times.
Q: How has digital changed the way we’ve done our jobs?
Film editor Marc Bernardin says there are so many more options to get readers to stories that hadn’t been there before. He also points out how digital allows media organizations to have a conversation with their audiences and look at how they might feel or think about the topics covered.
TV editor Sarah Rodman points out that everything is faster because of digital, including how media organizations approach headlines.
Richard Nordwind, Sunday Calendar Editor, compares life pre- and post-digital. For announcements, the first place the Times will likely put a story is online.
“Announcements happen so quickly, you’re not going to put it in the paper like before because the next day everyone already knows what happened,” says Richard. “What can you do with it afterwards? That’s where everyone’s imagination comes in.”
Q: Have our stories changed because of digital?
“We’re all dreaming of the way to make something go viral, even though there is no actual way to engineer virility,” says Marc.
While there are now multiple entry points for making it into the Los Angeles Times, a story is still a story.
— Anna Williamson (@AnnaWilliamzon) May 18, 2016
John shares his criteria for determining a good entertainment news story: “Is it significant? Is it interesting?” An ideal story will be both.
Q: What makes a good pitch?
“Knowing what your news peg is and having a clear message about what that peg is,” says Sarah. “The willingness to brainstorm is also really useful.”
— Cision (@Cision) May 18, 2016
For John, the quality of the idea outweighs the communication platform.
“I don’t want to underestimate the power of the word ‘exclusive.’”
Marc agrees. “Exclusive is the magic word, even more than please and thank you.”
He adds, “Be sure you have access to the person you say you have access to. Be able to do what you’re pitching to me is job one. Find a way to do that first bit of legwork and include an angle that makes sense for us.”
For Richard, there are two main factors that determine if a story will make it into the esteemed Sunday Calendar edition.
“Some stories will work well in print, others in video. Know where your story might belong,” he says “Entertainment is a much more crowded marketplace. Knowing the kind of readers we have is that much more important than before.”
Q: When should communication professionals start sending their pitches?
John starts by highlighting the Times’ strong print and online presence and the confusion around embargo times.
“We find a lot of our readers are on the East Coast. We cover a lot of national entertainment stories. When we put those on the clock, we usually put them 3 a.m. because that’s 6 a.m. East Coast.”
“You want the most bang for your buck on both platforms, so you want to get information to us as early as possible,” says Sarah. For TV coverage, look to pitch Sarah two to three weeks ahead.
Marc and Richard require longer lead times.
“The joy of planning film coverage is that I can know what’s coming out in the next 17 months. This means we can be responsive to a thing and pivot and pounce on trending conversations,” says Marc.
Richard agrees. “The earlier we can do, the more we can do with photo and video, the better off we are.” And while the Sunday Calendar Edition has certain set sections, Richard also appreciates anyone who can give a spin on trending topics.
Q: What are your pitching pet peeves?
— Christine (@MsChristine_Lee) May 18, 2016
“’Hey, do you want more information?’ Just send me the information and make me interested. Don’t ask me if I am,” said Sarah. “If my name could be replaced with anyone’s name, or is missing a letter, that’s also not a good sign.”
Doing your homework is key to starting off on the right foot.
“Pitches are the beginning of a relationship,” Marc reminded attendees. “You have to understand what I’m looking for and be honest about what you can provide.”
Rising to the highest monthly pace since early 2008, new single-family home sales recorded strong gains in April, according to estimates from the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Increasing 16.6% on a monthly basis and 23.8% year-over-year, the pace of new home sales came in at 619,000 on an annualized basis. Sales increased for all regions… Read More ›
When it was first created, Twitter was designed mostly for individuals. It was a place for people to share succinct versions of their thoughts and ideas with the world.
As it grew in popularity, brands jumped on board and began using the platform to communicate with consumers. Over the past decade, it’s become a go-to platform for engaging with fans and increasing brand exposure.
Brands that tweet out quality content tend to see a lot of success on Twitter. But what exactly does quality brand content on Twitter look like?
Below is a list of 10 brands — even those in seemingly “boring” industries — that are consistently tweeting out great content. (And to learn more about how to succeed on Twitter, download our introductory guide to Twitter for business.)
10 of the Best Brands on Twitter
When it comes to brands who “do it all” Twitter, JetBlue takes the cake. From their Twitter description (below) to their team of dedicated customer service professionals that answers every single question tweeted their way, the folks at JetBlue consistently go above and beyond to delight customers on Twitter.
I’ll never forget what their Manager of Customer Commitment Laurie Meacham told me in an interview back in 2014:
We’re all about people, and being on social media is just a natural extension of that. It’s no different than any other part of the airline.”
As a consumer, when you tweet at a company that has over 16,000 employees, you may not expect a response very quickly (if at all). But JetBlue is on another level — and they’ve done a fantastic job differentiating themselves on Twitter by finding clever ways to exceed our expectations.
Just take a look at their reply tweets to see what I mean — and read this blog post for a deeper dive into JetBlue’s unique Twitter strategy.
2) Innocent Drinks
We’ve long admired Innocent Drinks for their consistently lovable branding. While they may be a smoothie and juice brand, they stay far away from pushily promoting their products.
In fact, most of their social media posts aren’t about smoothies or drinks at all. Instead, they use social media to foster their silly, fun, clever, and creative brand personality.
“We want to tell people about us in the most engaging way we can,” said Community Manager Helena Langdon told Audiense in an interview. “It’s our goal to make our pages a place on social media where people want to visit and enjoy seeing in their timelines, then people won’t mind when we try to sell them drinks every now and again.”
9am: blue skies, sunny, 7°C
2pm: black skies, hail then snow then light shower of frogs, -11°C
7pm: sunny again, 17°C
— innocent drinks (@innocent)
April 27, 2016
Here’s another example:
We interrupt our relentless smoothie-based marketing messages to bring you this photo of a baby skunk. pic.twitter.com/n77B6PoDnk
— innocent drinks (@innocent)
February 19, 2015
It’s this approach to Twitter that makes them stand out from the crowd — and it certainly works for their audience. Their head of digital and communities Joe McEwan says that people really connect with their brand because they talk like human beings, without jargon or “technical mumbo jumbo.”
“It helped to set us apart,” he said, “and it got people talking about us. It’s completely ingrained in the company that we should look to talk to people wherever they might be.”
3) Major League Baseball (MLB)
The MLB (Major League Baseball) is a complex system of teams, players, statistics, trades, and more. Instead of housing all these activities under a single Twitter handle, they’ve done a great job segmenting different parts of the game into different Twitter handles. (And they list all their affiliated Twitter handles in their cover photos — a very nice touch.)
Their @MLBStatOfTheDay handle, for example, is for the statistics nerds out there, pairing interesting statistics with relevant video clips.
— MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay)
May 16, 2016
Meanwhile, @MLBReplays tweets each challenge a coach makes against an umpire’s call and its result. @MLBRosterMoves, sponsored by moving company Penske, sends a tweet every time a player is added or removed from a team’s roster.
My favorite MLB Twitter account, though, is @MLBGIFs. The concept is brilliant in its simplicity: Each tweet features a GIF paired with a funny one-liner. These GIFs capture some of the cool, funny, and weird moments that take place during a baseball game — everything from diving catches to dancing fans to high-fiving players.
Here are two examples:
Just keep running … pic.twitter.com/vQdL8IZ1a3
— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs)
May 10, 2016
When you close out the road trip on a high note. pic.twitter.com/OgPepYDqlZ
— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs)
May 16, 2016
GIFs are shareable, relatable, and delightful — and MLB really nailed it by creating a separate Twitter handle to embrace them. (Want to learn how to create your own animated GIFs in Photoshop? Read this blog post for a tutorial.)
4) DiGiorno Pizza
DiGiorno Pizza is one of the funniest (and definitely one of the strangest) brands to follow on Twitter. Their tweets are usually about pizza, but not in the uber-promotional way you’d expect.
For example, do you remember that time in 2013 when DiGiorno Pizza live-tweeted NBC’s The Sound of Music and broke the internet? Here, let me jog your memory:
DOUGH a crust an unbaked crust
RAY, a guy that likes pizza
ME a pizza liked by a guy named ray
FAH no idea what fah is
LA a city
— DiGiorno Pizza (@DiGiornoPizza)
December 6, 2013
The entire thing was weird and hilarious. It was also a great example of a brand hopping on a popular hashtag (in this case, #TheSoundofMusicLive) to chime in on the already-popular conversation. In the two hours of live-tweeting, the company tweeted 38 times, garnered over 44 million social impressions for that week, and picked up over 4,000 new followers.
Most of their tweets are funny odes to pizza — and some of them still have that same crazy, erratic voice they used in the live-tweeting, which’ll often leave you totally confused and laughing hysterically all at the same time.
— DiGiorno Pizza (@DiGiornoPizza)
April 7, 2016
Thank you autocorrect
— DiGiorno Pizza (@DiGiornoPizza)
May 17, 2016
5) General Electric
What General Electric sells (appliances, lighting, electronics, etc.) doesn’t have nearly as broad of an appeal as pizza, but that doesn’t mean their tweets have to be unappealing.
GE lives in the technology and innovation space — a space where far too many companies resort to using Twitter simply to promote themselves and their content.
That’s where GE differentiates itself in the tech space on Twitter. They’ve found a perfect balance of thought leadership and authenticity. They use Twitter to teach their followers what they’re doing; for example, they’re fantastic at breaking down the complex concepts and terminology they work with into simple language.
Below, they showcased one of their sports research studies by handpicking one of the coolest, most accessible parts of their research and showcasing it in an engaging way:
— General Electric (@generalelectric)
April 29, 2016
We also love that they don’t take themselves too seriously on Twitter. Instead of marketing themselves as a big, inaccessible tech company, they’re great at keeping their Twitter content human and relatable.
Yes, we are just looking for an excuse to build jet packs.https://t.co/cjmiX6xxwS
— General Electric (@generalelectric)
May 13, 2016
Reinforced carbon fiber joints make this umbrella stronger than your average GE engineer. pic.twitter.com/b4FUWNd3k2
— General Electric (@generalelectric)
May 13, 2016
The social media marketers behind Charmin’s Twitter account are masters of social engagement. First of all, their tweets always feature their fun, lighthearted, and toilet humor-centric brand voice. In 2014, TIME named them “the sassiest brand on Twitter.”
In addition to tweeting out fun content, they’re constantly using Twitter to ask their followers to answer questions, respond to folks who tweet at them, and jump in on trending hashtags — like the #DontWorryBoutAThingCuz hashtag below.
— Charmin (@Charmin)
May 13, 2016
They’ve also created a number of successful hashtags that encourage their followers to engage with them on Twitter. Their most famous is #TweetFromTheSeat, in which followers can send tweets while sitting on the toilet. The hashtag earned them a Shorty Award in 2014 — and we love the description they included in their entry:
40% of young adults admit to using social media in the bathroom (and those are just the people who admit to it). At our core, Charmin is all about giving people a better bathroom experience and it is important to us that this translates to how we engage with consumers on Twitter. And of course, we love potty humor.”
Another hashtag they use to engage with fans and followers is #CharminAsks. Here’s a fun example:
— Charmin (@Charmin)
April 21, 2016
7) Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Like the MLB, the marketing team at MIT runs a number of different Twitter accounts. Their main @MIT feed is great — in fact, it was #1 on our list of the best universities on Twitter for delivering diverse content, from research studies to nerdy anecdotes, that is catered to their niche audience.
But their other accounts are great too. Specifically, they’ve created Twitter handles for each of their target personas: @FYEatMIT for first-year students, @MISTIatMIT for matching MIT undergraduates with internship, teaching, and research opportunities, @MITGradStudents for (you guessed it) graduate students, and more.
— First Year at MIT (@FYEatMIT)
May 19, 2016
Along with tweeting out helpful content, the Twitter descriptions they’ve written for each handle make it very clear what each Twitter account is all about. Here are three examples from the three handles I mentioned above (and here are 38 more examples of great Twitter bios for more inspiration).
While JetBlue uses their main @JetBlue Twitter account to handle customer service, LinkedIn actually uses a separate account called @LinkedInHelp. The folks at LinkedIn don’t use this account in the traditional sense, and its goals certainly don’t revolve around gaining new followers. Instead, the purpose of the account is to give LinkedIn users an easy way get their questions answered quickly through Twitter.
If you scroll through that account’s main Twitter feed, you’ll see it’s basically all retweets of praise and thank-yous from delighted customers — which is great social proof for anyone who finds themself on the page and wondering whether they’re actually responsive.
The LinkedIn Help page is controlled by an extremely responsive support and communications team, who is always offering help to those who seek it. Since the questions are being answered on Twitter, this can be a valuable resource for those to see answers to similar questions they may have.
LinkedIn isn’t the only brand with dedicated customer service and support Twitter handles. Examples from other brands include @NikeSupport from Nike, @AskTarget from Target, and @HubSpotSupport from HubSpot.
9) Maersk Line
Think you can’t have a cool Twitter account just because your industry is “boring”? When you see Maersk Line’s Twitter page, you might change your mind. Let’s be honest: Container shipping isn’t the sexiest of industries. And yet, their social media team has found a way to find the beauty therein.
How? The tweets from Maersk Line are centered around their products at work. For the most part, this means gorgeous photos. It all starts with their beautiful cover photo, which plays with light and reflections at sunset. (Here are 20 more examples of great Twitter cover photos from brands for more inspiration.)
Most of their tweets include images as well — a great move for engagement, as Buffer reported that tweets with images received 150% more retweets than tweets without images for its user base.
— Maersk Line (@MaerskLine)
April 18, 2016
In addition to photos, they pair links to their own reports with graphics to make the less “sexy” tweets more engaging and more noticeable in the Twitter feed.
— Maersk Line (@MaerskLine)
April 28, 2016
To easily make similar images for your own Twitter feed, download these 100 customizable social media image templates in PowerPoint.
Forrester, a research company known for their innovative reports and analyses aimed at global business and technology leaders, is another company that makes an art out of cramming a lot of meaning into 140 characters.
How to let go of perfection:
1. Admit imperfection
2. Ruthlessly automate
3. Align teams
4. Measure, reflect & apply data #FORRDigital
— Forrester (@forrester)
May 11, 2016
Most of their tweets include cool information or statistics from their studies that are interesting to their target followers. They do a great job of tweeting out an interesting statistic or tidbit, including a relevant image that makes that piece of information stick out in the feed, and then link to the larger study. Folks scrolling through their feed who find that information interesting might be enticed to learn more by clicking the link.
— Forrester (@forrester)
May 10, 2016
What are your favorite brands on Twitter? Share with us in the comments.
Adam Wiener has been named executive vice president and general manager for CBS Local Digital Media. He was previously senior vice president of content, community and operations. Wiener is replacing Ezra Kucharz, who will now work as a special advisor to CEO Leslie Moonves. Weiner joined CBS Local Digital Media in 2010. For more breaking news from your ares, follow CBS Local on Twitter and “Like” on Facebook.
According to NAHB’s Survey on Acquisition, Development & Construction Financing, builders and developers again reported easing credit standards for acquisition, development, and construction (AD&C) loans. However, the pace of easing continues to slow from previous periods. In the first quarter of 2016, 13.3% of survey respondents on net indicated that overall lending standards on AD&C loan availability had eased. In… Read More ›
One of my favorite things about working remotely — which I do a few times a month — is the freedom to get comfortable. When I work from home, I’m usually find myself in one of three positions: sitting up at the table, laying down with my laptop, or buried in a pillow avalanche on my couch. (Sound familiar to anyone?)
While most offices have a few full-time remote workers — and probably a few that operate like I do — the idea of more remote employees may be one companies need to get used to.
Why is remote work becoming such a big deal? Well, from where I’m sitting (currently “sitting up at the table”), it’s simple: Because good candidates are asking for it, and technology’s making it an easier thing to demand — no matter what the position entails.
For employees, this is great news. They can live where they want, spend less time and money commuting, and wear their bathrobe to meetings. But what do companies get out of it?
According to research by online freelance marketplace Upwork, sourcing and onboarding in-office employees takes an average of 43 days, compared with three days for remote employees. Not to mention, being open to remote team members widens the talent pool.
So to help you sort through the operations and expectations that employers need to consider to make remote work effective, let’s walk through some practices that make it easier for me to communicate and collaborate with my remote teammates.
How to Make Remote Work Work
On Setup & Technology
I have very little in the way of tech savvy, but I do know that a good operational and technical foundation helps remote workforces stay productive. This is where two key teams come into play: Finance & Accounting and IT.
It starts with a commitment — if you’re interested in making it — to investing in your remote team as actual employees that will grow with the company. Not contractors. Not freelancers. That investment means working with Finance & Accounting to understand the administrative costs of paying employees in different states or countries. Are there visa costs you’ll need to consider? Will employees need to travel to the office on a regular basis — and if so, is the company financing it? Do they have the technology they need at home to communicate with you effectively? Again, are you financing it if they don’t?
These questions extend to IT and the infrastructure they’ll need to set up, too. They’ll want to build in security measures for employee devices, and will need to equip your office with the technology your in-office team needs to communicate with remote team members. This includes chat software, remote meeting software, telepresence devices, and potentially some high-tech conference rooms to make coordinating all of that seamless. One of my teammates who works remotely half the week and works with our global offices quite a bit actually takes pains to dial into meetings on video, specifically. She found it difficult at first but says it made her far more productive being visually present in meetings, and is grateful to have the infrastructure to support that.
If you start with all of this built into your budget from the get-go, two things happen: 1) you’re not hit with surprise costs, and you can do a much better job with hiring planning; 2) you end up with streamlined operations for onboarding remote employees so their experience starting with your company is as good as it would be for anyone else.
The best IT setup in the world doesn’t help unless we’re all using it toward the right ends. At the risk of being trite, the most successful relationships between in-office employees and their remote team members comes down to good communication from both parties. And figuring out what good communication means is kind of a beast. So bear with me while I try to break it down to its most pertinent parts for our purposes here.
Combat “face time” with over-communication.
One of the challenges remote work presents is the lack of “face time.” Think about all those random one-off conversations you have in the hallway, or at the water cooler, that wouldn’t be possible if you weren’t in-office.
To combat this, you really need to nail the whole “regular and effective communication” thing.
Sam Mallikarjunan, who works from his home down south most of the time, found that a lot of the “random collisions” he used to have in the hallway don’t happen anymore. (Obviously.) When I asked him how he makes up for it, he said “I just over-communicate. I have to proactively find opportunities to work with other people. I make a point of reaching out to people more often to tell them what I’m working on if I think it might be useful to them, and I actively talk to other people about their projects, too. There’s a lot less ‘the ball is in their court’ mentality when I’m remote.”
That proactive approach to communication is something that remote team members may start to pick up on just because they’re experiencing the need for it first-hand, so it’s equally important to have in-office employees reciprocate. Make it a practice in your company to systematize communication — to me, that means in-person decisions and conversations are always formally recapped over email, in your group chat client (provided it’s not in a room with only casual participation and monitoring), or for the big stuff, in a team meeting.
Use your words.
I have this theory that if street signs were properly punctuated we’d all be better writers. My favorite example is the “STOP CHILDREN” sign.
STOP THEM FROM WHAT?!
When communicating without the benefit of body language or tone, clarity with written and verbal communication is more important than ever. In an ideal world, everyone’s already really good at finding the right words to say what they mean. But that’s not reality, so we’re left with a few options here:
1) Try to be better at it. If you’re writing an email, take a beat to reread what you’ve written. See if you’ve really communicated what you’re trying to say clearly and succinctly. Consider whether you’ve included enough context for everyone to understand what’s going on. If you’re having a phone or video conversation, take a moment before responding or posing a question. And if what you said makes no sense, own it and say, “Sorry I don’t know what I’m trying to say, let me start over.”
2) Know that reading comprehension matters. If you’re on the receiving end of a communication that makes you go:
Image Credit: Giphy
… ask clarifying questions before responding with an equally confusing answer. I try to either copy and paste the exact copy from the email, quote it, and then ask my clarification question — or if it’s a verbal conversation, repeat back what they said before asking my clarifying questions. It’s important to avoid layering confusion on top of confusion.
3) Avoid reading into tone. People’s tones suck sometimes. Especially over email. If a typically bubbly person didn’t include a barrage of emojis or explanation points, they’re probably just running late, or feeling stressed … or something else that has nothing to do with you.
Put some alert metrics in place.
We’ve used the term “pothole” metrics before — the numbers you report on regularly that, if they get out of whack, signify a deeper problem with a part of the business. I like to use that principle here as a way to be sure we’re all catching everything that’s going on if communication ever fails. I also like to expand that principle out to encompass the good stuff as well as the bad stuff.
These could be numbers that indicate someone’s doing well or struggling — for example, setting up traffic waterfalls if a team member’s work is directly tied to hitting a traffic metric. But they can include non-numerical things, too — like hitting project milestones for people that work in roles that are more about discrete deliverables that have changing definitions of success.
Frankly, this is a good exercise to go through for every team member — yourself included — whether in-office or remote. Really, it just means everyone knows what “good” looks like, and you’re all able to break down “good” into its component parts so you know if you’re making reasonable progress.
If managers are interested in hiring remote team members, they’ll have some specific responsibilities to keep things chugging along nicely. Most of this is just about setting the right precedent for how to think about remote work for your team — I’ve broken it down into the stuff you need to do proactively, and what you need to squash.
Over-communicate the work being done by remote team members, and the value of that work. Yes, they should do this on their own. We talked about that earlier. You have to be the champion of your own career, and self-promotion is part of life … and all that jazz. But sometimes people forget. Or they do say it, but it’d sure help if someone else reiterated it.
This becomes particularly important when someone’s work output isn’t very visible. For example, if your job is to write one article a day, it’s pretty easy for people to see that you’re doing your job. You either wrote the article or you didn’t, and everyone can see it. If your role is to build operational efficiencies into backend systems that four people in the company touch … it’s really easy for that work to disappear.
To that end, don’t let resentment or pettiness build toward remote employees — particularly those that are part-time remote. This starts to manifest itself in little comments like: “Oh is this one of the days so-and-so is in? I can’t even remember.” Letting that kind of stuff slide is what makes it seem like in-office employees inherently provide more value than those that are in less often. Worse, it perpetuates the notion that face time is more valuable than work output, which I think we’re all on board with as being total bunk.
Encourage other people on your team that are in-office and have roles that allow them to work remotely … to work remotely sometimes. That pettiness I was just talking about? It’s a lot less likely to happen if working from home once in a while doesn’t feel like a special privilege levied on a few special snowflakes.
This is where things can get tricky, too. Remote work only works when it works. Notice how I said you should only encourage remote work when people have roles that allow them to work remotely? We all know not every role makes that possible. But beyond that, not every person is always a good fit for remote work at every point in their career, either. I’ll volunteer myself as an example of someone who, when starting a new role, would struggle to not be around people while I get my footing.
Or if someone is having performance issues, it may not be the right time to green light remote work. That’s another reason giving feedback early, often, and candidly is important. And that rationale extends to remote employees that start having performance issues while they’re already engaged in a remote work agreement with you.
Finally, always remember to do this:
We talked earlier about treating remote employees not like contractors or freelancers, but like actual full-time employees. That means they have career ambitions, and are probably interested in growth and promotion opportunities. Be sure to keep them in mind for new projects, promotions, and additional responsibility. If good people fall out of sight and out of mind, you might lose ’em.
After you’ve got the infrastructure set up, to me, most of this really comes down to good hiring. Get the right person, for the right role. If you’ve got capable people you can trust in a role, you should be able to trust that not only are they doing good work, but that they’ll let you know if and when they need something different from you.
The right person can make even roles that you don’t think will work in a remote scenario, work. (Unless that role is chef. Then you definitely need to be at work.)
How do you make remote work work? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.
Cision Blog regrets to inform its readers that longtime CBS and 60 Minutes newsman Morley Safer has passed away; he was 84. Safer spent 46 years shaping the network’s iconic news show before retiring last week. CBS News broadcast an hour-long special honoring him on Sunday.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 19, 2016
Existing home sales, as reported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), increased 1.7% in April, continuing to build from an early year tumble, and showing improvement among first-time buyers. The April share of first-time buyers reached 32.0% in April, compared to an average of 30% for all of 2015. April existing sales are up 6.0% from the same month… Read More ›
When it comes to content, sometimes old school can be a good thing (namely, when it comes to old school rap or Throwback Thursday on Instagram). But when it comes to your company’s public relations strategy, being old school isn’t advantageous for your business or your brand.
Ten years ago, people still relied on morning papers for news. Today, the vast majority of your company’s customers and prospects scan headlines on Twitter or see what’s trending in their Facebook feed.
People now have control over where, when, and how they consume information. As a result, public relations is no longer about feeding into a traditional news cycle; it’s about providing relevant content when, where, and how your prospects, influencers, and customers will consume it.
Sounds pretty hopeless, right? Wrong. While relationship-building still helps you get into popular publications, we now have the opportunity to quit playing the waiting game and generate our own buzz. By turning your PR strategy into an inbound one, you create opportunities that weren’t there before and carve out a place for your company, building meaningful mindshare with your target audiences in the process.
One of the most crucial updates to make to your PR strategy is to think of press releases as an opportunity to connect to the audiences you care about — including, but not limited to, reporters.
What Is a Press Release / News Release?
Whether we call it a “press release,” a “press statement,” a “news release,” or a “media release,” we’re always talking about the same basic thing: an official announcement (written or recorded) that an organization issues to the news media and beyond.
Most press releases are succinct at just a page long. Two pages tops. Ultimately, companies want to provide enough information so that news outlets have sufficient material for publishing their own stories about whatever the company is announcing in the release.
And while it may be tempting to craft a press release that embellishes your company’s accomplishments or twists the facts to make a story sound more intriguing to the media, remember: Press releases live in the public domain, which means your customers and prospective customers can see them. So instead of thinking of a press release solely as a ticket to earning news coverage, you should also think of it as a valuable piece of marketing content.
When Should I Distribute a Press Release?
While there’s no cut-and-dried formula for when a press release should be written (and distributed), here’s a few reasons when it’s a good idea:
- New product launches
- Updates to existing products
- Opening a new office
- Introducing a new partnership
- Promoting/hiring a new executive
- Receiving an award
A regular cadence of (meaningful) news can help a company stand out and build mindshare with journalists over time, so that’s where the press release (or news announcement) comes in.
Press Releases Can Be a Viable Content Type
Many people think press releases have to be chock full of buzzwords and branded terms. Big data anyone? Five syllable words you have to look up on Thesaurus.com? Quotes from every executive on the planet that go on for pages? We’ve seen it all. Unfortunately, so have reporters — and they are not fans.
So instead of stuffing your next release with jargon, take a page out of our book (okay, fine, ebook), The Newsworthy Guide to Inbound Public Relations, and brainstorm some creative approaches for your next announcement. Can you include new data? A remarkable graphic or video? A shareable SlideShare? If so, a creative angle will often help carry your content and increase the likelihood of social sharing.
Even so, a press release can still be a really valuable medium for communicating news to your audiences. You just have to make it readable, relevant, and relatable.
We have crafted this comprehensive, easy-to-follow press release template complete with a promotional plan and considerations for your next announcement. We use these same guidelines when writing our releases here at HubSpot and created a faux, sample release to illustrate what content goes where and why.
How to Write a Press Release [With Example]
You’ve got your announcement in mind, and now it’s time to get it down in words to share with your community, industry, and followers. Take Catbrella Inc., a fictitious ad agency, which just gained its 10th Twitter follower after two years of paid social media efforts. To announce its achievement, Catbrella could issue a press release like the one we’ve dissected below.*
Sample Press Release:
*Disclaimer: HubSpot is entirely responsible for the silliness of this faux announcement.
Rule 1: Make Your Headline Irresistible
Just like writing the perfect blog post title, setting up your press release for success starts with your headline. You only have one line to work with, which can seem scary, but consider diction carefully to make your headline captivating.
Use action verbs, clear, understandable language, and keep your headline simple and short — fortune (and search engines) reward the brief, so keep your title to one line to clearly focus people’s attention on your topline message.
Most importantly, make it interesting: Keep in mind that reporters get dozens, if not hundreds, of releases each day, so invest the time to write a compelling headline. It’s worth the time and effort on your part.
Rule 2: Don’t Play Hard to Get
For reporters, analysts, influencers, or followers to be inclined to share your announcement, you have to tell them upfront why they should care.
The first paragraph of your release should cover the who, what, why, where, and how of your new launch, update, or development. Reporters don’t have a ton of time to sift through details and fluffy background information — they just need the facts that’ll help them tell your story to someone else from a position of authority.
There shouldn’t be any new, crucial information covered after this section that the reader could potentially miss.
Rule 3: Offer a Tempting Quotable
Once you’ve set the scene, it’s time to bring your details to life with a quote that reporters can use for context around your announcement and help paint a picture of how your news affects the given industry, customer base, and landscape.
Ideally, quotes will be from key stakeholders in your company including your executive team, project leads, or those directly impacted by your announcement. Quoting key figures and authorities underlines the importance of your development. The chosen quote should shape your narrative and emphasize the core of the announcement. Don’t ask everyone in your office for a comment or feel compelled to quote all 25 people included in the acquisition — pick one or two critical spokespeople and focus the quotes around their unique perspective.
Rule 4: Provide Valuable Background Information
In this last paragraph, keep in mind that the reader already has all of the vital details and information they need to file a story or spread the word.
It can be tempting to provide superfluous facts and tidbits about your company or the development of your announcement — we sometimes think a piece of writing is lacking if it isn’t drawn-out and just shy of being a novella. However, a press release needs to be helpful and concise.
Offer details here that strengthen your narrative, like creative or noteworthy ways your company developed the project or announcement at hand. Or, when applicable, comment on future implications of your announcement.
Rule 5: Make the “Who” and “What” Obvious
Twitter is chock-full of reporters lamenting press releases or pitches that don’t clearly explain what the company does or what the announcement is actually about, so instead of being the butt of a joke, make your release incredibly easy to reference.
Describe what your company does in clear, plain English, include a link to your company’s homepage early on, and make your boilerplate succinct and straightforward. If you cite data, include a reference link for the data source, and make sure every name in the release has an associated title and company as well.
To keep yourself honest on this front, ask a friend or colleague to read the release without context and ask if they can easily and readily explain why the announcement matters, what your company does, and why the executives included are quoted. If the answer to any of those questions is no, get back to the drawing board.
The key to keeping your PR strategy new school is forgetting preconceived notions of what public relations is and instead focusing on creating highly remarkable content. Traditional press releases can still be really valuable when executed well, so instead of ditching releases as a tactic, give them a modern makeover to make them more useful for your marketing.
Think about how you’ve used inbound methods to transform your marketing strategies to be more personalized, approachable, and build relationships. Those same principles apply to your PR strategy: Create content to craft your own story and use tactful outreach to get reporters and analysts familiar with your brand.
Tips for Publishing Press Releases
Writing a press release is really only half the battle. Once you’re finished with production, it’ll be time to focus on distribution.
Of course, we’re all familiar with the traditional distribution levers we can pull, which include publishing the press release on our website/blog, as well as sharing the press release with our followers/subscribers via social media and email. But for ensuring a press release gets the maximum amount of distribution possible, here are some tips you can follow.
1) Reach out to specific journalists.
Instead of blasting a press release out to every journalist you can find an email address for, focus on a few journalists who have experience covering your industry (and company, hopefully) and send them personalized messages. Connect the dots. Show why what you wrote connects to what they write.
2) Don’t be afraid to go offline.
Most journalists have mountains of emails (and press releases) to sort through. Try sending your release through snail mail or another offline channel to differentiate yourself.
3) Send the release to top journalists the day before.
Give journalists some time to craft a story around your press release by sending it to them — under embargo — the day before it officially goes live. (FYI “under embargo” just means they aren’t allowed to share the information in the press release until the time you specify.)
4) To avoid competition, don’t publish your release on the hour.
If you’re publishing your press release on a distribution service like PR Newswire or Business Wire, avoid publishing it on the hour (e.g., 1 p.m., or 3 p.m., or 5 p.m.). The reason? Most companies schedule their releases to go out on the hour, which means if your release goes out on the hour too, it’s more likely to get lost in the shuffle. Instead, try going with a more distinct time (e.g., 1:12 p.m., or 3:18 p.m., or 5:22 p.m.).
5) Share your media coverage.
If all goes according to plan, and your press release gets picked up by the media, your job still isn’t finished. To keep the buzz going, you can release a “second wave” of distribution by sharing the specific stories that news outlets write based on your press release.
What other best practices do you follow when writing press releases? Share your thoughts with us below, and don’t forget to download our free press release template here.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.