Man Bites Dog: The Perfect Press Release

Sua Altezza Reale Elisabetta II Regina del Regno Unito fotografata da Annie Leibowitz con i suoi cani in occasione del suo 90 compleanno per VanityFair Estate 2016

An old journalism motto says that if a dog bites a man it is not news, while a man who bites a dog does. Unless it’s the queen’s dog, I add. The Queen’s dogs always make the news.

If you are not the queen and you want reporters to talk about you, you need three things: news, the perfect press release and good relations with reporters. Let’s look at these things one by one.

Not Everything Is News

The dog that bites a passer-by is not news because it is a frequent thing in our daily life. If we are that man, or if we are the owners of that dog, what happened will seem terribly important to us. Not everything that seems important to us, however, is really “newsworthy”.

What we need to understand is that – professionally speaking – journalists don’t care much about us and our message. Journalists are interested in the news. Each journalist receives hundreds of emails a day at their desk, sent by people who are convinced that what they want to say is really of general importance. In fact, it really is important, but only for themselves, not for the general public.

From the point of view of those who work for an information magazine, however, that communication may not be important and may not even contain a real piece of news. The truth is that few of the communications they receive are really relevant to news outlets.

Remember that space in the media is scarce, even if when we come to online publications. Equally poor is the attention of the public and it cannot be played with irrelevant information.

An event that has happened can only become news if it is unusual and relevant . Of course, this judgment is relative, not absolute. What is relevant news for a specialized audience may not be relevant for the general public. And viceversa.

The way in which a news is “constructed”, or the story of it, can make the difference, and this is the work of specialists. Most practical thing to do is to specialize or get help from a professional.

A Press Release That’s Perfect: Look How You Write It, More Or Less

Let’s say you have some real news (again the queen’s dog, or an initiative of your non-profit organization, or a revolutionary toothpaste …) and that you intend to make the world aware of it.

What are you doing? You write a big press release and ” spam ” it to the five hundred e-mail addresses of newspapers that a friend of your cousin passed you. Done! No? On the other hand, even if in the midst of those five hundred there are people and out-of-target editorial offices… who cares? At most they don’t publish it. After all … isn’t that their job? In fact, no, that’s not their job.

The Short Way To The Waste Bin

Because in the editorial office, given that he is flooded with e-mails, a journalist has a few seconds to decide whether to open your e-mail or forward it directly to the waste bin. It almost always decides on the basis of the sender (do I know him, is he reliable?) And the subject of the email (does it seem interesting?).

The emails that pass the first screening, have at most another couple of lines of breath before being trashed. In those two lines the fate of your press release and the news you care so much are at stake. If the first words of the article, the lead, does not catch the eye, it ends up in the basket on the second round instead of the first. And you don’t want to end up in the trash, right?

Therefore it is important that the subject of the email, title and initial sentence invite the reader to continue reading. At that point you will have had your chance, but you have only put your foot into the ajar door.

Not only the Lead, but the whole press release must be perfect, packaged according to some important rules. Here we indicate a few.

A Twelve Step Path to Get Your Perfect Press Release Done

Organize The Content of Your Press Release

  • It must be written ” like a funnel “, organized in paragraphs that gradually add complementary details but less interesting for the public;
  • Offer a title and a two- or three-line summary;
  • The first paragraph should already contain everything a hasty reader needs to know. If the journalist does not have much space (even in online journalism there is a problem of space) but decides to give the news anyway, in those first lines there must be all the essential: the answer to the classic 5Ws of journalism : Who? What? When? Where? Why?
  • Try to keep a simple style , don’t use long sentences and pay attention to punctuation. Remember that you are writing for an organization that has a style and a brand. Be consistent with the brand you represent . Shakespeare was not good at press releases. Don’t write like him;
  • Explain the things you say without assuming that everyone knows the topic you are writing about. Do it as if you were explaining it to a five-year -old;
  • If you mention people , write their name, surname, role … and their “relevant” statement in quotation marks, so that the reader gets the impression that the journalist was there. It helps to increase the interest of readers;
  • Remember that, most likely, the journalist will not have time to do research and it would be better to attach any necessary document without hoping that he will go looking for them: high resolution photographs but not “heavy”, external links in the text of the email and so on;
  • At the bottom of the press release always indicate your references and a brief profile of the organization (company, institution .. etc ) on behalf of which you are writing. This information will help the reporter understand who you are and possibly integrate the text;

After You have Packed Your Press Kit

  • Do not send your press release in pdf format. What matters here is the text, not the appearance. If the editor has to work too hard on your piece, they will prefer another one. After all, not publishing your news won’t compromise his career. After all… you are not the Queen;
  • Choose newspapers and journalists who deal with the topics of your press release , you will increase the probability that it will be published;
  • Send your press release in time (you should find out about the closing dates of the issue in the editorial office); periodicals have very different timing from newspapers. Take this into account;
  • Cross your fingers . It is quite unlikely that – without direct contact – your press release will be published, but you never know …

Your Relationship With Journalists

Now that, following these directions, you have written your perfect press release on the perfect news… what do you do with it? Do you have the right contacts to get the press release “out”?

The relationship with journalists is essential for good communication. Journalists experienced in the sector you are interested in can listen to what you have to say and, if they find it interesting, decide to dedicate attention and room to it. It is their job and to arrive first or in an original way on a story. It is a reason for professional gratification, also. Of course there must be a story to tell ,otherwise even the most generous professional could do not much to help you.

So, instead of spreading press releases left and right as you would with icing sugar on a cake, make a list of journalists and bloggers who follow your industry and try to get them close in time. It is better to have a few useful and direct contacts rather than hundreds of names of strangers. Those who know you will be able to evaluate your work more carefully.

Build a relationship with them and you will have a relationship when you need it. Give before asking.

Getting Help From media relations professionals

But you could probably also do without taking the time and energy to do all the work of finding the news, writing a press release, and contacting the reporters yourself. The investment of time and attention it takes to send out a few press releases a year may not pay off with results.

There are public relations and media relations  companies or Press Office professionals who do nothing else than this, from morning to evening. They know how to recognize what is “newsworthy” in what you do, they know how to write press releases and they know journalists.

Communication professionals have built up a network of relationships over time. This is the key phrase in the whole affair. Those, the relationships, really make the difference. With a little practice and a few good manuals you might even get to write the perfect press release, but ultimately, that’s not the most important thing. The really important thing is to get to know the journalists in the sector directly and to be able to call them directly on the phone and maybe meet them. This is the one thing that reduces the risk of your news ending up in the trash can and this is the reason why you might decide to turn to professionals.

Improve Your Skills To Write The Perfect Press Release

Sure, communications professionals will want to get paid and maybe you can’t afford it. In this case you will have to do it yourself, perhaps using a book like A Modern Guide to Public Relations by Amy Rosenberg . Which can be a good starting point if you are completely lacking in information on the subject or if you want to keep up to date. These are not affiliation links.

Anyone can build a good contact agenda, but it takes time and good will. If you decide to go it alone, take this into account.

The photo illustration in this article reproduces the cover of Vanity Fair Summer 2016. The photo was taken by American photographer Annie Leibovitz. Copyright by Annie Leibovitz and Vanity Fair.

Is the brand image bullshit?

Automobli Ferrari parcheggiate in una località turistica in Italia

Is the corporate image bullshit? Many believe it. The communications manager of an important organization confessed to me – sadly – that her partners, esteemed managers and professionals, regularly circumvent the standards established for internal or external documents. In every reference to the official style they see every excessive bureaucratization and refuse to take it into account.

Yet, like all of us, they are influenced by perceptions.
All of us, when we recognize the logo on a car, we get an idea of ​​its price, its performance and its reliability. If that vehicle had another logo, our conclusions would also be different. It happens every day with objects and even with people.

The evocative power of the brand

It happens because the brand has a great evocative power. It happens because the one stuck on the products is not just a logo, but the hallmark of a Brand.
This banal observation often struggles to be understood.
A brand is a set of components of which the brand is only the most visible part, the tip of the iceberg. Day after day, we learn to recognize brands and, without even realizing it, we accumulate experiences and information even on the hidden part of the iceberg: brands.
Through brands and visual identity, we get used to associating each brand with a specific style of action, a certain quality and certain values. His reputation, in short.
At the mere sight of the logo, a whole universe of meanings comes to mind. In this way, brands don’t have to re-explain who they are and what they do every time, but can simply add the specific information they want to get to the public.
Visual recognition improves effectiveness and capitalizes on investments in communication. This is why companies and organizations put so much effort into getting it.

The importance of a brand’s recognizability

After all, it’s not even that important that we have a nice logo and a refined and elegant image. What matters is that we behave in a manner consistent with the identity we have built.
Yes, because for the best-known brands, recognition is not a product of chance, but the result of voluntary and deliberate actions.
For larger organizations, the visual identity is designed at the table by a team, which designs it in accordance with the story you want to tell, the Vision and Mission of the brand. Even the name is defined in a reasoned way (there are agencies that deal only with this): it must be short, memorable, evocative and easily pronounced in all geographical areas. Nothing is left to chance. Not out of narcissism, but because the construction of a brand and its value necessarily pass through visual recognition. For the public, the brand image is a promise.

Squander the value of the brand

But that promise must be kept by all members of the organization that identifies with the brand, it is not enough for top management to adapt to it.
Unintentionally damaging a brand and its brand is easy. For example, members of an organization can do this when they distort the logo on documents or on the web, when they use it with colors “almost the same as the official ones” or when they send newsletters with typefaces “nicer than the one imposed”.
The success or failure of a business depends on keeping that promise. And even more than economic damage, the damage is to reputation, because if not even the brand manages to be equal to itself, how can we expect everything else to be? The public is disoriented, does not recognize the interlocutor, does not know what to expect. But he sees a bad organization and loses confidence.
The damage never concerns only the management of an organization or its property: failure produces undesirable consequences on each of its components. Repairing that damage could be very expensive or even impossible.
It is for this reason that a company or organization should make sure that all members know the guidelines on corporate image and the importance of following them, because what seems trivial margins of freedom risk undermining the serious work that is done. the rest of the time

Photo by Gabe G:

La brand image è una cavolata?

Automobli Ferrari parcheggiate in una località turistica in Italia

L’immagine aziendale è una cavolata? Lo credono in molti. La responsabile della comunicazione di  un’importante organizzazione mi ha confessato – sconsolata – che i suoi soci, stimati manager e professionisti, aggirano regolarmente gli standard stabiliti per i documenti interni o esterni .  Per loro la brand image non è una componente essenziale del successo. Anzi: in ogni richiamo allo stile ufficiale vedono ogni un’eccessiva burocratizzazione e si rifiutano di tenerne conto.

Eppure, come tutti noi, sono influenzati dalle percezioni.

Tutti noi, quando riconosciamo il marchio su un’automobile, ci facciamo un’idea sul suo prezzo, le sue prestazioni e la sua affidabilità. Se quel veicolo avesse un altro marchio, anche le nostre conclusioni sarebbero diverse. Succede ogni  giorno con gli oggetti e, addirittura, con le persone.

Il potere evocativo del marchio

Succede perché Il marchio ha un grande potere evocativo. Succede perché quello appiccicato sui prodotti non è un semplice logo, ma il segno distintivo di un Brand.

Questa banale osservazione, spesso fatica ad essere compresa.

Un brand, una marca, è un insieme di componenti di cui il marchio è soltanto la parte più visibile, la punta dell’iceberg. Giorno dopo giorno, impariamo a riconoscere i marchi e, senza nemmeno rendercene conto, accumuliamo esperienze ed informazioni anche sulla parte nascosta degli iceberg:  i brand .

Attraverso i marchi e l’identità visiva, ci abituiamo ad associare ad ogni brand un preciso stile d’azione, una determinata qualità e certi valori. La sua reputazione, insomma.

Alla sola vista del logo, tutto un universo di significati ci torna alla mente. In questo modo, i brand non devono rispiegare ogni volta chi sono  e cosa fanno, ma possono limitarsi ad aggiungere l’informazione specifica che vogliono far arrivare al pubblico.

La riconoscibilità visiva migliora l’efficacia e capitalizza gli investimenti in comunicazione. È per questo che le aziende e le organizzazioni fanno così tanti sforzi per ottenerla.

L’importanza della riconoscibilità di un brand

In fondo non è nemmeno tanto importante che abbiamo un bel logo e un’immagine ricercata ed elegante. Ciò che importa è che ci comportiamo in maniera coerente con l’identità che abbiamo costruito.

Già, perché per i brand più noti, la riconoscibilità non è un prodotto del caso, ma il frutto di azioni volontarie e deliberate.

Per le organizzazioni più grandi, l’identità visiva è progettata a tavolino da un team, che la disegna in accordo con la storia che si vuole raccontare, la Vision e la Mission del brand. Persino il nome, viene definito in maniera ragionata (ci sono agenzie che si occupano soltanto di questo): deve essere breve, memorabile, evocativo e facilmente pronunciabile in tutte le aree geografiche. Nulla è lasciato al caso. Non per narcisismo, ma perché la costruzione di un brand e il suo valore passano necessariamente per la riconoscibilità visiva. Per il pubblico, l’immagine  del brand costituisce una promessa. 

Sperperare il valore del brand

Ma quella promessa deve essere mantenuta da tutti i componenti dell’organizzazione che si identifica col brand, non basta che vi si adeguino i vertici.

Danneggiare involontariamente un brand e il suo marchio è facile. Ad esempio, possono farlo i membri di un’organizzazione quando distorcono il logo sui documenti o sul web, quando lo utilizzano con colori “quasi uguali a quelli ufficiali” o quando inviano newsletter  con caratteri tipografici “ più simpatici di quello imposto” .

Il successo o l’insuccesso di un’impresa passa dal mantenimento di quella promessa. E prima ancora che economico, il danno è di reputazione, perché se neppure il marchio riesce ad essere uguale a se stesso, come ci si può aspettare che lo sia tutto il resto? Il pubblico rimane disorientato, non riconosce l’interlocutore, non sa cos’aspettarsi. Però vede una cattiva organizzazione e perde fiducia.

Il danno non riguarda mai soltanto la Direzione di un’organizzazione o la sua proprietà: l’insuccesso produce conseguenze indesiderate su ogni sui componente. Rimediare a quel danno potrebbe essere molto costoso o, addirittura impossibile.

È per questa ragione che un’azienda o un‘organizzazione dovrebbero accertarsi che tutti i membri conoscano le linee guida sull’immagine aziendale e l’importanza di seguirle, perché quelli che sembrano banali margini di libertà rischiano di vanificare il lavoro serio che si fa nel resto  del tempo