7 Deadly sins of press release creation

When articulated well and containing useful, relevant information, the humble press release can still achieve excellent results in promoting your event or company news. I’ve been handling press releases for Bristol businesses and many others reaching the length and breadth of the UK and US now. Whilst unable to guarantee publishing, avoiding committing the seven sins of bad PR should put you in good stead for consideration by journalists, bloggers and media types.

#1 Your title is not striking

As the opener, the title is the first thing a journalist will see. If it’s clunky, badly written or too long, it may well be the only thing they’ll see. With this in mind: make it punchy and a good condensed version of the key newsworthy angle of your release. Opting to use puns or wordplay is only really successful if it’s actually funny.

#2 You’ve written it in the first person

Many companies make the mistake of more or less lifting the content of their press release from their ‘About Us’ page. A press release is never written in the first person. It should never say “we’ve achieved” this or “I believe” that. It’s always written as though someone else is presenting your story: hopefully the myriad journalists who see it as newsworthy. Of course, quotes from the CEO or MD are kept in the first person.

#3 You’ve not exploited quotes

Touched upon above, it’s really important to emphasise the importance of quotes. Once you’ve decided on an angle for your story, include quotes from yourself or a company spokesperson. As well as being the only part of a release that is acceptable in the first person, quotes are the only thing journalists can’t change. As such these are an opportunity to really sell your idea, event or news.

#4 Punctuation sucks

Anything from a rogue apostrophe to overuse of CAPS will make the decision to delete you release for good, easy for potential journalists. Editors, reporters and journalists are busy people with tight deadlines to consider. Think of this when creating your press release. It needs to be as ‘ready to use’ as possible to, ultimately, save time. If you’re not sure on the rules of English, ask someone to proof your news who is. Or employ a writer to create your press release for you.

#5 Where’s that?

No stone should be left unturned when it comes to exactly who your company are and where to find them. As a subheading, include a summary before your first paragraph including who and where you are and the angle. Part of my service includes undertaking this research for clients, but many journalists won’t be this patient and if you don’t include all information, they may well reject your press release.

#6 It reads too much like an advert

This is a tricky balance to create. Essentially, you do want the release to act as a form of free advertising for your company. However, you can’t make it too promotional. Foremost, a press release should be a presentation of facts, so keep it factual and use objective copy as opposed to using too much hyperbole or making unrealistic claims about your company.

#7 Irrelevant content

Again, a really common mistake companies make when creating their press releases for submission is forgetting to find a newsworthy angle. Although you may wish to promote a 30% sale, which is great news to existing customers, how is it relevant to the readership of your target press? You need to relate the benefits to the journalist’s readers in order to maximise their chances of publishing. Read news in that sector and relate your release to an angle.

These are just some examples of mistakes I have seen when companies send me their ‘sketched out’ press releases. Of course, if you’re sending it to a professional writer to create, then an outline of what the news is and who you want to attract with it should be satisfactory. Please see pdf. examples of my releases on Cision to look at structure and word count. Or contact me today to see what I can produce for you.

Why your small business needs a writer who believes in you

When I say small businesses are bankrupting me, I know it comes across as a negative. The majority of my clients are small, independent businesses and they’re who I love working with. And they’re certainly not bankrupting me because they drive a hard bargain or aren’t finding me enough work. Things are busy at Palaver Towers and they’ll soon be getting a lot busier. But I’ll tell you about that nearer to the time. (Wouldn’t want to jinx it!)

So no; it’s not a negative.

What I mean is that you guys (SMEs) are so good at what you do that you make me spend loads of my hard earned cash on your products and services.

How does that happen?

Particularly when you send me briefs which make me research around your business; what you do day to day. And what you do, the products you make: I already love them. I’ll only work with clients whose work I believe in. This is because I know it makes my writing better. So you’re bankrupting me because once I’ve given your words a spin through the storymaker (my own head); ultimately we’ve created something beautiful together and the power of it makes me convert. So I often end up buying your product or investing in your service.

How do people hear about it?

I’m a social media addict, so I spend much of my time craving clever creations people are offering on twitter or padding through pictures on pinterest. Sometimes for work and sometimes for play. Essentially, these tools help you to get your carefully crafted stories out there.  I can guarantee that if your products are written up with enough finesse and your About Us uses storytelling, many other people landing on your site will feel just like me and be motivated to get a slice of that!

Impassioned

Hiring a writer who loves your stuff as much as you do will show through in their passion. Please spend a moment looking through previous projects and my excitement is tangible. This is exactly what then drives me to want to make a purchase! And if it works on me; it’ll work on other people too.

Many clients know so much about their products that it can be difficult to describe them creatively. Many of you are too busy with the other stuff that hogs the hours in a heavy day and you haven’t hewn a space for writing. As algorithms change and content gets ever-refined, driving its purity; spending a little on content marketing will pay dividends when it comes to encouraging customers to have an emotional attachment to your company. This is the stuff that increases sales an, therefore, ultimately profits too.

To discuss an idea for any written project: print or digital; long or short: please contact me today. It makes words work for you.

 

Press Release photos: the great debate

Often when writing your own press release, you’ll seek advice and follow guidance you find online, which can produce great results. I mean, that’s one of the great things about the internet, isn’t it?! However, conventions are different across the globe and in the UK press journalists will not wish to open emails with attachments, since a) it’s more time consuming and b) they can contain viruses.

So begins the great debate about images in your press release.

Indubitably, you should always include an image with text. It helps to break text up; shows your brand identity; is usually more eye catching than simply words on a page; and is often the very first point of contact between you and your prospects.

So what are the rules for including images and how do you go about getting this right?

Plain and simple

Despite creating a beautiful press release with your logo at the top and all of the stylistic conventions recommended for writing a good press release, the actual email you send to your press list should be simple. This means it should contain no html, no embedded images and no attachments. It will look plain, but it will also bypass any filters those clever editors, journalists and bloggers have put on to minimise the risk of spam.

So how can you get your images to journalists?

#1 set up a dropbox for press images

Dropbox provides a free and easy place to store the relevant images to accompany your press release. Highlight the link to this at the beginning or within the actual pitch of the email, to ensure your readers know they are easily accessible.

#2 include a pictures section of your website

Creating a section of your website that contains a selection of relevant images means that any interested parties can simply access (and preferably download) images to accompany any text they may decide to run on you. Keeping things nice and easy will increase your chances of being published, so include a high resolution image in an easy access format, such as JPG.

#3 have a supply of pictures ready to send to journalists

The truth is that if the story itself is newsworthy enough and the article well written, the journalists for the most specific publications will write to ask you for pictures. Be sure to have them stored neatly, named aptly and in JPG format and this way they’ll be ready to go. It’s also important to respond as quickly as possible. Many journalists work to tight deadlines and really appreciate swift responses.

#4 Submit your story to a PR site or blog

If there is an online version of your news story available, journalists may collect the images from this site if they wish. This makes the process easier, whilst also contributing to your site’s SEO. My Cision news page means your images can be accessed immediately and downloaded.

For advice or assistance with creating a perfect press release or any written task for your business, please use the contact form to email me or feel free to call for a chat any time. My number is 07729 263818

Website content

Confessions of an accidental business woman #1

I say accidental because I naively envisaged sitting behind my computer all day typing creative articles and being paid for it.  For a time this was an accurate depiction of life as an original creative copywriter. But to sustain it, I have had to learn about databases, marketing, PR, SEO, web design and many other cogs in the smooth(ening) running of my pepperetically* (well oiled would be a lie) oiled machine. This was not always the plan. And I say businesswoman, which still makes me laugh, as it does with so many of my clients from SMBs and sole trading ventures. I’m still little me sitting in my office tapping away at the keyboard and trying to juggle all sorts of additional tasks.

I’ve decided to launch Confessions of an accidental businesswoman as an aside to the regular blog, which will feature once a week and tell readers about my mistakes in business, so you can avoid making them yourself!

My Confession

I confess that when I first started I didn’t really know who my target audience were. I didn’t have my invented character sitting beside me to ‘chat through things’ and the posts were clunkier with no real direction. Being a professional writer is one thing and being a businesswoman is another.

Avoid doing the same thing

Having a strategy in place will ensure you avoid making the same mistake. Get to know who your target audience are and build content tailored to them. My top tip for a solution to this problem is outlined below. I make mistakes, so you don’t have to.

The Solution: Invent a character

No, not as in who you should be. You should be you. I’m not a fan of impossible statistics but you should 110% be you, as this is who your prospects and customers want to buy from. But you should invent a character who is your consumer. They need to fit the demographic and be a friend; a confidant and a sounding board.  Imagine that everything you write is essentially having a conversation with that person. This achieves two things: you build a relationship with the character in quite the same way as you would with a ‘real’ person. You show your thoughts and feelings and speak in a language that is easy to understand. Symbiotically, whilst you are revealing your true self to them, they will believe in you; which is more likely to convert them into a customer.

Of course, with all the best will in the world, we all make mistakes and every person in a small business will have their own confessions to make. I’d love to hear yours. Please comment below if you have some words of wisdom to impart for other people in SMEs and SMBs.

*my own portmanteau of peppered and sporadically. Meaning my machine could be oiled more frequently. It’s s sort of a homonym of peripatetic which has left my mind with images of a lazy, migratory pepper pot!

 

6 tips for captivating Content Marketing

OK. So you’re not a top-notch copywriter but you love a challenge and you’ve read somewhere that marketing through good content can help raise your business profile. An experienced creative, with the conceptual capacity to deliver cut-through campaigns will hold a grasp of grammar that would make Garcia Marquez proud. If you’re not convinced you measure up: fear not.

Bring passion, bring enthusiasm and your thorough in-depth knowledge of your product, service or offer and you will be on the right path. An excellent writer knows their audience and how to keep that person reading.

#1 Gen up on grammar

OK, so I’ve kind of covered this above, but you understand what I’m saying. If you’re still getting your ‘then’ and ‘than’ confused or are using misplaces apostrophes on your copy, the secret will be out that a professional’s eyes have not glided over your copy. The internet boasts many resources such as dictionaries and grammar checkers that if you’re not entirely sure if ‘its’ or ‘it’s’ is correct: have a look!

#2 Vary your sentences

When I was a teacher, this was the number one exercise to reinforce to students. Always. Using sentences of different length can create impact. Sometimes a one word sentence has a subtext of many more words than a lengthy explanation. Be concise occasionally. Rearranging the word order can also create a more interesting starter. (e.g. The cat sat on the mat becomes As it approached the mat, the cat stretched and sat on it.) Words create pictures.

#3 Be personal

You are writing this to be read by humans, and as well as good advice; humans really like a good story. It’s OK to inject a bit of personality into even the most ‘dry’ of subject areas. It shows you’re human. Of course, nobody is likely to want an entire life story, but some personal details such as your teams in the work World Cup syndicate give a little bit of yourself away in your copy.

#4 Avoid jargon

Again, you’re writing for people. You do want to create an authority voice, so prospective clients will see your expertise shine through. However, overcomplicating posts with too much technical jargon will cause readers to switch off and then you’ve lost a lead. Again, as a teacher my advise to learners is imagine explaining it to a friend/ your grandmother. It helps to visualise a reader.

#5 Don’t be too sales-y

Ideally every single time somebody visited your website: be it a blog entry, an accidental stumbling or a sought out through a directory; they would make a purchase or file your details for future purchases. However, it can take time to build up a relationship with visitors and ultimately people prefer to be in conrol of their own decisions. So, being pushy and constantly referring to sales and packages could put people off.

#6 Add credible sources

But the main focus is to make you seem an expert, right? Yes and no! Of course, you want to demonstrate your knowledge and professionalism, but using a credible source only backs this up further. For example: ‘duck eggs reduce cancer’ could be a statement from anywhere. Whereas ‘Fantastic for fighting cancer, duck eggs are alkaline, which means they leave the body alkaline after consumption.’ adds a link to a credible source. It shows that you have done your research.

For help with creating content packages or to discuss your content strategy, please give me a call 07729263818.

Why Google’s algorithm change means you should use small PR companies

Those with their fingers on the algorithmic pulse ought to have been aware of Google’s latest changes in the form of Panda 4.0. But what will it mean for your business?

Google is renowned for being a smart company. As it strives to provide rich content for searchers, changes have happened to the way in which ranking works yet again. Focused on a developing the most efficient form of search, Google has and will continue to make changes to where results are placed within its ranks. Designed to weed out sites with flimsy keyword loaded drivel in the content pages, as writer I wholeheartedly endorse these changes because they mean more sites will be providing quality content.

In terms of blog posts and regular articles, ensure that your content is being updated regularly and with real information. It’s pleasing to see that many SMBs and SMEs are following this trend; providing solutions to industry specific questions and building relationships with clients.

An article I read yesterday forecasts a bleak future for large PR wires who prefer the tactic of spamming writers with many press releases, bursting with flimsy links but no real content. The great thing about using a small company to write your press release is knowing that it has been created by someone who cares about their company, so won’t rush the release just to make up numbers.

More importantly, a smaller company has a reputation to consider;and as such is less likely to risk spamming journalists. It’s better to take time building specific lists tailored to a journalist’s own preference. I always put a copy of the release onto my Cision news page and promote this using social media as well as sending to relevant journalists, which ensures the release is gaining exposure. This method of distribution takes time and effort to constantly evolve and respond to changes, but that’s how Google are working and more widely how all technology is adapting and small businesses should adapt with it.

It’s a recommended form of distributing to take time to build a targeted list, maintaining relationships by phone call rather than just emails. Effectively, the more penalties incurred by automated press release sites;, the higher benefit there will be to real PR services who genuinely wish to support clients, rather than being overly spammy.

Google is big brother: they are watching you, they know what you’re going to do next and this latest development is ensuring press release distribution companies are taking their jobs seriously and contacting the right people with the right information.

For free, no obligation advice on press release or any other content, please call or email for a chat and I will do my best to help you.

 

7 ways a press release will help your business

In an ever more digitalised world, the face of marketing is constantly changing. With a reported 4.3 million people working from home in 2014, many small and medium businesses and enterprises are managing everything from their own home offices. But there does come a time when each small business has to seek help elsewhere.

I, for example, am a words person. When it comes to numbers I’m all fingers and thumbs. I’ve been known to end up with a calculator shaped dent in my forehead after doing my accounts. Thankfully my Dad takes care of those now;  he used to be an accountant at Island Records. (Well, allegedly this was his title, but seemingly getting high with Aswad was ‘part of the job’!) Similarly with behind-the-scenes website maintenance, I have sought the help of WordPress guru Paul Sandford.

So, if you’re thinking of getting help with press release submission, these are my ideas about how it will help your business.

#1 Press Releases give you more exposure

Whatever your business or trade, we can all do with more exposure. Finding ways to le the maximum number of people know about your great products or services is one of the most important things for new or small businesses. When I write press releases I build a bespoke list. Bigger doesn’t always mean better, depending on how niche the area of your press release is. For example, I recently wrote a press release for a chocolate company who wished for it to be submitted to wholesale press organisations. The pick up rate of this piece was through the roof. It was very niche.

That said, I wrote a release for a company in the construction industry recently who got an average pick up rate of 5 publications but also gained custom through a journalist forwarding the email to her parents.

#2 A Press Release increases your social media followers

As part of what I do, I like to help promote clients’ services and businesses as much as possible. By using relevant hashtags, linking to the article about the service and interacting with other social media users, this furthers your exposure online by gaining interest in your social media.

#3 A Press Release will boost your SEO

By using SEO savvy linking in your press release and encouraging online publishers to link directly to your site, a press release will be good for your SEO ranking. The use of keywords will enrich your content, links will strengthen your position and also the mentions to your site using hashtags on social media will enhance your web presence.

#4 A Press Release gives you an authority voice

Within a well written press release there should be quotes from the spokesperson for the company. This is usually the CEO or Managing Director. These quotes are valuable because journalists can’t change them. Any other information used in a press release can be modified. Getting an important message across in an authority voice will give prospects confidence in you and your business.

#5 You can make some great contacts through a Press Release

Whether it’s journalists who will prefer to deal with you direct or bloggers willing to review your product or services, you will make some valuable contacts through sending out a press release. As always, be courteous and these relationships will strengthen as time goes on. Similarly, the journalist receiving your press release will always have your details on file (in their email). Even if they don’t immediately contact you, they may need an opinion or information about your product or service at a later date.

#6 A Press Release will improve hits to your website

Many journalists will click the link in the press release to see what your company is about. This of course will add more page views to your site; therefore increasing its statistics page.

#7 You will own a first class piece of copy about your site

So long as you or your writer put some effort and research into it, you will end up with some razor sharp copy and insightful statistics about and around your company. You can put it on your site, you can add it to a newsletter, you can even have it printed on a t-shirt! Whether you see it appear in any nationals or not, your press release will keep working for you long after you have submitted it.

If you want an expert to create and distribute a first class press release for you, please order one from me. You can call me on 07729 263818 to chat about your requirements or send a message over to laura@palavermaven.co.uk

 

 

 

A History of Press Releases

Writing a decent press release is a noble art. I say art, but the reality is probably more corporate than creative. And I say noble, but the reality is often more Machiavellian than morally motivated.

Why use press release?
Press releases are generally used by companies to present information in a straight-forward and factual manner, often in response to an event, a positive change or sometimes a PR crisis. They have been described by American publicist Fraser Seitel as “the granddaddy of public relations writing” and are generally sent to journalists in order to persuade them to feature the information in whichever publication they represent. Apparently many journalists hate them. I say apparently but I know this from the articles I’ve read and the emails I receive from some journalists!

Where did it all start?
In the late 1880s it was common for the US congress members to visit Newspaper Row in Washington D.C. in order to pass on titbits of information about their political manifestos. However, it is widely felt that the first official press release was sent by an American PR man named Ivy Lee in 1906. A train crash in Atlantic City, New Jersey, left 50 dead but resulted in the creation of a useful public relations tool – perhaps not the fairest of swaps.
Following the crash, Ivy Lee convinced his client Pennsylvania Railroad to let him write a statement offering an explanation of what had happened and allegedly the New York Times printed Lee’s press release verbatim.

Press releases today
Over a century later, press releases are still used as an attempt to lead journalists firmly by the nose to whatever an organisation may consider to be a newsworthy story. Having worked in house on magazines, I know many press releases get scanned for quotes and statistics and then are discarded. However, the remit of press releases has increased, with many small businesses and startups using them as a way of reaching out to customers. The key is to steer clear of an indiscriminate use of press releases lest you be accused of ‘churnalism’ or drown your audience in information they do not wish to hear.

What the future holds
A floundering print market and the onslaught of its supercilious competitor – the internet – have changed the manner in which press releases are submitted. Many commercial websites offer fee-based press release writing services which aim to make news about a company more visible and more easily found via search engines. This has created a more level playing-field for smaller businesses that would ordinarily be unable to afford the rates charged by large PR companies. Many of the people I work with are SMBs and SMEs or startups launching their product. An element of originality can be introduced via the use of Video News Releases (VNRs) and these can be turned into podcasts, blogs or community websites. Furthermore, it is now common to include hyperlinks and keywords within press release content in order to capitalise on web-marketing potential and boost SEO.

Despite developments within the market in which they are used, Ivy Lee can rest peacefully in the knowledge that the press release is likely to remain a PR “granddaddy” for some time yet, given the pickup rate I’ve seen recently.

For a bespoke press release about your SMB or company, please use my order form and I will write and distribute your Press Release within 2 days.

Startup 15: The Social of Media

As a startup business myself, I have enjoyed providing a service to support other start-upss in gaining exposure through Press Releases and social Media  and maintaining it through well crafted content. Fortunately the nature of my work allows me to encounter people from a far reaching variety of industries: from cutting canvases to marketing mangoes; labouring over language to pushing pixels.

It’s very rewarding meeting so many people for whom starting a business has moved from a dream or an idea to a reality and empowering to share successes and lessons with such people.

Maplace.co is an example of just that. Below is the Maplace Press Release I have sent to organisations today. This is a truly social media: empowering other startups and existing businesses by offering a low cost platform for their advertising and outreach.

Passion will drive you forward: Maplace for Startup 2015
Two Czech citizens became so disillusioned with menial work in the UK, they decided to make a new map. Passion and perseverance pushed them to achieve this nomination.

In the days of digital ownership becoming a household name, Maplace.co has launched an innovative platform for businesses to gain online exposure. Essentially an innovative map application designed to allow consumers to purchase a piece of our planet, people have been snapping up their maplace for just £1 GBP.

In a time when physical property ownership is a controversial issue, following the global recession, Maplace.co encourages users to make their mark on places of significance to them. Registering to use the app is free, with normal rectangular ‘plots’ commanding a token payment of £1. Own your street, your first school, somewhere you went on holiday for just £1.

Partly like a global Monopoly game, partly a multi location social media; the app was born out of the dream of self employment, and breaking free from the mundane. Winning the nomination for Startup15 would see popularity in the innovative platform rise exponentially: raising the online profile of thousands of companies across the globe.

The journey so far has not been easy. Co-founder Rose Nekudova said, “We came to the UK to try and start the business and we knew it was going to be tough. The long hours in low wage jobs made us miss our families and we were almost ready to return to the Czech Republic. Instead, we managed to use our feeling as motivation to succeed. We want to empower other startups around the world by providing a platform for them to advertise and interact with the public”

Maplace.co is the first ever social platform allowing people to own their place on the world map. By uploading logos, businesses can get their brand noticed anywhere in the world: the more recognised, the better. Like owning houses on Mayfair in Monopoly, recognised spaces will be more lucrative for participant businesses. Own Big Ben and advertise from there. Buy up big buildings to capitalise on their notoriety.

True innovation and perseverance created Maplace.co: a revolution in technology, limited only by the imagination. This innovative concept winning the startup15 award would mean enabling other startups to gain exposure through a cheap solution to advertising: making it put the social into social media.

To find out more about Maplace.co, visit Maplace.co

About the founders:

From humble beginnings, we were spurred on by a true belief in our product. Our hope is that people will use Maplace.co to connect with others and create a unique online community. We hope to inspire others with our story.