January 13, 2009

Waves of change

Posted in Industry Standards at 9:01 am by R

I was building a proposal for a potential new client yesterday. My boss and I discussed the various aspects of what media would be good placement, how we could work with the budget and then my boss said something that sounded strange to me:

Did you build in time for a press release?

Without even thinking I asked:

What’s the point?

The mediums through which we communicate have shifted fundamentally. Opening up a paper more often means opening up a Web page any more. Live TV coverage and streaming live Web video coverage compete in the same space. Journalists are no longer challenged with simply finding a good story, they are charged with finding multimedia angles to bring these stories to life on the Web! (Watch a great video interview from Ragan Communications on this point.)

Because so much has changed in the mediums, the way we communicate with journalists — and let’s face it each other — has to change.

If 150 words (or less) on Twitter can inspire great articles, why on earth would we write pages long releases?

Perhaps this is our new guideline. 150 words or less. Can we as PR pros be more successful by being less verbose? Probably so.

Certainly journalists don’t have time to wade through miles of prose in an email pitch, much less copious press releases. Not only that, it’s clear that journalists are no long just looking for words. They need to tell a story with a photo gallery, exculsive video, polls, graphs, anything multimedia.

So challenge yourself to be a succinct and clear cut as possible in your communication with the media.

Here are my guidelines for doing it:

  1. Use the 150 rule. If you can’t sell your client’s story in 150 words, you may need to evaluate the angles
  2. Bullets. Who. What. Where. When. Why. How. Journalism 101. Address these at the top of any pitch.
  3. Added Value. To Shannon’s point we have to offer value to the media as well. We know what they are asking for. So give ’em some multimedia added value.

I’m about 210 words over proving my point in practice.

~R

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