Shopping and Public Relations, my two loves – but are they connected in some way?
The first lesson I ever had in Public Relations was how to write a press release, ‘Sun style’ compared to a broadsheet equivalent – get all the news in the first paragraph to grab attention.
But does it now work at all in the new digital fast pace world of storytelling where every journalist, freelancer and blogger is looking for a way for news to personally stand out from the noisy crowd?
Also known as a news release, a press release traditionally was a one- to two-page document exhibiting the “Five Ws” (who, what, where, when, why — and how) of a company news briefing.
The aim was always to drip feed the media, to let them know that a client is active and exciting – and the journalist should stay involved and look out for the story.
So how is that in any way connected to a shop mannequin in a clothing shop?
A mannequin aims to keep shoppers up to date with latest trends in store, how to put outfits together, and encourage us to come in and check it out for themselves, and maybe put a personal twist on the store outfit ensemble.
If you consider the press release the mannequin – it’s a way a journalist can put a latest story together. Or they may use bits of the press release and create their own unique version, making the story unique to them. This is the greatest result.
Now consider if the mannequin wasn’t there – that there was nothing to look at in the shop window; ideas or inspiration – would you still be inclined to go? Maybe curiosity would get the best of you; certainly there’s a reason All Saints has sewing machines in their window with incredible success.
A journalist arguably doesn’t have that luxury of time – they need constant feeding of information to stay in business. Like a store needs constant sales a journalist today needs to help fill a newspaper, an online version and an app updated to keep customer attention.
Press Release v Mannequin
If a press release isn’t well written just like if a mannequin hasn’t been put together well, it’s unlikely to inspire and we will look for the store that does. A journalist is equally likely to disregard the press release (and the PR agent.)
If a press release is written well, or a Journalist has confidence in the Public Relations agent to rely on writing skill, a press release could be perfect just the way it is sent to make up the news.
But more often than not in today’s world of content marketing and storytelling – there is something else to consider – the press release reach. Now it goes to journalists, bloggers, freelancers and social media influencers, and all want personality and individual implications of an occurrence.
The humble press release has to adapt to today’s times, content has to be more personal and more frequent. On top of the who, why, where, what and why, the press release has to explain to the journalist, why this news is relevant to every reader.
A press release needs to tell a simple, personal story and can no longer be over generalized. Again think of the shop mannequin and how it has evolved with clothes selections very much orientated to specific groups of the market.
Marks and Spencer is the obvious example of how it suffered sticking to traditional methods and enhanced its clothing range, and its mannequins to inspire – with results now showing.
Hints & Tips
Here’s some hints and tips to writing a press release to grab a journalist’s attention:
1. When a client asks for a press release to be written, check it really is news. It may be really exciting for the company, but is it really relevant to its audience.
By example, a new brochure may not seem significant on its own, but the range it’s showcasing maybe changing the way selection can be made in the industry.
2. Once the decision has been made to write, make sure you stick to the basics, get the story essence in the opening paragraph and keep it simple and succinct. Sometimes you can write the press release and then go back to the opening paragraph.
3. Remember to include the who, why, what, where and when and why it’s relevant to the reader. Try and make it so the press release looks as if it is being written for every individual that is going to read it (including the journalist.)
4. A press release is often the starting point for repurposing into an SEO rich blog post and linked across social media channels, keep this in mind in the writing process.
5. Make sure it is simple enough that anyone picking up the news can understand why it’s relevant. Ask someone else to read your stories (also a sneaky way to double check spelling and grammar.)
6. Ensure the passion comes through in what you’re writing about and it can be felt by the receiver and the eventual reader – just like the feeling you get when a mannequin inspires you to shop!