I Heard It From The PR Girl


Week 16: Tips for new bloggers. Get excited!

Posted in Let's Get Personal!,Topic of the Week by laurynwilliams on April 22, 2010

I really enjoy blogging. I know that sounds silly, but I see it as a way to get my opinion out and to talk about important PR issues. There a few things that students who are new to blogging should know:

1) Make your blog attractive through changing the theme of the blog from default to something that fits you. If your blog looks boring, your reader will get bored easily.

2) Make your blog easy to navigate. Create categories for each topic that you blog about, then provide a category cloud so that they are more accessible. Create a blogroll of interesting and similar blogs or blogs that you often visit. Provide a calendar so that he readers can keep up with when you are writing.

3) Use hyperlinks. If you simply write a post talking about another blog post, a video, or article, the reader can only read what you have to say. To allow them to create their own opinion as well as better understand what you have to say, link to the website or post. If you know of other posts that are similar to your and would be helpful to the reader, hyperlink to them.

4) Make sure you attribute any information retrieved from somewhere else to the correct source by citing their name, website, post, or article. Create a hyperlink to their page, the book, or put a statement in quotes and provide the speakers name. If you do no do this, it is plagiarism.

5) Use graphics. This creates an attractive appearance for each post. It gives the reader something to look at and identify the post with. Use photos as hyperlinks to original pages and post actual videos to your post instead of just the hyperlink.

6) Comment on other bloggers posts. This creates networking and allows you to get your opinion out.

7) Reply to comments on your own posts. Answer any questions readers might have. Doing this will create networking as well as allow the reader to know that you care about what he or she has to say.

8 ) Do not ramble. Treat a blog post as if you are writing an entry for a newspaper or perhaps a small opinion piece for a class. Be professional. It can be a bit conversational and informal, but keep your work neat, not sloppy.

9) Link to other social media websites that you are on. I linked to my Twitter account so that my readers could see all of my tweets. You can also link to your Facebook, YouTube, or another blog that you might have.

10) Keep up with your blog. It is your responsibility to your readers. I know plenty of PR bloggers as well as bloggers with other interests and professions that blog infrequently. This is a huge let down when the reader is really interested in everything you have written, but they visit your site for two weeks or so and there is no new information. You will loose readers and connections.

One additional tip: 

11) Avoid blogging about yourself. People are interested in topics that they can relate to or are interested in. A blog is not Facebook. Do not blog about your day unless it leads into something interesting that you can focus on and talk about. I would also suggest that you start talking about yourself as little as possible on Facebook as well. No one needs to know when you are going outside to get a breath of fresh air or when you have arrived back at your computer desk. No one cares.

I hope these tips are helpful and that you new bloggers get the same excited experience out of it as I did and will continue to do!

Keep in touch! 😉

Sign off from the PR Girl…

Lauryn Williams

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Week 15: Social Media News Releases

Posted in Topic of the Week by laurynwilliams on April 19, 2010

What is a “Social Media News Release”?

A social media news release has “expanded the audience beyond just the traditional media outlet.” (pg. 137 in Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.) )

Social media news releases (or SMNRs) are much more than the traditional news release with no photos, video, or audio. SMNRs include all of those things and more through links. Graphics are used along with embedded hyperlinks, social media tags, blog and online coverage, and user-friendly options. Comment fields and links to the organization’s newsroom allow for immediate feedback on a SMNR.

Paolina Milana, VP of Marketwire, “Social media releases are generally formatted so information is easy to scan, utilizing bullets and lists of ready-made quotes instead of dense text.” (pg. 137 in Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.) )

SMNRs are pioneered by the major electronic distribution services, such as Business Wire, PR Newswire, and Marketwire. These services have teamed up with search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and MSN to promote maximum exposure of the news release.  (Paraphrased from Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.) )

Business Wire

PR Newswire

Marketwire

Additional:

PR Web

As Michael Lissauer, executive vice president of Business Wire told PRWeek, “The most important thing to our clients is seeing their news release on these search engines. They know consumers go there. If they write a news release effectively, they can bypass the gatekeepers, the journalists, who always had the opportunity of interpreting the release how they wanted”  (pg. 137 in Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.) )

The blog post “How to Write a Social Media Press Release” by Muhammad Saleem says “it’s perfectly fine to want to promote your company, because after all, we all have to make a living. But the social-web audience doesn’t like blatant sales and marketing speak.”  This post gives 3 main reasons why regular press releases fail in social media. Saleem explains what should be done to update a regular press release to social media status so that the audience will better understand what they are reading and become more interested. He also gives strategies used in the Alternative Press Release.

This PR- squared  post “The ‘Social Media Press Release’ Debuts” gives information and a link to the first-ever template of a social media press release. It is 100 percent free and available to all PR and marketing professionals. Here is the template in PDF form and the most recent PR-squared post on the social media release template, version 1.5 from April 18 with feedback from professionals.

PitchEngine and PRXbuilder can be used to create a Social Media News Release for your client.

When should a SMNR be used?

A PR practitioner should use a social media news release to allow further navigation by the consumer into an upcoming company event or into recent newsworthy activity of a company dealing with their clients or products.

I believe that while sending and distributing SMNRs online via blog or wire service is important to allow the customer to directly interact with your company, traditional press releases should still be used. I say use both as frequently as possible. Write the traditional press releases with journalists and gatekeepers in mind, and write SMNRs with your company and opinion in mind while avoiding hype. Hype will be recognized and cause customers to distrust what you say.

Lastly, Brian Solis states in his post “The Definitive Guide to Social Media Releases:”

Social Media Releases are only one way to tell your story and they can work extremely well when paired with a traditional release and an effective outbound media/blogger/influencer campaign. Nothing beats knowing what you want to say, why it matters, and to whom. You still have to do your homework and you still have to write something compelling.”

“What this all means is that the future of the Social Media Release is up to you. Raise the bar. Experiment. Provide value. Remember, that releases, regardless of format, are only the tools that can help facilitate discussions, relationships, and also visibility. The ability to tell your story, your way, to the people that define your markets, is where we should all focus our time and effort…the rest, is simply a function of outreach.”

I feel like this is a perfect note to end on. Social media news releases are effective in the online world and should be utilized to reach your audience.

Week 14: 5 Steps to Multimedia Storytelling

Posted in Topic of the Week by laurynwilliams on April 14, 2010

This week my Pr Writing class took the course  “5 Steps to Multimedia Storytelling” by Poynter News University.

What I learned:

This course taught me the important steps that one should take when writing for multimedia. There are so many different approaches that you can take to getting news and information out online, such as text, video, audio, animated graphics, maps, and still photos. All of these have different ways of capturing the readers’ interests.

Text can be used to describe the history of the story or describe the process or provide accounts of an event. Text should only be used when another form of media cannot be used to convey the event properly.

Video is the best for depicting action. You can used this media form to take the audience to a place central to the story or to hear and see someone central to the story.

Audio makes photos seem more realistic. Using audio alone can be hard to understand sometimes. Avoid using it alone, but instead use audio with pictures to create intensity.

Animated Graphics show how something works. They can go where cameras cannot to provide the reader with information. This can be used as a primary medium.

Maps give a location to allow the reader to better understand where the story is happening or what is going on. Viewing different areas of a map is a great way to let the reader engage interactively on the website.

Photos emphasize strong emotion and create a mood for the story. They can be used to draw the reader to the focus of the story. The reason photos are so dramatic is because they do not pass quickly like a video. They stay still the entire time for you to observe them and make inferences.

Using any of these ask links from the main page of a website or veering off a second page is a good way to get the reader interacting and following along. They can choose where they want to go. It is your job to help them decide when during their reading and viewing that they want to go there to help accurately get the point of your story across.

What surprised me:

It really surprised me to hear that photos were thought of as being stronger than videos in the emotional sense. I really liked how they said we should combine them with audio to create a more realistic approach.

What I want to know more about:

This course was very interesting to me. I would like to learn more about how to make a story board before going out on the field. I like creating blogs and websites. I feel like it keeps me up to date with technology in terms of the PR field. I so like how it is interactive. I would like to learn more about how to apply a story board to the web. Each page of the website for Racetrack Playa’s moving rocks was carefully thought out in the course. I liked how they used the links on certain pages to direct the readers’ attention to that link, but the reader is not bombarded with tons of information and had the opportunity to choose what he or she wanted to read, watch, and listen to. The links created less clutter.

I highly suggest this course to anyone interested in PR writing, writing for the web, or journalism. It is a great way to learn the multimedia writing process step by step.

Week 13: How PR Can Sometimes Drive Journalists Crazy

Posted in Topic of the Week by laurynwilliams on April 8, 2010

Here is a list of 10 ways that PR people can drive journalists crazy with ways to prevent these things from happening.

1) Poorly written material by PR due to being unfamiliar with journalists editorial format

The PR person should research this. Learn what journalists want and how they write. The closer that you can get to writing like a journalist the less work they have to do in editing. You will have a better chance at getting your material published. PR people should research each news sources editorial requirements before submitting their work.

Cited: Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.)

2) The PR person mentioning that he or she advertises with a publication to a journalist

“Journalists aren’t responsible for advertising and vice-versa.” Don’t try to squeeze into a paper on the back of the fact that you have advertising. The PR person should go through the ad department and get them to apply the pressure to the reporters.

Cited:  Defending PR:  Why Journalists Need to Stop Making Lists Telling PRs How to Do Their Job

3) Gimmicks that PR people send with their news releases and media kits

Items such as T-shirts, coasters, caps, paperweights, pens, and mugs are usually the most popular items to send, but they are dull and overused. These items are referred to by journalists as “trash and trinkets.” These items are supposed to make a media kit stand out, but journalists say they are a waste of time because they don’t help tell the story. Do not send these. 

If you do decided to send promotional items with a media kit or news release you should make sure that they are things that the journalists can use. Otherwise they are an annoyance. There should be a clear connection between the news you are announcing and the promotional item. Send just one item instead of a basket full. Another idea is to use creative packaging instead of a promotional item. This will grab the journalists’ attention.

Cite: Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.)

4) Repeated calls and follow-ups from PR people

Do not make repeated follow-up phone calls. This is annoying to journalists. One phone call is enough. A good point made in chapter 6 in Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.) is that you should keep the ball and the responsibility for follow-ups in your court, but do it in a polite way. A great approach is one used by Julie Schweigert of Edelman Worldwide. At the end of one of her pitch letters she took initiative in a nice way by writing “I will contact you nest week to follow-up, but in the meantime you can reach me at 312/233-1380 with any questions.”

5) Calling a journalist to ask why a press release was not published

Never do this. This only starts controversy. Just let it go. Perhaps try using a different news source next time or communicating better with this one. Make sure you know their editorial requirements before submitting their work.

Cite:  Defending PR:  Why Journalists Need to Stop Making Lists Telling PRs How to Do Their Job

6) Excess hype words used in news releases

Journalists hate words such as “unique” and “state of the art. Journalists see these as poorly written. “Journalists, dulled by the constant flow of news releases that sound like commercials, generally conclude that the majority of publicists are incompetent.” Do not use hype words. Be as objective as possible.

Cite: Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.) 

7) Not meeting deadlines

A PR person should meet the deadline for his news release. There is no question about that. Journalists have deadline too that we must consider. If a journalist calls to ask for more information or asks this during your follow-up phone call provide that within 24 hours. If something has come up dealing with the deadline and news release, communicate with the journalist. Let him know that it can’t be met and for what reasons. This should rarely happen. Always strive to be punctual.

Cite:  Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.)

8 ) Making mistakes in news releases that are not factual, accurate, or objective

If it is just the tone that the journalist does not like there is not much that can be done. “If the error is significant, contact the reporter to discuss the incorrect facts or references. You should politely provide the correct facts with documentation. Avoid confrontations; the reporter no doubt will be writing future stories about your organization, so it’s wise to maintain a good relationship.” You can also contact the editor if the mistake is a major one. Try to negotiate with him. Other ways to handle the situation if these don’t work would be to go to the public or file a lawsuit. These should not be used unless necessary to avoid confrontation. In the mean time strive to be factual and objective in your news releases to prevent mistakes.

Cite:  Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.)

9) Miscommunication with PR people

PR people and journalists need to learn to respect each other’s work. Communication is the key here and both sides should feel updated on all information. One definition of public relations is that it is the building of relationships between the organization and its various publics, including journalists. “Press interviews, news conferences, media tours, and other kinds of gatherings provide excellent opportunities to build these working relationships. They are more personal than just sending written materials and helping reporters get direct answers from news sources.” Keep regular one-on-one contact with journalists to reduce miscommunication. It also “helps the organization accomplish the objectives of increasing visibility, consumer awareness, and sales of services or products.”

Cite:  Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.)

10) A press release more than two sides long 

Brevity counts. Never make a press release too long. “Even though we are digital now, this is a fair point. Two sides long is roughly 800 words which is a page lead for most. And make sure your first three paragraphs can be lifted and used as a complete story on their own.”

Cite:  Defending PR:  Why Journalists Need to Stop Making Lists Telling PRs How to Do Their Job

The information retrieved from Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.) comes from chapter 11 in the textbook unless otherwise indicated.

Just some stuff the PR Girl thought you should know 🙂

Week 12: The Creative Career Podcasts

Posted in Topic of the Week by laurynwilliams on March 31, 2010

The Creative Career by Allie Osmar is a wonderful website for undergraduates as well as those who have graduated college and are entering the business world. I listened to the podcast “Surviving Change” where Osmar interviewed MJ Ryan, author of many books including Adaptability: How to Adapt to Change You Didn’t Ask For.

This is what MJ Ryan had to say:

Jobs did not exist 5 years ago. Take comfort in that you do not know how things are going to turn out. You are not stuck in this career for the rest of your life. Do not stress!

Become life long learners. Always continue your education through experience. It does not stop when you graduate.

There are thousands of jobs that are under the radar as far as training. These are the jobs that when you enter college you do not know about like you do other jobs such as a lawyer, engineer, or doctor. You discover them as you go along.

You have a certain way of thinking that you have been doing your whole life. This is your capacity for excellence. These are your personal thinking talents, and if you cultivate them then you create a better life for yourself because you are using those talents.

After graduation could be the most challenging time of your life. You are trying to find a job and when you do you enter this rigid lifestyle of going to work everyday. MJ says she wishes everyone in this position the gift of perspective, because it will not always be like this so be patient.

Always have support. Join a group of people your age struggling with the same issues you are. Talk to a person who is older who can give you their perspective and experience advice. Lots of people are in the same position as you.

There is no such thing as a five-year plan. Nothing happens the way you expect. Does one do better with a five-year plan than those without? No, there is not difference according to a surveys and polls. Rather than having a plan, keep enriching your environment with new information and by keeping connections through networking.

Make sure you never lose sight of doing the things you love.

The second podcast I listened to was “New Job, New You” a title that is also a book written by Alexandra Levit. In this podcast Osmar interviews Levit and here is what she had to say:

Why might you want to re-invent your career or make a career change? You may want to spend more time with your new baby, bring forth a talent or passion that you have had on the back-burner, challenge yourself more, or maybe make more money.

Changing a career is overwhelming and scary and you do not know where to start. You just know you are unhappy where you are. The key is starting off small. Do a self assessment and write down what you want to do and what type of environment you thrive in.

If you are struggling financially in this rough economy start saving money and try to cut back on little things that can save you money. This way you can start your entrepreneurship or career change on a fresh plate. Pay off all of your debts.

A career change does not happen over night. You must have persistence and patience. You have to be ready to sacrifice for the life that will be meaningful to you. You may know someone who you would like to be like and whose life you would like to have, but you have not seen the steps that person has taken. Almost everyone has hardships and worked to get where they are today.

You visit the New Job New You website to learn more. 

PR podcasts can help new PR practitioners as well as current PR students by giving them a sense of understanding. I believe that the information given can allow comfort through better knowledge. They can better prepare students for the business world and how to adapt to a new lifestyle, while also teaching current practitioners how to survive further change and acclimate to new careers and new uses of technology that are being developed.

Week 11: Infographics

Posted in Topic of the Week by laurynwilliams on March 26, 2010

Infographics

What are they?

Infographics are visual representations of information organized in a way so that a viewer can more easily understand the data than they would be able to by reading a lengthy paragraph. A few examples of infographics are graphs, pie charts, bar charts, direction maps, weather maps, and even road signs. Some of these infographics require a key or legend to explain to the reader the smaller symbols that are used.

“They are also sometimes used as communication tools; some travelers, for example, bring a chart with infographics of their basic needs which they can point to, asking for things like a bed, food, a phone, or water.”

Wisegeek     

How could one be useful in a story for your client?

Infographics can be used as a universal communication tool. If you are dealing with people who of different nationalities who speak different languages, infographics can be used to simplify the communication barrier. They are easier to understand because they used pictures and symbols that any intelligent being may be able to comprehend. These types of graphics are also very appealing.

“Pie chart: Ideal for showing what part of a total is used for each of several purposes.”

“Bar chart: Ideal for showing comparisons between years in such things as income, population, sales, and prices.”

“Graph: Somewhat like a bar chart, but better suited for showing changes over a long period of time.”

Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.)

How do you go about creating one?

Almost everyone has created a map to show directions to someone’s house or for some type of school project where you had to create a graph or chart.

“Charts, diagrams, maps, etc., should be simple, colorful, and uncluttered.”  Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.)

One can create an infographic on a computer using Microsoft Office, PowerPoint, and other software applications. Take into consideration though, if you plan on distributing material to the media you should use graphic artists and commercial illustrators.

Paraphrased from Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.)

Example:

This graph shows how many pop-tabs are turned in each season by Alpha Delta Pi to the Ronald McDonald House (in billions).

 Pop Tab Graph

Weeks 9 & 10: PR OpenMic Website

Posted in Topic of the Week by laurynwilliams on March 19, 2010

My PR writing class’s Topic of the Week is over PR OpenMic. This social network is geared especially toward PR professionals, but can be extremely helpful in helping public relations students and graduates network and find jobs. It was developed by Auburn University’s Robert French.

  • What did you learn?

My way of explaining how this website works is by saying it is a combination of Twitter and Facebook. The wonderful thing about this site is that it is very professional, which is where I see Twitter heading more in the future. Facebook is can be a very personal social network, and I do not see it being as professional as PR OpenMic. One reason is because it is geared directly to public relations, hence the name. It allows you to customize your profile by adding pictures, applications, discussions, blog posts, music, and videos. These additions benefit each user by allowing them to post their opinions and ideas about public relations.

One thing that I really like about PR OpenMic is the “Latest” section of the Front Page Index that opens as soon as you sign in. This reminds me somewhat of Twitter because you get to see what is going on in the world, except it is specifically dealing with PR. From here you can go to particular sections of the “Latest” section such as latest news, latest blog posts, latest forum posts, and any latest activity.

  • What surprised you?

It really surprised me to see how personal such a professional website can be. It allows you to see people who have birthdays today and tomorrow, like Facebook. I think that this personal feel only makes networking easier and less strict and stiff. There are also groups that can be joined that connect people in such things as common interests or location. I am currently a member of these groups: Students, Resumes::Post Yours Today, PRSSA, Jobs and Internships, and Entertainment PR.

  • What do you want to know more about?

I want to learn more about the “Jobs and Internships” section located on a tab at the top of the page. This is an amazing way to see not only what internships are out there, but also what internships are right for you and worth looking into. This could definitely be beneficial to public relations graduates and, especially, students. I believe that it is extremely important to have one or more internships before even graduating to get some hands on experience. I’m really excited to explore this area of PR OpenMic more. Once I figure out how to effectively participate on this website and use it to my advantage I believe that I will really have moved forward in my major and career choice!

I love this site! I encourage all PR students, graduates, and professions to join!

Week 8: Writing A Lead

Posted in Topic of the Week by laurynwilliams on March 2, 2010

I have taken a few courses in my college career already that have allowed me to practice writing news leads. Some are always better than others, but the NewsU The Lead Lab course really helped point out some general facts about writing effective news leads as well as give the opportunity to read other leads and have your own leads critiqued.

What did you learn?

I generally write leads well, but I never start off with a perfect lead. This course helped remind me to read your lead over and over again before and after your article is finished. I always have to change my leads. When I turn in a lead to any of my classes that has not been reviewed, it will most likely be wrong or better written another way. This course helped me recognize many of my lead writing mistakes.

What surprised you?

It surprised me to read some of the well written leads. They really showed me how I could rethink what I should have in my leads. Of course the “5 W’s” (who, what, when, where, and why) and “the H” (how) must be present, but if it is a news release being written to follow up on a previous event, I also have to take into account “What happened” in my lead.

What do you want to know more about?

I could probably learn about writing effective and catchy news leads all year and still be able to perfect my leads in some way. A lead can only be determined by the story or news release you are writing. I think it would benefit me the most to know more about feature or soft news leads. I think they are more creative and catchy and I am more used to writing hard news leads in my journalism classes. The different forms of leads are important to understand, because then your can more effectively write a lead that fits your article or news release. This course definitely made me realize I should be aware of the different types of leads as well as how to write them.

Week 7: A Week of Tweeting!

Posted in Topic of the Week by laurynwilliams on February 21, 2010

This week in my PR writing class we incorporated Twitter.com through out our whole week. The week does not actually end until Monday, so I will continue to post about constantly if anyone wants to check it out!

MY TWITTER

This week was so much fun! I already had a Twitter, but I never really used it very much. I never realized how much it can actually help businesses get their names out there and also help public relations students like me network and create professional relationships! It really is amazing. I will definitely continue to use twitter as much as possible to keep my name in a world full of PR professional as well as many other businesses. It can only help!

I do have a few things I need to work on. This week was the first time that I became part of a list. Of course, that list was one my PR writing teacher, Barbara Nixon, created for our class. I need to subscribe to more lists as well as use more hashtags! I have never used them until this week and even now it is rare. I will have to keep that in mind. My fellow PR writing classmate, Jessica Dudley, pointed out that she needs to learn how to post links on a Tweet without actually posting the entire URL. I am also guilty of this. It takes up too many characters, and on Twitter you are only allow 140 characters per Tweet.

I hope to incorporate Twitter into my daily life from now on and continue using it into my professional career. I have seen how so many businesses thrive through this website after this week. I cannot believe that some of the marketing and PR professionals have actually directly messaged me, interested about what career I want to pursue and giving me tips on how to succeed! It really is amazing. This week has been a wonderful experience.

Since the week of Twitter is not over I am actually posting this early. Do not forget to visit my Twitter!

Chirp Chirp =)

Week 6: What makes a story newsworthy?

Posted in Topic of the Week by laurynwilliams on February 17, 2010

The first that that makes a story newsworthy is the fact that it is current. Old news is not news. It is better to get as much information on an event or speaker before the actual date of the event or appearance so that you can have a news article published the day of or immediately after the occurrence.

Unusualness, also, provides for a good news story. If a young boy learns to read, that is no big deal because it happens everyday, but say if a dog were to learn to read that would be newsworthy.

Disasters and accidents are always in the news. People like to read about it because it is exciting. They also play a role in being unusual just because accidents do not happen all the time. Even stories about conflict and violence are newsworthy for the same reasons. It may be depressing on a certain scale, but most people find it intriguing to read about.

Stories written from a local angle are always more newsworthy than on a national scale. It gives the story a personal feel and makes the reader more interested in what it is about.

Celebrity stories are newsworthy, because we love to hear about the gossip of Hollywood, usually we are glad it isn’t us, but none the less, it is fun to read about them. Not only do readers enjoy a story about a movie start, but also any human interest story. 

Lastly, anything that has a great significance to a large number people will get published. Anything that the people want to know about is newsworthy. This is may be anything from local politics to national politics, or the Emmy Awards to a local pageant.

My PR writing class has a text book that covers most of this information in chapter 4. See  Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques (6th Ed.)

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