Summer Session for PR Mavens

It may be tanning season and summer-book-selection time for “Princess Barbie PR AEs,” but earnest public relations personnel, especially those charged with critical media-relations duties, would do well to print out and study the NEW and IMPROVED edition of the Internet Press Guild’s seemingly largely ignored tract, “The Care and Feeding of the Press.”

This attempt, by a frustrated group of seasoned journalists to help PR people “raise their ‘cluefulness’ level,” explains “what works for us (reporters) and what doesn’t to improve the relationships between public relations people and the press.” The 19-page tract, specifically geared toward product PR, is chock-filled with do’s and don’ts from first contact to sending emails (don’t call, really) to once you’re in touch to final contact. It’s a must-read.

Editor Esther Schindler tech editor, Smart Reseller opens with a 10-question quiz to determine whether you need to read the rest of the treatise. Some favorites include:

  • You never follow up an email to a reporter with a phone call asking if she received the email.

  • You know the reporter and what he has published before you make first contact.
  • You get the facts to the right people especially when you are asked directly for them.
  • You never send unsolicited email attachments of any kind.
  • You never send a group of email that includes your entire press list in the header.
  • You fix factual inaccuracies quickly and dispassionately.

Piece of cake, right? If so, get back to the beach. If not, some tips that I find particularly “clueful” to follow.

To those in the know, “Care and Feeding” is filled with amusing anecdotes, tips, and tactics, such as:

Writing releases. Less is more. Keep releases to one-and-a-half pages, or lose one article placement for every paragraph over the limit. Cut the buzzwords. If you must quote executives, make them say something substantive. The release should carry the whole story, obviating a reporter’s need to contact you. Include full contact info or risk your press release landing in the trash.

Visit Businesswire to see hundreds of overly long, politically incorrect news releases.

Do’s and don’ts. Don’t send trinkets; they have no impact. Do include in the press kit a short, written explanation of what the product is, what the product does, the product’s market, the product’s worthwhile new features, etc. If you don’t know all the answers, have the expert’s info handy.

Sending press releases. Try to understand that most reporters receive several hundred emails every day! So brevity is the rule of the day. Follow the KISS rule: Keep it simple, stupid. Always send email as plain text files. Editors often delete releases that have multiple names in the address list. Most editors routinely delete files with attachments, unless the attachment was specifically requested. Never send graphics unless specifically requested, but, if requested, then send attachments and graphics in exactly-as-requested format. Never email press kits. Provide a link or ask reporters to request them.

Use meaningful subject headers (i.e., say something pertinent to the content. Beware of headers that read like spam, with exclamation marks and dollar signs, and that are written in all caps. Don’t use free email services. It really looks unprofessional. Always use a signature file (don’t attach a vCard) with full contact information. Turn off the option key that sends a second HTML copy as an attachment.

Don’t call, really. Surprise follow-up calls should not be normal operating procedure. While it is appropriate to follow up on requested information, do not make calls on blind mailings. If you have a relationship with an editor, it is OK to send a follow-up email to see if the editor has any questions. That’s it.

Press on the Web. It is a huge challenge to make one’s web site media friendly, but it is imperative. To begin, put the PR contact where a reporter can find it! Provide complete contact information (again) for all media contacts and spokespersons, even home or cell-phone numbers if news is breaking. Include links to recent and not-so-recent news releases. Have technical specs readily available. Keep graphics to a minimum. Use compact GIF or a product JPEG. Larger graphic files can be downloadable links.

If you follow this advice and carefully study the advice in “The Care and Feeding of the Press,” one should have less time to worry about this summer, if not more time to tan.

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