Tag Archives: newspapers

Write how the writers write

It’s important to think like a journalist when writing media material or press releases. We’ve already covered the “Five W’s” in How to write a press release, So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of how writers write.

There’s a little thing in the newspaper/media world called AP style, or Associated Press style. AP style can unnerve media and non-media people alike. Why? Because some of the guidelines are forgettable and others just don’t make sense. (It took until last year for them to change “Web site” to “website” and some news media orgs still haven’t recognized the switch.)

Here are some tips on how journalists like to read:

1. Time — Days of the week are not abbreviated when accompanied by the exact date, but months are. For instance, today is Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012.

2. Exact time — Happy hour begins at 5 p.m. Neither ” 5:00 pm” nor PM is correct. In fact, beware of any capitalization or the much detested exclamation point.

3. Think of quotation marks as bookends. “They keep all punctuation marks and sentences and things together.”

4. Names — Use a person’s first and last name on first reference only. Thereafter, use only their last name, not their first. Additionally, do not use courtesy titles such as Mr. or Mrs.

5. State abbreviations do not match their postal abbreviations. For example, California is written not as Laguna Beach, CA, but Laguna Beach, Calif. Other slightly strange state abbreivations include West Virginia’s W.Va., Pennsylvania’s Pa., Tennessee’s Tenn., South Dakota’s S.D., and Kentucky’s K.Y.

How to write a press release

Chances are you want to get in front of the media if you’re a business owner. Not only do national and local news media boast a captive audience, but they also have the potential to send you along on their upward trajectory.

It’s frightening talking to a journalist. I know this because I am one and during my career I’ve had people literally flee from me after I introduce myself. But, I’m people, too. I’m not the boogie monster. Likewise, the media is not the enemy. Once you realize the next step in marketing yourself is to do so through the media you may become overwhelmed with anxiety at the thought of approaching the press.

As always, the key lies in your preparation.

The best way to contact a mediaperson remains via email. (I will elaborate on this in another post.) But first, let’s get you started on a rough draft of your first press release.

1. The Five W’s

Raise your hand if you remember the five W’s from English class? It seems obvious, but many business owners, and even public relations professionals, forget to include these equally important aspects in their press release. Who are you; What do you do/sell; Where are your headquarters (this is especially important to local media)/Where is your product or service distributed; When did you open/expand/relocate; and Why are you contacting me?

2. Define yourself clearly

The biggest mistake you can make in a press release is not clearly defining your business. Be careful not to use industry jargon. You should be able to state what your business does or provides in one sentence. This sentence should be contained in the first paragraph of the press release. You can further expand on your company’s background at the end of the press release in the “about us” paragraph.

3. What’s the benefit to the public?

This should be a part of your business plan, so if it’s stumping you, it is time to take a look at your business model.

4. Highlight the hook

Journalists are as attracted to large Fortune 500 companies as they are small businesses. This is in our blood. We write about corporations because they’re sexy and increase our SEO, and we report on small businesses because we want to beat our competitors to the next new thing. Mid-sized businesses tend to get lost in the fold because they don’t have the resources to market themselves but they also don’t need us as much. Journalists want to know how you’re different from everyone else. You know how you’re better and different, so outline the facts without selling yourself.

5. Include contact information

Always let the journalist know who they can contact if they’re interested in more information. It’s wishful thinking — but journalists prefer to speak directly to the C-suite executives over the public relations professional. No hard feelings, we just want to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Finally, always, always include your website URL.

Watch out for more on the nitty gritty of writing a press release in a later post.

How to write a “How to” article

During a presentation on “How to Market Yourself to the Media,” an elderly architect and his wife were stupefied when I suggested they start a blog.

“Well, we don’t have anything to say …” and yada, yada, yada the conversation turned into how small business owners — and media companies alike — believe that potential clients outside their industry share their expertise.

Enter the “how to” article/blog post. One can literally write anything in “how to” form … from “how to tie your shoe” to “how to preserve vegetables” to “how to increase SEO by repeating ‘how to’ as many times as possible within a blog post.”

Don’t sell yourself short by assuming your clients share your knowledge. Instead, impart upon them, in the most conversational tone as possible, the wisdom you’ve incurred through the many years you’ve spent in your industry. Here’s a three-step guide on “‘how to write a ‘how to’ article:”

1. Name the problem.

Newspapers are printed on paper + kids these days haven’t seen a sheet of paper their whole lives = newspapers are dying.

2. Find the solution.

Teens are always on their phone + many professionals 35-60 years-old sit in front of a desk all day = capture an online audience and sell digital ads.

Provide tips:

1. Start by posting relevant content

2. Write to your target audience

3. Write posts frequently. Then more frequently. Then all the time.

4. Share photos.

5. Join Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest …

You get the picture.

The all-important “what NOT to do”

In any situation, there are definitely ways one should not behave. You’ve made mistakes along the way, so why not make sure others don’t do the same? Save them from common errors if you want to truly provide them with invaluable knowledge.

Small town social media

Technology has hampered our ability to communicate effectively with one another. One would think an infinitival amount of devices to support communication would lead to effective marketing strategies. This is not the case, especially when it comes to professional wordsmiths; newspapers.

Newspapers have an image problem — they’re viewed as the news source of yesteryear by younger generations. Local newspapers, on the other hand, are prime to make a turn around in today’s murky, print waters. Unlike their national news counterparts, such as The NY Times and The Washington Post, local newspapers aren’t losing ground with their middle-aged readership. Mothers and fathers want to know how the School Board budget will effect their kid’s classrooms. Commuters are opinionated on who and what is being decided on when it comes to their roads.

Yet local newspapers are still not monetizing on their base readership. Why is this? In our efforts to not fall behind, or fall apart, we’ve overreached and over extended our offerings. We’ve tried to be emulate craigslist. We’ve tried to mirror the popularity of Facebook and Tumblrs photo sharing in print society pages. It hasn’t worked. It’s time to get back to the basics. It’s time to be a small town, small business again.

Be honest.

It’s time to get real. With your limited staff, what can you do well? Look around you. If your online reader were standing in front of you, how would you sell your product to them? Your online business mission statement or philosophy should be no different than your “in person” philosophy. One of my clients, a local newspaper in one of the richest counties in the nation, has the philosophy that it is a family owned business covering news, sports and entertainment for the community. We are able to track our reader demographic so that we can tailor our reportage to our reader. For the client, this means writing blogs and topics that speak to men and women aged 35-44. Conversely, and down the road, we need to conduct market research on why we aren’t capturing the eyeballs of 25-34 year-olds or 45 to 60 year-olds.

Assess your competition.

If you’re a small town business or media organization, chances are your competition is not vast. That doesn’t mean your one competitor isn’t doing well. Stop beating yourselves up about how many sales they make or how much press coverage they receive. Start assessing what makes your business valuable. What product or service do you have that they don’t? Who has been around longer? Maybe you take longer to produce your work, but when you do finish up the quality of your product is bar none. When you start seeing your business for its uniqueness, there in lies its value. Slowly start posting photos of your product on social media sites. Remember to do so without being sales-y. Remind people of how you’ve been in business for 25 years and thank them for it. After all, without your customers you wouldn’t still be in business. It’s not all about you.

Make a long-term investment.

Everybody knows everybody in a small town. This means they will also know how you conduct your business. If you make a commitment to invest in your community, this will return to your bottom line 10 fold. I worked with an IT firm whose CEO spent at least one day a week volunteering for a non-profit or community-based organization. Every time he attended an event or meeting he posted about it on social media outlets and uploaded photos, even if it was just a mention of the other organization. He initially entered into these relationships because he wanted to understand the environment in which his employees lived and worked. After years of continued investments, he still picks up partnerships with other high-powered business owners simply by showing he cares.