7 ways to punch up your press releases

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By Scott Merritt | Posted: October 25, 2012

As public relations professionals, we are tasked with writing an array of content designed to serve different purposes. The most common, and the most commonly pawned off to team members with the least amount of news experience, is the press release.

The press release remains an essential tool for effectively sharing company news with the broadest possible audience, and yet the opportunity to drive news with it is often squandered through poor writing and a lack of care.

Crafting a killer press release that raises eyebrows and turns heads is a combination of art and science. Following a few time-tested recommendations can transform your writing from newswire clutter to newsworthy content.

Know your strategy.

PR pros often write several press releases per week without thinking about basic strategy. Who is the audience? Why does the news matter? What is the best way to provoke a response? What’s your goal in announcing the news?

The answers can differ greatly from one announcement to the next, even for a client in a narrow industry. Anticipate the questions the reporter might ask. Answer these questions in your press release, and you’ll be off to a great start.

Reserve headlines for news.

The press release headline may be the only thing anybody sees. It’s incumbent upon PR pros to identify the news angle that most effectively explains the news and resonates with the audience. Make the headline compelling. Draw readers in. Make them want more.

A yawn-inducing headline like “Speakeasy Inc. Announces Results of 2012 Trust Survey” can be punched up by analyzing the results and identifying the parts that are news today. “Speakeasy Inc. Survey Reveals Media More Trusted Than Politicians” tells a story that’s surprising, interesting, and newsworthy.

Understand structure.

A haphazardly written press release is the kiss of death for your news. Although experienced writers may stray from structure, understanding the theory behind it is essential. This seven-step guide is a good place to start:

  • Headline: the news.
  • Subhead: elaboration around the headline.
  • First paragraph: introduction, details about the headline.
  • Second paragraph: explanation of the subhead.
  • Third paragraph: executive quote, context.
  • Fourth paragraph: specifics about the announcement.
  • Fifth paragraph: summary, call to action.

Use your quote for commentary and context.

A CEO quote that begins with how thrilled, elated, overjoyed, etc., he or she is about your announcement is a waste of valuable real estate. Every word the CEO says should provide context that explains the executive position on why the news is important. A good way to access that context is to skip over the exclamatory part of the quote and start with the second sentence. If you must, write both sentences, then delete the first. For example:

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with IRONMAN to launch myList. This partnership gives us unprecedented access to the Ironman athletes who use myList to share their training tips, and to the fans that follow them,” said Jennifer Silverberg, vice president of myList.

Don’t let SEO trump the news.

SEO experts will tell you to plaster your press release with jargon and keywords that drive optimization, but PR is not designed to serve the SEO experts. Write the news with interesting, newsworthy language, and blend it with terminology that will address SEO needs.

Use the right terms to help SEO, but don’t overwhelm the message. For example, rather than “software suite that offers enterprise users an end-to-end solution,” explain what the product does. Try, “eCommerce software that enables product managers to do everything from list items online to collect payments with a click of the mouse.”

Leave generalizations on the notepad.

“This product will increase social engagement” is a terrific thing to say, but anyone who cares enough about your news will need to know how. Provide specifics and evidence. For example, “Facebook Page managers who use myList report an average increase of 40 percent in incremental fan engagement.”

Write a sizzling email subject line. 

The email subject line is the most important element you will write. Your expertly crafted press release might unlock the secret to doubling sales in your industry, but a mind-numbing subject line will ensure that no reporter opens it. 

Reporters often receive 1,000 or more pitch emails in a given week, and yours is one of them. Think long and hard about the message that would make you drop everything and open that email.

Scott Merritt, an award-winning PR expert, is an account director at Write2Market, an industry leadership firm that serves clients in the energy and technology sectors. Follow him on Twitter@HeresTheStory.

 

Marketing’s secret weapon: Captain James Tiberius Kirk

http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/Marketings_secret_weapon_Captain_James_Tiberius_Ki_13009.aspx

By Alan Pearcy | Posted: October 25, 2012

Every weekday, PR Daily associate editor Alan Pearcy highlights the day’s most compelling stories and amusing marginalia on the Web in this, #TheDailySpin. 

“Galloping around the cosmos is a game for the young.” While this statement might be too old for PR and marketing newbies to recall, it shouldn’t stop industry professionals—both fledging and seasoned—from channeling their inner Captain Kirk. Turns out, the commander of the starship Enterprise from “Star Trek” provides a valuable lesson for marketers grappling to find their bearings in our “digital galaxy.” As Fast Company reports, companies mustn’t explore technology strictly out of necessity, but out of curiosity balanced with logical motives. 

No disrespect to Captain Kirk and company, but I say channel whomever you’d like for Halloween. Just be warned, “Zombie Mouth” is lurking. As part of a public health campaign to teach kids about oral hygiene during the candy-crazed holiday, the American Dental Association and PopCap Games released the results of a survey with rather interesting insights from the trick-or-treaters themselves.

The trick appeared to be on anyone who saw a photo of four enthusiastic Louisiana State University students—all members of the “Painted Posse”—that appeared on the school’s digital platforms. The trick part is that Christian crosses on the fans’ chests were airbrushed out of the picture. It’s landed LSU in some hot water. 

It was an image of actress Natalie Portman that proved too misleading for the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority. The organization has banned the Oscar winner’s newest campaign for Dior’s lash-multiplying mascara after competitor L’Oreal UK complained that it allegedly exaggerated the effects of the product

Meanwhile, Justin Timberlake has been cut out of his wedding photo with actress Jessica Biel. AfterPeople magazine published the first, exclusive photo of the newlyweds—in which Timberlake is leaping excitedly—the ex-boy bander started appearing in a variety of well-known images, sparking a new meme on the Web. 

Although it’s not quite JT’s new Myspace redesign tease, content hub BuzzFeed is making a push into the music space, announcing a new partnership with online-streaming music service Rdio

Speaking of BuzzFeed, it released a collection of the nine craziest Russian commercials. Here’s a “crazy” peek at one: 

Crazy doesn’t begin to describe the argument of an accused rapist who’s using the so-called “Four Loko defense,” claiming he was too intoxicated from the controversial beverage to remember what happened and, therefore, shouldn’t be held responsible. 

Related: Controversial rape remark unleashes wave of statements 

Definitely something to keep in mind for the makers of Armageddon, the world’s priciest and strongest beer, made with 65 percent alcohol. To put that into perspective for you, a typical Budweiser is 5.3 percent. 

As for strong passwords, if yours happened to make 2012’s list of the 25 worst, I recommend you try a different option for protecting that precious Facebook account. 

Now if only there was a way to protect Sarah Palin’s Facebook page from herself. The former GOP vice presidential candidate is in hot water after using the phrase “shuck and jive” in a post on the social network in regards to President Obama’s handlings of the deadly attack in Benghazi. Palin, however, referred to the criticism as “racially inflammatory.” 

Related: Obama labels Romney a ‘bullsh*tter’ 

There are countless options available for measuring which of our candidates are currently leading the presidential race. While some are significantly more scientific in their methods, others take a more novel approach. Case in point: GumElection.com, a street art project turned website that lets visitors print out posters of both Obama and Romney to put up in some public forum. Then, people place gum over whichever candidate they feel “sucks most.” (via Creativty

 

Related: Political debate brewing in 7-Eleven coffee aisle 

Is there something you think we should include in our next edition of #TheDailySpin? Tweet me@iquotesometimes with your suggestions. Thanks in advance. 

Phony letters threaten Collier voters – NBC-2.com WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral & Naples, Florida

Phony letters threaten Collier voters – NBC-2.com WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral & Naples, Florida.

Posted: Oct 22, 2012 1:35 PM EDTUpdated: Oct 22, 2012 2:39 PM EDT

A copy of the fraudulent letter (image watermarked)A copy of the fraudulent letter (image watermarked)

A real letter from the supervisor's officeA real letter from the supervisor’s office

The phony letterThe phony letter

The NBC2 Investigators have confirmed the Collier County Supervisor of Elections office is investigating complaints of voter intimidation.

Four registered voters have received form letters challenging their citizenship and eligibility to vote. The letters, mailed from Seattle, WA, have been turned over to the FBI. It’s unclear who sent them.

There’s no connection between the Collier County residents who received them, other than they are all registered Republicans.

Tim Durham with the Collier County Supervisor of Elections Office says none of the victims names match earlier inquiries regarding citizenship.

Election supervisors consider the letters threatening because they say trying to vote could lead to an arrest or even prison.

Durham says that a real letter from the office would not contain such verbiage.

Check back with nbc-2.com and tune into NBC2 News this afternoon for further updates.

COMPARING THE LETTERS

We have attached the real letter the scam artist used as a model. There are three clear differences.

1) The verbiage on the timeline is altered, and the penalty shifts from just removal from voting rolls to criminal proceedings.

2) The contact information shifts from a specific person at the supervisor’s office (Mr. Vigil) to a generic contact reference.

3) The supervisor signs her letters – the phonies are unsigned. The enclosure information is also altered to remove the reference to the envelope.

CDC adopts lead role in communicating deadly meningitis outbreak

http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/12915.aspx

CDC adopts lead role in communicating deadly meningitis outbreak

By Gil Rudawsky | Posted: October 13, 2012
With the deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis expanding to 12 states and 185 cases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is taking over the communication of the incident.

The CDC has a primary focus on infectious diseases, not pharmaceutical or regulatory issues that seem to be the case in this outbreak. But it is clear that the Federal Drug Administration and government regulators needed help given the scope of the outbreak, and the CDC’s expertise in getting information quickly to a lot of people made sense.

The CDC has spread the word on social media, through its various Twitter handles such as@CDCemergency and on its Facebook page. It also created a robust landing page.

State and local health officials have contacted more than 12,000 of the estimated 14,000 people exposed to the steroid, which the CDC and FDA say is thought to be contaminated by one or more species of fungus. There have been 14 deaths to date.

On Friday, more information was revealed about the outbreak linked to injections of steroid used to manage pain. The investigation focused on a Massachusetts drug producer.

The CDC’s landing page includes updates and answer questions for a variety of audiences. It’s basically an outline of best practices for any response site. It includes:

• A prominent link to the landing page on its main homepage;
• A “Current Situation” feed of the latest news;
• “How the CDC is responding” info;
• Clear information on the outbreak, with this sentence bolded: “This form of meningitis is not contagious.”
• An at-a-glance box offering a quick info on the outbreak;
• Current case count map;
• List of related links to get more information about meningitis;
• Links to other federal agencies involved in the investigation;
• Special link with information for medical professionals;
• FAQ’s for the public and patients;
• Press link that includes latest releases;
• And prominent links on how to contact the CDC.

A quick peek at the FDA response site show that it has only some of the information as the CDC, but it’s not as intuitive. The main feature of the FDA’s page is a press release. While it may seem appropriate to fault the FDA for not being more prepared, it seems more appropriate to credit them for enlisting the support from the CDC since clearly the agency is adept at getting the word out.

And for an example of a worst practice, check out the Spartan response page of New England Compounding Pharmacy, which is the focus of the investigation. Clearly the page was hastily set up, and legal counsel wrote the content.

Gil Rudawsky is a former reporter and editor. He heads up the crisis communication and issues management practice at GroundFloor Media in Denver. Read his blog or contact him atgrudawsky@groundfloormedia.com.

Univision and ABC will build network in Miami – Business – MiamiHerald.com

Univision and ABC will build network in Miami – Business – MiamiHerald.com.

Univision and ABC will build network in Miami

As expected, Univision and ABC will base their 24-hour English-language network in the Miami area, with plans for almost 400 new jobs.

DHANKS@MIAMIHERALD.COM

Univision and ABC will base their new English-language cable network in the Miami area, ending the possibility that the venture into Hispanic broadcasting might head for California, New York or Texas, people familiar with plans for the announcement confirmed Monday.

Gov. Rick Scott is scheduled to announce the decision at Wednesday’s annual meeting of the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade’s economic development agency. The organization helped the joint venture secure about $3.5 million in local subsidies for the new network over the next five years.

“If there is a place to have a 24-hour network for Hispanics, it’s Miami,’’ said Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, who added he will be attending Wednesday’s announcement. “I think it’s fantastic, and I think it’s a natural.”

The joint venture is expected to employ about 350 people, with the partnership spending some $275 million to set up the network, according to a report by Miami-Dade County summing up the confidential project. The documents suggest Univision will be creating a 150,000-square-foot studio for the network, though it’s not known if that will be an expansion of the network’s current broadcasting facility in Doral.

With Univision already headquartered in Doral, Miami-Dade County was seen as the likely site for the network and online operation Univision is launching with ABC. The website is already up, and the content is largely produced by a team of writers and producers working out of Univision’s current newsroom in Doral.

But in documents filed with Miami-Dade in pursuit of expansion incentives for businesses, Univision and ABC stated they also were considering Houston, Los Angeles and New York. Univision is the nation’s leading Spanish-language broadcaster, and its hometown rival, NBC’s Telemundo, holds the No. 2 slot.

While Univision produces news in Spanish, the ABC venture will be an English-only network aimed at an audience that speaks English but wants their news with a Latin perspective.

Univision’s Spanish-language news division pulled off a coup last month by securing back-to-back interviews with President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney at the University of Miami, both before live audiences.

 

10 holiday consumer trends brands should know

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10 holiday consumer trends brands should know

By Michael Sebastian | Posted: October 8, 2012
Most consumers plan to start their holiday shopping … now.

That’s according to a study out today by Yesmail, which surveyed 500 consumers about their holiday spending habits and analyzed the marketing campaigns of 20 major brands. Yesmail makes email-marketing software.

The results could help shape your brand’s holiday marketing efforts online—or at least make you go, “Hmmmmm…”

Here are 10 findings from the study:

1. Most consumers (51 percent) start their holiday shopping in October or November. This time frame coincides with big shopping events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the study noted. Twenty percent start their shopping before October, though 24 percent wait until December.

2. Consumers plan to spend more money this year. During the 2011 holidays, sales increased by 4.1 percent, and it appears that trend will continue in 2012. Seven out of 10 people surveyed plan to spend the same or more than they did last year.

3. Consumers pay less attention to review sites during the holidays. The study noted that consumers’ research habits are generally the same during the holidays as they are throughout the year, with a few significant changes, including: “Shoppers utilize independent review sites such as CNET, Yelp, and Consumer Reports less during the holiday season than during the year.”

4. Nearly all consumers buy stuff online: Roughly 97 percent said they shop online at least several times a year.

5. Fewer people than you might think buy stuff on their smartphones. The study found that just 19 percent of mobile phone owners make purchases regularly from their device, compared with more than three-fourths (76 percent) of mobile-phone owners use their computers to buy stuff online. Interestingly, mobile shoppers use their devices to compare products and prices, and not necessarily make purchases, according to the study.

6. In-store shoppers prefer weekends; online shoppers buy on weekdays. The study said that 79 percent of in-store shoppers do most of their shopping on weekends; meanwhile, 47 percent of online shoppers who picked a day of week they prefer to shop mentioned Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. Only 31 percent prefer weekends.

7. Most online shoppers browse in the evening hours. Yesmail asked consumers what time of day they shop online, and more than 80 percent gave a time preference. Among them, 40 percent said the evening hours, between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. However, only 5 percent of email campaigns from brands analyzed by Yesmail occurred during those hours.

8. Personal discount is an important component in email campaigns. Consumers ranked promotional offers in emails by how much they influenced purchase decisions. Fifty-four percent said “personal discount” was No. 1, followed by free shipping (30 percent), money off (13 percent), rewards points (2 percent), and gift with purchase (1 percent).

9. Social media influences online shopping habits more than in-store habits. Half of respondents to the Yesmail study said they are strongly or somewhat influenced by social media when making online purchases. For those shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, the percentage drops to 42 percent.

10. Holiday campaigns on Twitter and Facebook spark less engagement. When compared with all marketing campaigns on these platforms, holiday-themed campaigns—including those in the spring/summer (Mother’s Day, Fourth of July)—created less engagement. But the study said that brands can still capitalize on festive campaigns if they focus on promoting holiday spirit as opposed to products and events.

Download the full study here.

2014 Mazda6 – First Drive – Automobile Magazine

2014 Mazda6 – First Drive – Automobile Magazine.

First Drive: 2014 Mazda6

3 

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Check out photos, specifications and pricing for all vehicles in our buyer’s guide.
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Competing against sales giants like the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord, and the Nissan Altima, the Mazda 6 has long been overshadowed in the midsize sedan market. Although a competent contender, Mazda’s entry has been hampered by a generic name, anonymous styling, and mediocre fuel economy. The name hasn’t changed, but the all-new 2014 Mazda6 does have a new look, improved fuel economy, and a more engaging driving experience, which should help it emerge from the shadows.

The Japanese, it seems, cannot restyle a car without coming up with a name for their effort. At Mazda, the current design language is dubbed Kodo, which means “soul of motion.” The Kodo design language first appeared on the CX-5 but is perhaps better realized here. The upright front end has a serious appearance with overtones of the BMW 3-series; the profile, meanwhile, is rakish yet still sedan-like. The Mazda6 achieves more cab-rearward proportions due to its shorter front overhang and longer dash-to-front-axle distance, both enabled by canting the engine back by ten degrees.

2014 Mazda6 Front Three Quarter 2014 Mazda6 Rear Three Quarters 2014 Mazda6 Side 2014 Mazda6 Top View 2014 Mazda6 Front End In Motion 2014 Mazda6 Front Three Quarter In Motion

It’s clear that Mazda engineers paid careful attention to the driver’s relationship to his surroundings. Reduced wheel well intrusion allowed the pedals to been moved slightly to the left; Mazda also switched to a floor-hinged throttle and fitted a large dead pedal. The small-diameter steering wheel has a thick rim wrapped in smooth leather, and the seats are firm, with plenty of lateral support. The deeply hooded trio of gauges and the cockpit-like layout create a sportier, more intimate environment than the midsize sedan norm. The upper dash houses the requisite touch screen, which on higher trim models also can be controlled via a knob on the console that’s similar to the one provided by BMW’s iDrive system. It’s too bad the TomTom navigation system is slow acting and cheap looking. We were, however, happy to see that Mazda stayed with the driver-friendly simplicity of three large dials to control temperature and fan speed, plus volume and tuning knobs for the audio system. The overall interior design is richer than before, with sculpted door panels, padded surfaces, and metal trim. The top-spec model’s available two-tone off-white and black leather livens up the cabin; lesser models get leatherette or cloth.

2014 Mazda6 Badge 2 2014 Mazda6 Badge 2014 Mazda6 Front End 2014 Mazda6 Interior 2 2014 Mazda6 Interior 3 2014 Mazda6 Interior 5

The new exterior and interior are only the most visible changes, but the 2014 Mazda6 also rides on an all-new platform, which is stiffer and lighter. The new car’s wheelbase is 1.6 inches longer but its overall length is two inches shorter. Overall width is the same. Predictably, electrically assisted power steering has arrived, but Mazda engineers have done a good job tuning this system. It’s quick and precise, if a little wanting for feedback. The ride and handling were a little harder to judge. The car was composed and responsive on the smooth roads in the French countryside, but our drive on the eve of the Paris Motor Show was restricted to European-spec cars, and suspension tuning will be different for the U.S. market. (We’ll have a chance to drive U.S.-spec cars in January, right about the time they arrive in dealerships.)

Under the hood, the optional V-6 is gone, and the old 170-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder has been replaced by a new, 2.5-liter SkyActiv unit four, a larger version of the 2.0-liter engine in the Mazda 3 and the CX-5. (Look for the 2.5 to find its way into Mazda’s popular crossover sometime soon.) Like its smaller sibling, the 2.5-liter features direct injection and dual variable valve timing. It’s energetic off the line but midrange punch is a little wanting. Still, its 189 horsepower is enough to send the 3232-lb sedan from 0 to 62 mph in a factory-measured 7.8 seconds.

2014 Mazda6 Gear Knob 2014 Mazda6 Gear Shifter 2014 Mazda6 Instrument Gauges 2014 Mazda6 Engine 2014 Mazda6 Toogle 2014 Mazda6 Climate Controls

We also spent some time with the 2.2-liter SkyActiv turbodiesel, which has plenty of midrange punch–thanks to 310 pound-feet of torque that comes on stream at 2000 rpm. Its 173 horsepower is also extremely good for a four-cylinder diesel, and a twin-stage turbocharger helps makes for better-integrated boost and a fairly linear throttle response. So far, the company hasn’t said whether this engine will be offered in the U.S. Mazda 6, only that the diesel will be sold here in some car. We drove the diesel with the six-speed manual transmission, a combination that matches the 7.8-second 0-to-62-mph time of the 2.5-liter. The newly designed manual — which is confirmed for our market — has shorter throws and slips through the gates with a light touch. It’s backed up by an easy-to-use clutch. Too bad few U.S. buyers will take it. Instead, they’ll flock to the six-speed automatic, which has shift paddles and performed admirably enough in our short experience with it.

2014 Mazda6 Front Three Quarter Static 2014 Mazda6 Front Three Quarters 3 2014 Mazda6 Rear Three Quarter 3 2014 Mazda6 Driver Seat 3 2014 Mazda6 Interior Seats 2014 Mazda6 Interior 4

Mazda does not yet have EPA fuel economy ratings for the new 6, but the company is hoping for best-in-class figures. It will be a tall order, however, to top the current class leader, the Nissan Altima, which rings in at 27/38 mpg city/highway. Mazda has a couple of technologies to help in its quest, however. The first is a brake energy regeneration system called i-ELOOP (catchy, huh?). Rather than storing the recaptured energy in a battery, however, it’s stored in a capacitor, which is quickly recharged and can power all the electric accessories in the car for brief periods. This means that less engine power is needed to run the alternator.

Another fuel saver is auto stop/start. This system is on both the automatic and manual transmissions — on the manual it doesn’t shut the engine down unless you shift into neutral when you stop, which keeps it from being overly annoying. Restarts aren’t quite as smooth as in the new Ford Fusion; drivers who find it bothersome can switch it off. Other new tech features finding their way into the Mazda 6 for the first time are mostly safety-related: lane departure warning, adaptive front lighting, adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning; and in low-speed, city driving conditions (up to 18 mph), Smart City Brake Support can take an unheeded warning one step further by automatically applying the brakes — similar to Volvo’s City Safety system.

The Mazda6’s charms are subtly revealed, particularly to the discerning driver. This car isn’t likely to blaze a swath through the dense forest of big-name competitors, with their huge built-in base of repeat buyers. But the 2014 version of Mazda’s midsize entry has enough style and enough of the brand’s Zoom-Zoom chops to significantly raise its profile.

2014 Mazda 6

On sale: January 2013
Base price: $22,000 (estimated)

Engine: 2.5L I-4
Power: 189 hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque: 189 lb-ft @ 3250 rpm

Drive: Front-wheel

Fuel Economy: N/A

Read more: http://www.automobilemag.com/reviews/driven/1210_2014_mazda6_first_drive/#ixzz28iOzg9P1