Online tool rates press releases’ readability By Russell Working | Posted: May 12, 2015

Interesting article about a new online tool for writers, public relations and communications pros to see if your press release is news worthy and up to snuff.  — Peter Cento, Wild Cats Enterprises, Inc.

Online tool rates press releases’ readability By Russell Working

Posted: May 12, 2015

Unsure about whether that press release of yours is up to snuff? Why not run it through an automated Web tool and see how you score?

That’s the logic behind a new site, Better PR Writer, which offers an online tool for measuring the readability of your press release.

Paste your press release into the form, and punch the “submit” button to test your publicity writing smarts. The tool is the brainchild of Matt Swayne.

“From my own experience, press releases are still important to marketing and PR campaigns, but are just one piece in a suite of content contributions to campaigns,” Swayne writes. “Releases are often written by junior writers, or—as I am finding out as a research writer at Penn State—by people who have no PR or writing experience.

“What Better PR Writer will do—hopefully—is set an automatic threshold for releases to attain before they are entered into the distribution pipeline.”

The tool also offers advice such as this: “Use simple sentences when possible. The average reader spends only a few seconds making a decision to read the rest of your release, or not.”

Plug in your copy

The tool, which is now at the beta stage, works thus: In an online form, you paste in your lede in the top window, plug the rest of your text in the next box and hit a button to submit your masterpiece. The site will rate you in several areas, including word count score, sentence complexity and paragraph length.

We asked several communicators what they think. Ann Handley, chief content officer at MarketingProfs, offered qualified praise.

“In general, I’m a fan of any tool that aims to help raise the level of writing for anything and raise awareness of the need for good writing,” writes Handley, author of “Everybody Writes.” “That alone is worth a high-five.”

She adds, however, that it’s hard to tell how effective the platform is as a PR tool. The key to it seems to be that it also optimizes and scores a piece of writing according to best practices for press releases, Handley says. It’s hard to say how well that will work, given that she isn’t quite sure what it’s measuring.

“There are other tools that can help with the clarity, brevity, wordiness, readability and so on—including HemingwayApp and Grammarly (I use them both all the time),” Handley writes.

A communications consultant who asked not to be identified was skeptical about its value.

“I’m not entirely sure how you can analyze the art of press release writing,” the consultant said in an email. “There’s something very human about a person’s ability to understand an idea/concept/story. It’s not something you can automate. I don’t think this is something we’d ever use.”

Related: Start winning with words, stories, and message mapping at our PR Writing Summit in Chicago, Aug. 5. ​

A Ragan screed?

Well, all right then. Time to test it. Any volunteers?

No? Well, I’ll be brave. I have been known to write at least one (1) press release since arriving at Ragan Communications, the now-classic “Ragan Communications partners with PressPage to offer digital publishing platform.” (Feel free to print it out and paste it on your cubicle wall for inspiration.) It begins:

CHICAGO, May 23, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — A brand journalism pioneer today announced a new partnership that brings an easy-to-use publishing platform to the U.S., giving communicators new control over their digital newsrooms.

Better PR Writer gave me several perfect 100s, although I went blind trying to read BPRW’s pale, pale text and from now on will have to rely on interns to read copy aloud to me. The bad news: In the lede (if my intern is interpreting the scores correctly), I got a big fat zero for sentence complexity. That improved to 100 for the rest of the copy.

Sentence crispness? I flunked, with a score of 38.81. The first five paragraphs of the domestic terrorist Ted Kaczynski’s insane Unabomber Manifesto beat me on the crispness scale, with a 49. (For our younger readers, the manifesto is a 34,000-word screed that Kaczynski successfully blackmailed The Washington Post into publishing, a tactic we do not recommend for your PR campaigns.) The manifesto did draw mostly zeros in other scoring areas.

The manifesto highlighted Kaczynski’s frequent use of the word “may,” but then it also marked the month of May in my copy.

On the positive side, I tested the Gettysburg Address, and it got several 100s in its rating, even with all that four-score-and-seven-years-ago humbug. I think we can all agree that Abraham Lincoln missed his calling as a publicity writer.

As for Better PR Writer, Jonathan Rick of Jonathan Rick Group was unimpressed with the tool. “As a PR pro, I welcome services like this,” he says. “Rather than jeopardizing my job, they unintentionally underscore how difficult it is.”

Some dream of a future beyond even the capabilities of Better PR Writer—a time when bots will crank out those irritating press releases on minor business developments that poobahs make us deluge reporters with.

Dream on, Rick says. “There’s just too much to good writing—creating a narrative, developing a flow, delighting readers with surprises—which machines can’t replicate,” he says. “Yet.”​


2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season Starts June 1. Are you prepared?

2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season Starts June 1. Are you prepared? PRLog.

2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season Starts June 1. Are you prepared?


May 5, 2015 – NAPLES, Fla. — 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season Starts June 1. Are you prepared?

Fort Myers, FL – May 5, 2015 – We are now less than 30 days away from the start of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season in Florida that runs from June 1 through November 30. For the second consecutive year weather forecasts by the U.S. NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) will include storm surge maps to show the potential for hurricane-induced surge to cause flooding on the U.S. coastline.

Every year millions of Americans who live in Florida, the Gulf coast and along the East coast of the U.S. ought to prepare for possibly being impacted by straight-line winds, severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, tropical storms, flooding and hurricanes in the region. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has announced the introduction of its newest feature, the Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map, which will be available at the start of the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season in June.

Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms had been named from lists originated by the National Hurricane Center. They are now maintained and updated through a strict procedure by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization (…). Named storms for the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season include Ana, Bill, Claudette, Danny, Erika, Fred, Grace, Henri, Ida, Joaquin, Kate, Larry, Mindy, Nicholas, Odette, Peter, Rose, Sam, Teresa, Victor and Wanda.

The Atlantic Basin experiences on the average 11 to 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes. GWO predicts the 2015 hurricane season to be a little above average and more dangerous, with 14 named storms, 8 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes. In addition, GWO is predicting three Hurricane Hot Spots along the United States coastline that are at high risk for hurricane activity this year, with at least 1 major hurricane likely.

Florida Division of Emergency Management – State Emergency Response Team (SERT)

The Florida Division of Emergency Management plans for and responds to both natural and man-made disasters. These range from floods and hurricanes to incidents involving hazardous materials or nuclear power. The division prepares and implements a statewide Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, and routinely conducts extensive exercises to test state and county emergency response capabilities.

The division is the state’s liaison with federal and local agencies on emergencies of all kinds. After a disaster, the division conducts preliminary damage assessment surveys and advises the Governor on whether to declare an emergency and seek federal relief funds. The division maintains a primary Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Tallahassee. The EOC serves as the communications and command center for reporting emergencies and coordinating state response activities.

How does FEMA prepare and what happen when a disaster hits a local community?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency pre-stages emergency supplies throughout the county in advance of a major disaster, e.g., Cat 4 or 5 Hurricanes, major earthquake or major flooding that impacts an entire community, etc. The Federal Emergency Management Agency partners in the initial response phase but especially during the recovery phase of a disaster and is a guest of whatever state its in. FEMA is the lead agency in a disaster and works closely with state, county and local emergency managers and officials.

What do local authorities in Southeast and Southwest Florida mean?

Local authorities are emergency managers, law enforcement, and fire department officials in Southwest Florida with the Office of Emergency Management in Charlotte, Collier, Desoto, Hendry, Lee and Sarasota Counties. On the east side of the Everglades local authorities are with the Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties Office of Emergency Management. Other representatives include the City of Naples, Marco Island, Bonita Springs, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda Office of Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security, and whatever other local municipality is working with local emergency managers. Everyone needs to check ahead of time with your local authorities to determine what he or she needs to do in the immediate days after a disaster.

What is a Family Emergency Disaster Communication Plan?

More importantly, every individual has to prepare for any disaster whether its man-made, weather related, biological, chemical, etc., by developing a personal family emergency disaster communication plan that includes disaster emergency supplies for each member of your family, a minimum of 5 – 7 days. The emergency communication plan and disaster emergency supplies should also include the needs of your pets, children and elderly individuals who may be living with you at home or nearby.

What do I need to include in a Disaster Emergency Supplies Kit?

Don’t wait until there is a hurricane or tropical storm watch or warning that may impact the residents of Southwest Florida, Southeast Florida or the Florida Keys to prepare. NOW is the time to put together your disaster emergency supplies kit that should include the following:

·       A gallon of drinking water per person per day for at least seven days.

·       Enough non-perishable food items, a manual can opener per person for at least five to seven days.

·       Two months of medication for your children, pets, and grandparents

·       Stock up on extra batteries, new flashlights, a NOAA weather radio, non-perishable foods, a manual can opener, candles, an extra tank of propane gas for your barbecue grill.

·       Extra batteries already charged for all of your mobile devices.

·       All hazards NOAA Weather Radio,

Also, it would be a good idea to have an old-fashioned wired landline phone in your house that you can use just in case the electricity goes out. Remember – all those fancy cordless phones that do everything except make espresso – are no good to you if the electricity goes down for days or even weeks.

The bottom line is – you and only you are responsible for the safety and well being of your family before, during and after a disaster. Here are some useful websites to help you prepare and keep your family safe:

Here are some valuable websites to help you prepare and keep your family safe:

Be Prepared. Have a Plan. Keep Your Family Safe.

Peter Cento
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