The Why and How of PR for chief executives and busy professionals

By Boni Sones
ECS


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Page 7. The importance of creativity

  • Don’t be boring

As chief executive your quotes are the most important information in the press release. What you say will be picked up on and reflected in the headline. There is no point in going over the top and being sensational but there is a responsibility on you to inform and educate others.

You need to draw attention to the views of your organisation. Cut out all the organisational jargon that you use and speak in plain clear English. This is important, jargon does not impress people.

It is good to explain in your quote what you are going to do and what you want to happen next. For instance you might be writing to the government, holding a public meeting, or inviting others to come in and see what you do with an open day.

Actions are important they help to explain your story in a concrete way and they lead to follow-ups, for instance “what did the minister say to you?”, “how many people attended the public meeting?”, “who attended your open day?”.

Action: Write a quote for yourself and ask yourself “what kind of headline would it make?”. Try writing it again but making it more topical. The headline should reflect the words in your quote

  • Why bother?

You might well ask yourself: “why should I bother with PR at all”. “Surely what we do speaks for itself and there is no need for spin.” This view is dated. If you don’t talk about what you have done and achieved and get credit for it others will.

It is also important for volunteers and staff to see that the work they do is praised and well regarded by others. It may even in some cases be controversial but there is a broad range of media to place your stories in and your press list should reflect those who are friendly to your cause.

Good PR will help your voluntary group or charity to become sustainable in the long term. It will ensure that you can enlist new volunteers, get clients, and attract new funding partnerships. Hiding your head in the sand will lead to decline.

It is true that what you do has to be done professionally and properly but there are plenty of organisations locally and nationally that can help you. Ask others for advice on where to go.

Action: Log into the Web and go to another charity or voluntary groups site. Look at how they write press releases and portray case study material generally. Can you learn from what they are doing?

  • Messages take time to spread

In the world of an increasingly fast moving media where all the messages that used to be sent in a year by email a decade ago are now sent in one day you need to ensure that your messages stand out. Young people particularly can be targeted by using text messages, email and the internet.

What you say is getting more and more condensed or put into a shorter and shorter sound bite. On radio a sound bite is quite often now just twenty seconds. On TV it can be no more than seven seconds. A news article is often wound up after 450 words and a feature article might not stretch to more than 650 words.

As the media moves faster the time you get to tell your story is getting less. That’s why your key messages are so important. You have to know what you want to say before you go into the interview. You must grab the opportunity to say it.

Action: Listen to your local radio breakfast show and find out how long each guest is interviewed for. Listen to the 9 am bulletin, time how long each “clip” from each interviewee is. Impress on yourself the importance of being able to articulate an argument to these restraints. It is no good complaining after the interview is over, you need to get to know how it works before you begin.

  • Research counts

If you can afford it commission some research to help you get your positive messages across. There are a range of organisations offering support at different prices. Online polling is reliable and has brought costs down.

By commissioning a survey you are creating a positive PR tool. You will be able to rebut suggestions that no-one approves of what you do, that people have enough services already, or that others are providing for their needs. It can help you to become more confident as an organisation.

The researchers will help you frame your questions and think about how others may interpret them and the implications for your organisation. It is important that such research is conducted externally and that your findings are credible. If you do it yourself people are going to say: “They would say that wouldn’t they?” – you need your findings to be believable and authoritative. However, dipping your toe in the water with your own straw poll may be the only way you can afford to proceed but remember don’t pretend it is a survey when it isn’t.

Action: Think of how research can help you. What is it you need to be able to tell others about what you are doing? How much demand goes unmet? Find out what research has been done in your field and build on this.

  • Ideas that work

Writing press releases in Plain and clear English is important but so is the content. The more creative you can be the more your views will come to the fore. Many organisations are creating their own Radio News Releases (RNR) or Video News Releases (VNR) to send to media outlets.

We live in a very visual age and professional pictures will help your messages travel. Television relies on good pictures to tell a story, that is why they need access to your case study material. Pictures make a story entertaining and will help you attract more attention to your work.

However, think through the implications of using pictures of others. Will they offend? Will they date? How long will the permissions last for? What would families think? Have your patrons and celebrities agreed to let their pictures be used?

You might find professional photographers or trainee photographers who will provide their services free.

Action: Shut your eyes and think of how your organisation can communicate visually. What is it that stands out in your visual imagination? Be creative work at creating good pictures that will make your messages stand out

  • Celebrities

Affiliating your group to a celebrity can be highly beneficial but ensure that you chose the right person. Top name celebrities may not be interested in your work so lower your expectations or research what famous names live locally. You local newspaper should tell you.

If you are using a big name you may need to get an agreement drawn up between you. Assess how well the relationship is working and be prepared if things go wrong. Not all matching works.

Celebrities make good picture opportunities and if you invite them to your events you can get the event listed in your local press. Invite them and any other patrons you have to visit you. You may also want them to be pictured in your annual report, your direct mail literature, you exhibitions and in local shop fronts.

Action: Find out the name of a celebrity that lives near your HQ and go to their website to find out how you contact them.


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