…if you’re not sure, get yourself here – a wonderful resource, packed with media relations hints & tips, and likely to make a few PRs break into cold sweats.

The site, called journchat, highlights ongoing comments and chat between journos, bloggers and PRs.

It’s full of pointers, dos and donts, best practice for PRs, additional ways to buzz the Press, what to say to an Editor, how to build media relationships, and much, much more. Love it.

If a few more PRs could read and digest the advice, hints and tips given there, many Editors in the UK would breath a sigh of relief I’m sure. It demonstrates just how much many PRs need to learn under Press scrutiny.

That aside, the dialogue-based layout and headings all make for easy and interesting reading for media types.

A tricky and contentious subject uncovered here today on the journalism.co.uk site.

It has been argued in recent weeks, and at a POLIS debate last night in particular, that a significant part of the blame for the global financial crash lies firmly with the Media and their apparent mis-management of the financial institutions, their reporting mechanisms, and the powerful PR behind them in the overall failure of the Press to pre-warn the public of the imminent economic downturn in late 2008 and into this year.

According to POLIS, in their ‘Reporting the Global Crash of ’08’ debate, part of the blame has been allegedly traced to inexperienced financial journalists being effectively ‘spun’ and lied to by certain financial institutions in their attempts to cover up, offset, and generally pull the wool over the eyes of the public, to the upcoming crisis in which the nation currently finds itself as part of a wider global recession.

Excellent – blame the Press. As it well pointed out here by Charlie Beckett, don’t shoot the messenger is an apt reminder when victims to burn at the stake of the global crash are being sought with vigour.

This is a fascinating topic, and one which will impact on all time-pressured editorial out there, whether they are reporting on the financial sector or not.

It reminds us all that we are accountable to our readerships.

Another great post from Jeff Jarvis here on the ongoing paid-for content debate.

With newspaper sales in continued decline, and the burgeoning number of readerships sourcing their news online, and mostly for free, it pushes the number-crunchers in traditional newspaper organisations to the very limits of what can be achieved and maintained as more and more newspapers go the wall.

Jarvis argues that new business models are urgently needed, and in part I agree: if the older newspaper hierarchies are unable to compete with newer, online models, they must adapt – and more rapidly than they might at first seems able to. We have seen great steps forward with most of the daily newspapers in the UK, with the larger regionals following suit and presenting a content offering online. But it doesn’t go for enough.

Take a look at the way the American news organisations present themselves – the case of the New York Times is a strong example. It has fought hard and continues to lead the way with innovation and revenue-building ideas.

What do we have in the UK? Take a look at the offer presented by Northcliffe in the regions – a homogenised offering which cut and pastes the newsroom stories mixed with generic features and a fingers-crossed approach to revenue building. Or so it seems.

But with news-based organisations stripping down their news-gathering resources in the regions – more and more regional newsrooms are being closed and pushed into a reduced version in the Bristol Evening Post building by Northcliffe, for example, we can see the strength of pure, focused, professional journalism suffering daily.

Not that I am a harbinger of doom. Far from it. But change needs to happen – from the top down, perhaps, not the other way round?

…is to be found here – wonderful resource, packed with hints & tips, and likely to make a few PRs break into cold sweats.

A corker on the pros and cons of PR Stunts today, thanks largely to the story here about the changing of name by Deed Poll, of larger-than-life wife of Neil Hamilton, the fearsome Christine Hamilton.

As a PR stunt, Hamilton has changed her name to Mrs British Battleaxe.

Apparently, it has been an exercise in promoting the services of the Legal Deed Service and Hamilton will obviously be collecting a hefty cheque for her action-based action for them. The whole PR stunt is broadcast by Hamilton on YouTube for the ‘delights’ of any audience willing to view it.

Ok, so in terms of PR stunts, it has worked – Hamilton and the story have made widespread News coverage and the column inches will undoubtedly be demonstrated with pride by the PR Team working on behalf of the Legal Deed Service. But it does raise a wider question around the subject of PR, stunts, and where to draw the line.

It’s all centred around the prospective audience – whether that is a business or consumer audience: this dictates and controls the tone, style, delivery and messaging behind the PR stunt. And it determines the relative success or otherwise of any stunt planned.

PR stunts are usually, by their very elaborate nature, quite expensive, short-lived, and success is based either on something totally incredible visually, as is highlighted and explained in greater detail here.

If you have budget and a viable audience to receive a PR stunt, think carefully before proceeding: the effects of a poorly-executed and ill-advised stunt can bite your behind, for years to come – as demonstrated here.

As for Christine Hamilton – somebody speak to her Agent. Quickly.

For a truly inspired PR stunt, one of the best examples is this one – have a peek. This one made me smile anyway.

How to save your newspaper

February 12, 2009

Great article here from Walter Isaacson on the pros and cons (mainly cons, as he sees it) of publishers providing free quality journalism content online, and how this has contributed to the continuing woes of newspapers.

The main issue, of course, has been the drip drip drip of editorial job losses, and this is something which will not be resolved during the current economic conditions: as long as fear exists, publishing executives will, it seems, continue to cut journalistic jobs and hope the sales teams shape up. What happens? We know the actual result.

One of Isaacson’s comments goe:

“This is not a business model that makes sense. Perhaps it appeared to when Web advertising was booming and every half-sentient publisher could pretend to be among the clan who “got it” by chanting the mantra that the ad-supported Web was ‘the future’. But when Web advertising declined in the fourth quarter of 2008, free felt like the future of journalism only in the sense that a steep cliff is the future for a herd of lemmings.”

Isaacson also points out, and rightly so, that the free content business model relies solely on advertising to generate revenues, whereas traditional newspaper income streams derive from ads, subscriptions and news-stand sales – at least increasing potential earnings from two other sources. Crucial at the moment!

If saving your newspaper became a battle to save a sales Team, perhaps the Executives would take the business models a bit more seriously. It seems that journalists are a liability because they do not directly add cash onto the weekly and monthly sales targets.

Can’t we look at the bigger picture and see the inherent value of editorial content before more newspapers sink?

Unfortunate news today that stunning British blogging firm Shiny Media is shedding editorial/blogger positions in the company, as a Recession-forced company re-structure sees the loss of editorial staffers and indeed one of the original co-founders Katie Lee, who departs to try other ventures.

A sad day for the British blogosphere today – and for those involved in digital media in the UK. These beacons of blogging and online editorial have been leading the way, albeit through a very similar business model to Nick Denton’s hugely-successful American Gawker platform.

At least they have the guts to get into the British economy and stake their claim as online editorial and marketing Champions, to the point where the Shiny Media team secured multi-million Pound investment funding in 2007.

Shiny Media co-founder Chris Price is incredibly generous and forth-giving in his praise of the departing Lee, and rightly so. In fact, he remains somewhat positive and upbeat, stating on the Company’s news pages:

“Shiny is a British new media success story. We have built a stable of great media brands that between them attract over three million readers each month. Times maybe tough now, but we are confident that this move, though painful in the short term, will leave us well placed to thrive and prosper in the future.”

Having already seen British blogging enterprises fail in the last 12 months due to a lack of advertising interest and not enough quality editorial input, it will be interesting to watch the UK’s blogging sector – this has profound potential impacts on those involved in digital PR, online media and marketing via the Web.

It’s all getting very confusing for many – and there are no signs of it getting any clearer in the near future.

No, I am not talking about continued editorial cutback and redundancies amidst the Recession – but rather the continued, rapid, and at times bewildering developments within the world of social media.

To the uninitiated editor, the world of blogging, podcasting, twittering and the like can seem a world away from the good old days when the most difficult thing to worry about was flat-planning a magazine or newspaper. Today, publishing online is an essential part of the mix if a publisher wants to live long or happily in the creative spaces of publishing, journalism and related sectors.

And whilst as an editor of a few years’ standing, it was comforting for me to recall the days when the company website actually was only a shop window and the monthly magazines were still the bread & butter of the business: being involved in the commercial process today can seem incredibly intimidating to the old-school world of editors out there. Ahem.

I, however, find it exciting, enthralling and am enthused to see publications kicked dragging and screaming online, forced to shape up, increase content value and amounts to an ever-increasing online audince which is demanding more openness, more editorial transparency, more engagement and, ultimately, more involvement with the requirements of customers, with readers.

I found this excellent analysis of what’s happening within social media at the moment. It sums up nicely the confusing world in which content creators need to exist to stay on top of the various sources of editorial information their audiences are wanting.

Congratulations to author Matthew Buckland. I certainly smiled. And will be following his blog when I need clarity in the social media maze from now on. Sometimes, the simplest expression of a complex concept is all that’s required for a journo.

Interesting news here on the nature of Newsgathering, in a week dominated and affected by heavy snow.

The winter weather has, according to this report, led to more than 40,000 user-generated content submissions to the BBC News team this week. With significant reductions in the amounts of British workers buying their News from the usual sources, it seems as if many have been getting online and not just sourcing information, but actually adding to the daily stream of News on the Beeb.

Peter Horrocks, Head of the BBC Newsroom, has thanked the citizen journalists on the Beeb’s blog, and it looks as though the thousands upon thousands of public submissions has set a record for the amount of content given over to the BBC for consideration. Horrocks is quick, of course, to make is clear that citizen journalism is not replacing traditional journalism, but rather complementing the variety and diversity of Newsgathering tools available.

It still remains, however, that sourcing, searching, digging, uncovering and being the first to convey News remains the central driver on our radar for good News coverage.

Encouraging to see that Content is, indeed, King.

The aim here is simple – to give you a winning formula to create attention-grabbing press releases. So you can create a new press release from a proven template, and gain publication – hopefully every time you submit the editorial to a Press contact.

Outline:
According to many in PR, writing a press release for media consumption is filled with little-known nuances, subtle twists and turns, a special language understood by the press and PRs only, and a myriad of other ‘rules’ to gain entry into the privileged position of gaining publication.

This, basically, is not the case. Writing a winning press release is not a secret formula, part of a Dark Art, or rocket science. It is a straightforward process.

Obviously, a PR Consultant or Agency wants you to think this. They don’t want you to have the skills to write your own highly-effective, relevant, newsworthy editorial items, because then they wouldn’t be hired to do it for you. Simple.

But the truth is, a press release is only a news-conveyance tool. It informs and educates. It inspires debate, attention, confidence in a company or individual. It also, conveniently, raises profile and passes on key messages. And sales.

So, let’s get you on the road to creating a prefect press release. Remember, it is not rocket science – but there are a few basics you’ll need to implement.

First things first:
There are five basic ingredients which will make up your press release, namely
* Angle – what is the main thrust of the news in the editorial
* Unique – you will have something unique, different or interesting to say
* Relevance – you News will be highly relevant to the readership
* Value – your news will add value to the publication’s content
* Timeliness – the editorial will be timely, contemporary and factual

These five key ingredients are worth looking at in a bit more detail, to fully understand how crucial each one is in gaining publication time after time.

* Angle – the thrust, or storyline, of your press release is the driving force and main ‘hook & hold’ for the media. Your angle, therefore, needs to be focused, based on a News item in your business, and with no superfluous details.

* Unique – your press release must convey news that is different, unique and interesting. To put is plainly, it must tell the readership something useful which will enrich their lives. And this doesn’t just mean try to flog them something.

* Relevance – to be truly relevant to a publication, you need to be able to offer the readership a product, service, opinion or similar which is of benefit and use to them in their everyday business or personal lives.

* Value – to add value to a publication’s content is a potential minefield, as ‘value’ is determined by the editorial team, rather than what you think is of value to the readership. Extreme and common sense are needed here.

* Timeliness – to provide a timely press release essentially means that your news is contemporary, factual and ‘now’ rather than about an event or launch which happened three months ago. Be aware of current affairs and impacts.

Press release template:
Every press release is formed from a basic template design, which follows the same structure and layout: in essence it goes like this:

* Headline – one line in length, snappy, no clichés, hints at story and angle
* First paragraph – sums up the entire news item in one brief element
* Second to tenth paragraphs – bulk of news item, with relevant quotations
* Final paragraph – ends the news item, ideally with a confirming quotation
* Contact details – of the press release supplier. Email, phone and website
* Notes to Editors – additional information, case study hyperlinks, statistics

Press release PR photography:
This element is as important as the editorial you produce and issue to the media. A professionally-taken, appropriately-formatted image to accompany every press release you send is an absolute must. Never forget the image.

Most offline newspaper and magazines will require jpeg format images at a resolution of 300dpi: this standard will be of the right standard for pretty much any daily newspaper and glossy magazine in the UK.

Images for online reproduction require different formatting, of course, and the best option is to hire a professional photographer – preferably an experienced PR press photographer – who will be able to produce relevant online and offline-ready images for you to submit to the appropriate media.

You may argue that the additional cost involved with hiring a professional photographer is prohibitive, but in reality if you’re serious about gaining publication and delivering a polished press release, images must always be part of the package delivered to the media. Ignore this at your peril.

Timeframe: 0-3 hours
Here’s a rough guide on how to produce a winning press release in a three hour timeline. You should aim for the following:

* First 30 minutes: establish angle, write leading paragraph, form key quotes – press release template here with first paragraph completed only no headline
* 30 minutes-1 hour: Write paragraphs 2-6, including bulk of News details – press release temple here with first six paragraphs completed no headline
*1-2 hours: Write paragraphs 7-10, including concluding quotation – press release template here with 10 paragraphs completed no headline
* 2-2.5 hours: Formulate image caption and Notes to Editors sections – press release template here with paragraphs and Image Cap & Notes completed no headline
* Final 30 minutes: Proof-read the entire press release. Then do it again.

Ready to submit:
You’re nearly there. The final points are important to remember as you tidy up and finish up. Before you collate your media list and email the press release:

1. Make sure you have not repeated any information, quotations, statistics.
2. Check the press release by reading it out loud. This is vitally important.
3. Finally, write the one-line Headline. Always do this last of all. It flows easily.

And finally:
Relax. Take notes about your business, products, service and people. Do not worry if the editorial doesn’t flow at first. Stay with it. Re-draft until you are happy with the tone, layout and newsworthiness of the press releases you produce.

Ultimately, you’ll make it easier for myself and other Editors to carry on with other editorial tasks.