posted by Public Relations
OK, survey time.
How many tabs do you have open in your Internet browser right now? How many screens are on your desktop? For that matter, are you even reading this at your desk, or are you skimming along with your iPad as you kick back on the couch with the Indians game going in the background?
It’s a mad, mad multitasking world out there, folks. In fact, I –
Hang on just a second. A coworker just emailed me to check the status of a press release. And two Google Alerts popped up letting me know a client had a pair of media hits. And now, according to my instant message feed, somebody from the fifth floor brought doughnuts to the office today!
OK, sorry about that. Now where was I?
Oh, right, multitasking is wreaking havoc on our productivity. A PR Daily report last week offered up a particularly sobering analysis: On average, we consume three times as much media daily as people in 1960. And that information overload is creating a temporary drop in IQ that is more than twice that seen in people who smoke marijuana, according to a 2005 Hewlett-Packard study.
Speaking from experience, I can tell you it’s particularly challenging for journalists. Every hour in the newsroom can easily devolve into a merry-go-round of editing copy, working with reporters, updating the paper’s Twitter feed and Facebook page (and keeping up with others), posting to the Web, monitoring the wires, and fielding calls from irate subscribers who want to know why their soaps are being pre-empted by college basketball.
It doesn’t exactly leave a whole lot of time for trying to decipher incoming pitches from public relations managers. So, fellow communications pros, just how small is our window of opportunity?
“A few seconds,” an editor at a Northeast Ohio publication told me. “If I’ve determined it’s local, maybe a minute or two.”
In other words: Make your point, and make it quick.
Contrary to what some have argued in recent years, the press release is not dead. But a bloated, poorly written epic with no clear point? There’s a recycling bin for that.
With that in mind, here are three ways to improve your next press release:
The best way to guarantee your press release is deleted before it is even opened is to have a terrible subject line/headline. There is a fine line between interesting and inane. Getting too caught up in trying to be clever often leads to failing to answer essential questions. Every second a recipient spends trying to figure out just what’s being pitched is another second that he/she is not debating whether to run with it. And if you’ve only got the floor for a few seconds to begin with …
Break it down
We love brief, easily digestible bits of information. They’re quick, they’re focused, and they allow us to quickly jump back into the other 17 tasks we’re juggling.
Once you’ve crafted your awesome headline and a tight, informative lead paragraph, try this: Take the strongest quotes you would have weaved into your narrative and break them out as their own bullet points. And all that minutiae you would’ve used to fill in gaps? Make a bulleted list of those too.
Before you know it, you’re delivering an inverted pyramid for the new millennium.
If you’re trying to pitch a local media outlet, a familiar area code in your contact information – and you do have your contact information clearly displayed in a prominent place, right? – can work wonders. Let’s go back to what my editor friend said above. Local press releases get “a minute or two” of attention, whereas the non-local submissions are fighting for a few seconds.
Does that mean your local phone number will make your release 20 times more likely to get picked up? My statistics professor at Ohio University would probably take issue with that math, so let’s just say, “Your odds will improve.”
* * *
Put these tactics to use, and you very well could make a journalist’s day. Well, at least until they take a phone call from a reader whose newspaper landed in the shrubs.
About the author::
Tom Valentino is a communications professional, a social media enthusiast, and a Cleveland and Ohio University sports diehard. If he’s not pitching the next big story, there’s a good chance he’s watching today’s episode of “The Price is Right.”
TAGS: thundertech, public relations, pr, media relations, attention span, multitask, reach, journalist, Media, relations, multitasking, marketing, business, press, news, release
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