Ad Agency PR Best Practice: Put the Story on the Top

Newspaper Bundle – Story on Top Image medium_2259557436

One of my former agency colleagues, a veteran newspaper reporter, used to have a sign on his desk that said, “Put the Story on the Top.”

In other words, when writing a “hard new” story, state the facts up front and get to the main point right away.

Great advice, and something we all need to keep in mind as we write our news releases. Sure, it can be tempting to write two or three paragraphs of introduction before getting to the main topic, but it’s not the way to write a professional news story.

For one thing, it’s easier for people to remember the gist of the story if you first summarize it and then add details. If they only read the first paragraph, would they know the basic essentials? If not, you need to take a look at revising your release.

Another reason is that many people in fact don’t read much more than the first paragraph or two, so you want to make sure those folks read the most important thing you have to tell them in the first paragraph, followed by the next most important information in the second paragraph, the third most important in the third paragraph, and so forth.

That approach is known in journalism as the inverted pyramid style, and it’s what good reporters and PR pros do when writing a news article. They give you the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of a story at the very top. No fluff, puffery or promotional flair – just the facts, please. Otherwise, you’ll immediately lose credibility with the reporters and editors you’re trying to reach.

Feature stories are different, because they tend to focus on matters that are interesting and entertaining, but not the most pressing issues of the day. Examples include trends, human interest and unusual, off-beat topics. They, too, will contain some basic facts, but those facts are woven into the story. Features are generally more creative and less formal. The lead in a feature is designed to lure readers in, with the writer crafting a compelling narrative that keeps their attention to the very end.

Hard news and feature stories both have a place in telling your agency’s story. Knowing the difference between the two, and how to use each appropriately, is one of the keys to successful ad agency PR.

photo credit: Steve Rhodes via photopin cc

Ad Agency PR: How to Improve Quotes in a News Release

How many times have you read a quote in a news release that sounded canned, stale and clearly was not something a person would actually say?

“…besides clichés, superlatives, and meaningless terms such as ‘cutting-edge,’ using poorly worded quotes will have reporters hitting the delete button before they read your third paragraph,” writes Laura Hale Brockway, author of the writing and editing blog, in Ragan’s PR Daily.

She offers four tips for improving quotes in releases:

1. Trash those lazy verbs. Laura recommends replacing them with clear descriptions of your customers’ needs and how your product (or service) meets them. To which I would add: just be careful not to sound too promotional or sensational.

2. Keep them conversational. Quotes are more believable if they sound like something a person would actually say if you were talking with him or her.

3. Can you paraphrase? She contends (and I agree) that you can often improve a suggested quote your client or an executive gives you by paraphrasing it or breaking it up so that the quote is short and punchy.

4. Step up your interviewing skills. If you’re interviewing someone, ask for real-world examples, metaphors, epiphanies, etc. Doing so is likely to uncover interesting details that might otherwise be overlooked.

The more a news release looks and sounds like an article in a publication written by a journalist, the more likely it is to be taken seriously—assuming you’ve done your homework and targeted the right media outlets and reporters.

In my experience, quotes are often add-ons to news releases, and they aren’t given the time and attention they deserve. Ad agencies and their clients will benefit from taking a few extra steps to improve the quality of their quotes, and thereby improve their chances of them getting on reporters’ radar.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to advertising agencies and businesses.

Ad Agencies: Avoid Confusing News Release Headlines

During my days as an editor for a healthcare magazine, I received some interesting mail.  Here’s a news release headline a well-meaning hospital PR executive sent me one day:


Huh? I’m guessing one in a half-million or so people would have a clue what that headline was about.  And ask yourself: how much interest does it generate?  The release itself was fairly well written, and once I read the first few sentences I realized the hospital was hosting a seminar about advancements in hernia operations.

Trouble is, most reporters wouldn’t get past the headline – the release would end up in the recycle bin before the first paragraph was read.  Why not just say in the headline, in simple terms, what the seminar is about?

Headlines are vital to attracting interest and getting people to read the release or article, similar to how the wording on a subject line can make the difference between you reading or deleting an e-mail.

If you are handling your ad agency’s PR, make sure your news release headlines are compelling and readable, or risk having the releases discarded before they even gets read.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

Ad Agencies: Expand News Reach through PR Web’s Partnership with Zemanta

PR Web’s partnership with Zemanta, a free content discovery tool that automatically recommends relevant content to bloggers as they work on posts, is a smart way to expand a news release’s reach.

According to a release announcing the partnership, if a PR Web customer’s release is considered relevant by Zemanta’s recommendation engine, it will be suggested as related reading to bloggers using the application. 

“We are providing a better way to connect our customers with the blogging community,” Jiyan Wei, director of Product Management at PRWeb, says in the release. “The Zemanta engine ensures that relevant customer content is provided to bloggers — who have opted to subscribe to Zemanta’s application. It’s both a savvy and friendly means to boost visibility for our customers in the social media space.”

Social media has become an increasingly significant way for ad agencies to reach target audiences, and getting news to bloggers who want it should be a vital part of a PR strategy.

While it’s relatively easy to look up traditional media outlets and reporters through directories and Internet searches, identifying appropriate bloggers is more of a challenge.  Zemanta helps solve that dilemma.

PR Web is Zemanta’s first newswire partner, and the arrangement is something that should benefit both organizations as well as ad agencies looking for ways to get their clients’ news in front of more people who have an interest in it.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

SEO a Must for Ad Agency News Releases

BurrellesLuce has some helpful tips for search engine optimization when writing a news release:

1. Treat your release like a mini web page. As always, a release needs to be crisp and meaningful. In today’s digital world, however, you should enhance a release with keywords, embedded links, and multimedia content.

2. Put your company name in the headline. If the release topic doesn’t lend itself to a headline mention, aim for the first paragraph or a subhead. These are also the best positions for placing relevant keywords or search terms.

3. Provide a hyperlink to the company’s website. Insert a hyperlink at the first mention of the company’s name, and in the release boilerplate.

4. Include additional search terms far up in the release. In the context of the entire release, however, keyword density should be limited to about two percent of total word count.

5. Add graphics, including your logo. Attractive graphics can help you stand out in a crowd. And use of your logo definitely heightens brand recognition.

6. Hyperlink key terms to related content on your site. Examples of key terms include a list of features, a product application note, or a product homepage.

7. Encourage distributors, user groups, and industry or professional associations to link to your release. Point out the value of your announcement for their customers and members. If your news is relevant enough, they may include the link. And the more links, the better the odds of moving up in search engine results.

8. Take advantage of the SEO enhancement features offered by your content distribution service. Among other benefits, those enhancements significantly extend the amount of time that your content can be found through a search.

9. Consider preparing twin releases. Not identical twins, but fraternal ones: a “just the facts” version for direct distribution to print editors, and an SEO version for web distribution, using the same core content.

10. Publish the release on your own website. Don’t forget this easy step, since your website is part of the media universe scoured by search engines.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.