Formatting the Press Release: Announcing Events

When you send a press release or media alert, the ultimate goal is for publications to pick up the information and distribute it to their audiences. The information is critical to the message you want to convey, and so is its presentation.  In this series, we discuss tips to help you appropriately format press releases for publication. Your media contacts will appreciate it!

As public relations experts, our job includes making it easy for information to be shared and distributed on behalf of clients. When you’re dealing with dates, times and addresses, there are so many different ways to present that information. If you stick with the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook guidelines—typically followed by journalists and public relations practitioners—you’ll make it much easier for reporters to post your event announcement as-is.  Here are a few tips to help you craft your announcement:

Annual Events

  • Spell out first through ninth when they indicate a sequence in time. Digits and letter suffixes should be used with numbers 10 and higher (e.g., the Second Annual Car Cruise, the 10th Annual Book Sale). On a related note, you should never refer to an event happening for the first time as the “First Annual”—it should be the “inaugural” event.

Dates

  • When using specific dates, abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec. (e.g, Her birthday is on Aug. 19; or I’m taking the day off on Sept. 26, 2014). The month name is always spelled out when it is being used alone or when it is paired with only a year (August 1986).
  •  Don’t use shorthand for dates (6/27/14)
  • Only use digits (no letter suffixes) in dates (June 1, not June 1st)

Addresses

  • When used with a complete address, abbreviate St., Ave. and Blvd. All others are spelled out (e.g., 100 Market St., 300 Pennsylvania Road). Spell street names out when they’re not used with a formal address (the 100-block of Market Street).
  • Numbered streets should be spelled out First through Ninth. Digits and letter suffixes should be used with numbers 10 and higher (100 First Ave., 300 57th St.).

Times

  • Use a.m. and p.m. (period after the first and second letter)
  • Use noon and midnight instead of figures (please don’t use 12 noon or 12 midnight). Similarly, avoid redundancies—write 10 p.m. rather than 10 p.m. tonight.
  • Eliminate the double zero in times (5 p.m. instead of 5:00 p.m.)

Want to learn more? Check out the Public Relations Society of America’s style guide at www.prsa.org/AboutPRSA/GuidelinesLogos/PRSAStyleGuide.pdf or the AP Stylebook’s website at www.apstylebook.com. Check back for more tips on the blog!

Our Favorite Pittsburgh Things – Market Square

Market Square has undergone quite the transformation in recent years. Because of its proximity to the Yearick-Millea office, it’s one of our favorite places to visit, especially during the warm summer months.

A mix of old and new, the historic downtown Pittsburgh district offers restaurants, shopping and plenty of summer activities. During the weekdays, you’ll find office workers taking a break to enjoy the weather at the many open tables. The “Summer in the Square” programming sponsored by Market Square Merchants Association and supported by the Pittsburgh Downtown partnership provides free live performances and events all summer. Be sure to check out:

Mellow Mondays: Live acoustic entertainment from noon to 1 p.m.

Tuesday: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Reading Room, where visitors can sample a few of the programs offered at the library from 11a.m. to 2 p.m.

Mid-Week Music Wednesdays: Live bands from noon to 1 p.m.

Farmers Market Thursdays: Shop a variety a vendors (produce, desserts, wine) each Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. now through Oct. 30.

Market Square Farmers Market

Market Square Farmers Market

If you’re in the area Monday through Friday, make sure to stop in to the Yearick-Millea office to say hi!

 

PR for Small Business: When Is It Time to Call-in The Experts?

When is it time for a small business to call in a public relations professional? Typically, the answer depends on factors such as your current workload, responsibilities, priorities and your company’s overall level of expertise in that arena.  Here are a few common scenarios for small businesses that don’t have a dedicated marketing or public relations function:

  • Your company is set to introduce a new product line.
  • It’s time to open a new store or manufacturing facility in your town and you need to inform the local community.
  • You are in-charge of a trade show presentation and need help creating a display and attracting prospects to your booth.

Now, here are a few questions: Do you or someone on your staff know how to make all the arrangements for a trade show, including reserving space, coordinating panel copy and design, ordering on-site labor or collecting sales leads? Do you have the media contacts necessary to arrange coverage of your company’s trade show presence, product rollout or grand opening? Are you confident in your ability to write a press release, follow-up with reporters or draft associated content for your website, printed literature and other outbound messaging?  If not, it could be time to reach out to the experts.

For many public relations firms and practitioners, the situations I’ve mentioned are their bread and butter. Leaving that type of work to an experienced firm or practitioner not only saves you time and stress, but typically leads to better results, greater awareness and more sales or traffic at your store or trade show booth.

Almost every city has a community of small PR firms and individual practitioners ready to help your business make a splash for fees that fit comfortably within your budget.  Few people would consider handling a legal issue for their company without outside expertise.  There’s no need to do so with your next trade show, product roll-out or grand opening, either.  For help, simply search the internet for PR firms in your city or visit the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) website.  There’s sure to be a good fit for your business.

Avoiding the Hashtag Hijack & Other Social Media Flops

There’s no question that social media has become one of the most effective ways for brands to connect with their consumers and the general public. However, if it’s not approached correctly, an attempt at social engagement can quickly backfire and get you noticed for all the wrong reasons.

Social media fails and flops occur more often than you think. Here are a few things to consider before hitting the “Post” button:

  1. Know your public perception—Once you’ve come up with a social media campaign or activity, make sure you think about every scenario that could occur. Browse social media posts to see what people already are saying about your company. Is it good? Bad? Indifferent? Brands that have hoped to engage with the masses on Twitter have fallen victim to the hashtag hijack, where users make negative comments about a company using a specific hashtag intended for positive publicity. For example, J.P. Morgan called off a Q&A last year when users posted hostile jokes and vulgar questions under the #AskJPM hashtag in an attempt to blast the bank’s ethics. Similarly, the NYPD’s #myNYPD photo campaign—intended to highlight photos of officers with the general public—backfired earlier this year when people began posting photos illustrating police brutality/misconduct.
  1. Don’t post controversial things—When you’re communicating with someone for the first time, a general rule is to avoid talking about controversial subject matters. The same could be said  for brands on social media. By staying away from controversy, brands remain objective and don’t polarize potential customers. Last month, the Washington Redskins organization encouraged fans to tweet Democratic Senator Harry Reid on Twitter using the #RedskinsPride hashtag, a move stemming from the controversy revolving around the origins of the team’s name. While many people used the hashtag as intended, the majority used it for anti-Redskins tweets.
  1. Check your hashtag before you post—It’s happened many times—companies don’t read their hashtag in every way possible before sending it out. Our brains tend to fill in the blanks, and mashing words together for the purposes of a hashtag could lead to the creation of a word with a totally different (or inappropriate) meaning. Search the internet for “hashtag fails” if you want some examples. Capitalizing the first letter of each individual word could help people read the hashtag as intended.
  1. Do your research & don’t panic—Just this week, Delta posted a pro-USA tweet after Team USA won its World Cup match against Ghana. The tweet included a photo of the Statue of Liberty with two points and a picture of a giraffe with one point. When people began pointing out that there were no giraffes in Ghana, Delta attempted to apologize—only the tweet had a typo. It read, “We’re sorry for our choice of photo on our precious ( instead of previous) tweet.”  Do your homework and make sure you’re posting accurate information. And if you do fumble, don’t panic. Take the time to construct a clear, concise message in an attempt to fix your error.

Do you have any tips for avoiding a social media fail? Let us know in the comments!

Understanding Stock Photos and Images

In a recent blog post, we discussed what you should know about purchasing usage rights for photography. Sometimes, however, all you need is a simple image to enhance your website, newsletter, blog, ad, coffee mug, or…you get the idea.

This is where stock image agencies come into play. While stock photos have their faults, they offer plenty of benefits. Here are the basics that you should know.

Advantages

  • Quick and easy – Stock photos and images are ready for immediate use with a few clicks of your mouse.
  • Variety – The popular stock photo agencies provide easy access to 8 to 13 million images. Check out Can Stock Photo, iStock, Thinkstock, etc.
  • Inexpensive – Stock photos are affordable, starting at just a few bucks. To make things even easier, stock agencies offer several payment options, such as the ability to buy a single photo, packs of credits, or subscriptions. Prices are based on size and resolution, so you won’t be paying for a high-res image that’s suitable for a poster, when you only need it for your blog.
  • Licenses – A stock photo usually comes with a standard license that allows it to be reproduced up to 500,000 times. Extended licenses also are available if necessary.

Disadvantages

  • Not a perfect fit – While you can search pages upon pages of photos, you may not find exactly what you want.
  • Can be dated – Pay attention to any clothing or technology that’s pictured, as they can quickly make the photo obsolete.
  • Not exclusive use – Remember, someone else has access to the same image. It could get awkward if your competitor used the same image in their ad. More on this below.
  • Restrictions – With a standard license, most stock photos come with some restrictions. For example, they can’t be used on merchandise with the intent to sell. Buying an extended license eliminates many restrictions.

Royalty free vs. Rights-managed

  • Royalty free images are paid for once, and they can be used how and as often as you like (up to 500,000 impressions with a standard license). However, you will have non-exclusive use.
  •  Rights-managed images are essentially rented for a fixed fee per use. With a rights-managed image, there are still some restrictions on how you can use it, such as for a limited time or print run, and possibly only in a specific geographic region. However, you can purchase exclusive rights, so that no one else can use the image while you are “renting” it.

Questions? Leave us a comment.

How Brands Are Using Snapchat

Snapchat, the free photo- and video-sharing app that allows users to share self-destructing photos/brief videos (“snaps”), is the latest social sharing app being used to drive brand awareness and grow brand loyalty.

Brands that are targeting a younger demographic, who are more likely to use Snapchat, are finding the app especially useful. Snapchat’s video and “My Story” features, in which a user puts together a series of snaps that can be viewed by all their “friends” for a 24-hour window, are the most common ways that brands are reaching out to their customers. Both these features let brands share more information than one single picture can.

Brands are sharing promotions, launching new products and sharing behind-the-scenes footage for those people who follow them on Snapchat. The common denominator between brands that use Snapchat seems to be the brand’s voice – young, fun-loving and they don’t take themselves too seriously.

Taco Bell chat

A story from Taco Bell featured on Snapchat.

The unique benefit of using Snapchat to grow brand awareness is the focus the app requires from users– Snapchat’s users are consciously clicking on snaps or stories to see what brands are sharing. Unlike Instagram, Twitter or Facebook where users can just scroll over a brand’s post or paid ad, users are actively seeking out brand content on Snapchat. Where else on the Internet does your content get that much attention?

Tips for Recent Public Relations and Communications Grads

Congratulations to all recent college graduates! It’s quite an accomplishment. Getting that first job, especially in the PR and communications industry, can be quite a challenge though. It’s competitive. Working at an agency, such as Yearick-Millea, is one of the best ways to learn all aspects of the business because of the variety of clients and the different types of projects, from media relations and crisis communications to internal communications and social media. An agency is a great start to a career for any recent college graduate, and today we provide a few tips, both general and specific, on how to land your first full-time position:

Network: Attend local industry functions. The PR and communications industry is relationship-driven, so the more people you meet, the better your chances of meeting someone who can benefit you throughout your personal and professional career. In fact, search for a mentor. By having someone in your life who can give you honest feedback regarding your strengths and weaknesses, you will always be prepared for your next career challenge.
Develop Your Skills: Your writing skills are probably your most valuable asset. Every aspect of a career in the industry thrives on good writing skills for creating good content to support communications plans. Sharpen your writing skills through blog writing and frequent reading (through a variety of media: social networks, newspapers, magazines).
Show Professionalism: Now that you’re out of college, developing skills to interact with all types of people at all levels of management is essential to working at an agency. If you’ve landed an interview, make a good presentation of yourself by dressing appropriately and providing thank-you notes following your interviews.

Agencies like Yearick-Millea are always eager for passionate and motivated young professionals. If you’re ever interested in learning more about what goes on at Yearick-Millea on a day-to-day basis, please reach out to us at info@yearick-millea.com to learn about any upcoming internship opportunities.

The Case for Case Studies

In a recent blog, I touted the virtues of the old-fashioned press release as a valued marketing communications tool.   Now I’m using this forum to make the case for another traditional stand-by: the old-school case study.

Any good marketing pro will tell you storytelling is at the heart of any successful campaign and, for interested customers or prospects, few tales are more compelling than those that demonstrate how your product or service helped solve a problem or meet a challenge.

Versatility is another benefit.  Not only do case studies make good editorial fodder for the trade magazines that serve your industry, they can also stretch your marketing investment through use in advertising, as fresh web and social media content to drive SEO, as trade show literature or leave-behinds for your sales staff, as topics for webinars, or to add substance to a sales presentation.

Looking for ways to stay in touch with a top prospect?  Package your printed case study with a personal note and drop it in the mail.  In today’s blizzard of e-mail, it’s a good way to get attention and keep your business top of mind.

Does your company still use case studies?  If so, tell us how and why they work for you.  Check back with us soon for tips on how to produce a good one.