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Making sense of PR speak

Recently the below graphic has been doing the rounds in media and PR circles, re-stoking some debate about PR jargon.

Reaching outWhether you are working in PR in-house or agency side, you often can’t avoid falling into the jargon trap from time-to-time – that’s not to say it is right!  So with that in mind here are five of the worst pieces of PR speak with some suggestions on how to avoid it:

Leverage – a particular press release favourite, but what is wrong with uses or utilises?

Touch base – reaching out’s partner in crime and it shouldn’t be used unless media relations involves a game of baseball or rounders. Typically you ‘speak to’ or ‘get in contact’ rather than ‘touch base’ with friends and family; with journalists it shouldn’t be any different. (See also ‘circle back’)

Blue sky thinking – considering the lack of ‘blue skies’ in recent UK summers, ‘grey sky’ thinking may be more appropriate, but when we cut to the chase what we are really talking about is alternative or creative ideas. So why not just say that?

Innovative – Dom did a post on the PR usage of ‘innovation’ a while ago, but the fact remains it is an overused word in PR. Unless something really is ground-breaking (yes you could argue that is PR jargon too!) ‘innovative’ should be used sparingly.

Solutions – again a bit of a B2B tech favourite.  I remember doing some media training a while back, and the journalist running the session expressed his dislike of ‘solutions’ saying that companies offered ‘products’ and ‘services’, not solutions. To be fair, he makes a good point.  So while ‘solutions’ usage is sometimes unavoidable, it is worth asking yourself if you can use a better alternative.

Keeping things simple and to the point can go a long way in PR. In fact, too many instances of PR speak can often tarnish a good story or idea. So do leverage that advice when touching base with a client or journalist next time :)

Feel free to add any other suggestions to the comments section below.

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PR 101: Know your audience

AudienceI remember once being with a group of my brother’s friends and making an off the cuff quip that did not go down very well at all – the resulting feeling was embarrassment and confusion, why had it gone so wrong? Afterwards, my brother turned to me (with a slightly despairing chuckle) and told me simply that I really should know my audience; a lesson that is equally, if not more, important in the world of PR.

PR is all about audiences: what kind of companies are your clients trying to connect to? Who within those companies are the key stakeholders? What are the key issues facing these people? Who, in an ideal world, do your clients want to be speaking to that they are not today? These questions should really sit at the heart of a PR programme – all tactics should be designed to helping clients to connect to these audiences in the most appropriate way, whether that involves educating them on a new issue that will impact them, or offering advice on a best practice approach to an age-old problem, or even just entertaining.

Journalists act as ambassadors for their readers, helping to siphon out the dross and ensure that their readers do get content that is of interest to them. Therefore, one of the key audiences that we as PR professionals need to consider is the journalists that we are pitching to. You need to get to know what they normally write about, who they write for, what type of stories they post. For too long the industry has been plagued with bad practice; badgering journalists with irrelevant content will not only rub people up the wrong way. In fact, a 2014 survey from DW Publishing – What do journalists think of PR people – found that that ‘Lack of understanding of your publication and subject area’ was journalists’ biggest frustration when dealing with PR people.

This is PR 101, but it is surprising how often PRs still spend time throwing muck against the wall and hoping it will stick. Less is more – instead of running through the phone book, PRs should spend more time to know their audience better and understand what makes their journalists tick. Not only will this help to improve conversion rates and save time, it will also ensure there is a level of mutual respect; providing you with the confidence that your story should be of genuine interest to the person on the other end of the phone.

Creating engaging and relevant content that is relevant for the audience is vital in this context. All content – whether it’s a pitch, press release or article – needs to have a purpose; it needs to be written with a reader in mind, it can’t be a pure vehicle to promote a certain set of products or services. Good content, therefore, speaks to your client’s potential customer and the journalist’s intended reader. Consider the issues facing the audience – what is keeping them awake at night, how is this information going to make their lives easier? Why should they care about what you have to say? Again, providing timely and relevant content came top of the list in terms of what journalists want from PRs in the DW Pub survey.

So to sum up: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCES! By understanding your client’s sales targets and customers, as well as what these customers are likely to be reading about, you can find the right journalist and analysts and deliver more targeted PR. Fail to do so and you are likely to end up feeling like I did in the pub that day!

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Coverage Cup round up


Coverage cupIt’s a bumper Coverage Cup  round up and security topped the list with Verizon securing coverage in the Financial Times with Managing Principal, Laurance Dine warning that professional services companies are one of the most targeted groups and need to take extra precautions. Following on the security theme, Bit9 + Carbon Black Chief Security Strategist, Ben Johnson was featured in SC Magazine speaking about the variety and scope of ransomware threats that businesses are facing. Next up, the iPass team secured a number of pieces of coverage off the back of its Business Traveller Connectivity Index which highlighted that business travellers were overspending £855 million on connectivity charges. This included coverage on CBR and TechWeek Europe amongst others. Finally, Dynatrace’s Michael Allen’s bylined article digital transformation was successfully placed on Information Age.


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