Posts tagged ‘Advanced Media Relations Workshop’

Writing Effective Press Advisories

Public relations professionals have an array of tools for attracting media attention. One of those tools is the press advisory. The press advisory is somewhat different from the press release, both in format and goal.

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The goal of the press advisory is to notify the press of an occurrence or event you want them to cover. Press advisories can be issued as far in advance of an event as necessary. Your ultimate goal is to have reporters place events on their calendars or within their futures file so they can plan accordingly to attend and cover the event. As a general rule of thumb, if you issue a press advisory more than one week in advance, it is a good idea to conduct a follow-up advisory one or two days before the event to ensure reporters have not forgotten about it.

The format of a press advisory is also much simpler than a Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitchpress release. The headline of an advisory should be clear and concise, consisting of no more than two paragraphs. Key information should be given in summary form and include the event, time, place and subject of the event. It can be a challenge to provide enough information in the advisory to entice the media to cover it, while at the same time holding back enough information to ensure you do not inadvertently scoop yourself.

When writing an advisory, provide information on what reporters can expect if they decide to attend the event. When appropriate, also include background information on the organization staging the event. Also use your web site to provide additional information.

Include a note that information within the advisory is not to be released. While this may be generally understood, it is always better to be certain rather than to have information released that you did not intend to have publicized.

To learn more about making the most of press releases and advisories, consider TheCapitol.Net’s Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 2.7 Press Advisory

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Writing Effective Email Press Releases

The basic tool used in public relations is the press release. Ultimately, the goal of a press release is to convince the media to do a story. At one time, press releases were printed on paper, however, today press releases are most often exchanged electronically.

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The email press release is now the format preferred by most reporters. While some basic information has remained the same in the electronic press release, an email press release differs somewhat from a printed press release.

First, try to avoid attachments to your press release. Unless the reporter is actually expecting the attachment, all releases should be made within the body of the email text message. Firewalls at some news organizations will automatically block an email with an attachment.

Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford FitchThe subject line of the email should replace the headline. This is the most important line of your press release and you have an extremely small amount of space to grab the reporter’s attention. At most, you have five words to sell the story, so choose them carefully.

One of the advantages of the email press release is that you can include URL links to more information. When it comes to the basic format of the release, remember to keep contact information at the top of the release, followed by the headline and then the body of the press release. While email may be a slightly different format, reporters are still accustomed to the traditional paper format.

Make sure you never include any text formatting, such as underline, bold or tabs as some email programs ignore them. If you need to use bullets, use stars or dashes. The entirety of your release should be kept to a minimum of 500 words and between four and six paragraphs.

Always test out the release by sending it to yourself first.

Finally, if you are going to send the release out to more than one reporter, include the addresses as blind cc’s. Never make the mistake of broadcasting a reporter’s email address.

To learn more about the best way to craft press releases and other media relations tips, sign up for TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day course Media Relations for Public Affairs Professionals, or the 2-day Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 2.5 Email Press Releases

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Preparation is Key to Taking Advantage of Opportunities in Media Relations

It is sometimes assumed that the development of a communications plan is similar to the production of a play, in which the public acts as the audience. In reality, much of the work involved in public relations can be reactionary and unpredictable in nature. It is not unusual for members of Congress to determine their strategy and their message by reviewing the daily news and then deciding how they will respond to a particular issue.

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The best work in public relations involves the creation of great plans and the adaptation of those plans based on changing circumstances. The best way to take advantage of opportunities is to prepare for opportunities in advance. Every sphere within the world of Washington public relations has its own distinct set of possible circumstances that determine the best methods for advance preparation.

Generally, the best all-in-one approach to preparing for opportunities to is to be certain you have good resources and contacts in place. This will allow you to capitalize on Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitchthem whenever the need arises. This could mean reaching out to reporters you might not call regularly or compiling press contact lists that might not involve your primary subject area. Even though these actions might be outside your day-to-day work, they could prove crucial if conditions change.

In some cases, it might be better to allow some opportunities to simply pass by rather than attempt to capitalize upon them. The degree to which your operation is cautious or aggressive regarding opportunities will typically be determined by the personality of your principal or organization. Be on the lookout for opportunities that are worth pursuing. Ultimately, you must ask yourself whether the opportunity is close to your mission and whether the opportunity warrants changing your plans in order to pursue it. What are the costs if you should decide to pursue it? Will you be able to effectively pursue the opportunity during the short-term nature that is offered by the news cycle? Finally, determine the likelihood that you will receive positive media coverage as a result.

To learn more about the best ways to take advantage of opportunities as they arise in public relations, consider TheCapitol.Net’s Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 3.11 Taking Advantage of Opportunities

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Common Ethical Challenges in Media Relations

To work successfully in media affairs or public relations, you want to develop a solid understanding of the ethical challenges you can face on a daily basis. Even a seemingly innocent and routine conversation with a reporter can pose ethical questions that the public relations professional must be able to resolve in a second or two.

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One common ethical challenge the public relations professional must address is the use of language. Even a relatively simply choice of words can result in ethical implications. For instance, if you exaggerate the impact of a piece of legislation, it could be construed as trying to mislead the public. Ensuring that language is accurate and honest is not only a matter of ethics, in most cases it is more effective. Because reporters have come to view exaggerated claims as being the rule rather than the exception, you will often find that communication that is honest and straightforward is a far more convincing tool.

When posed with an ethical question regarding language, ask yourself whether the language will pass the test of the media. Will the media question the veracity of the statement you plan to issue? Will anyone Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitchbe able to refute your data? Consider the credibility of any sources that might challenge your statement and your data. Be certain that the language you choose is capable of withstanding a detailed examination.

Misappropriation of credit is another common ethical challenge the public relations professional faces. Ethical problems can arise when a public relations professional feels they must “enhance” the work of their principal or an organization to the point that it extends beyond any work that was legitimately accomplished. This is a struggle that Congressional press secretaries frequently face as the matter of taking credit can be a particularly delicate issue for members of Congress as their survival depends on their ability to demonstrate achievements to their constituents. For instance, did a member only “sponsor” a bill or did they “vigorously support” it? Did they “vote” for it, or did they “champion” it? The choice of wording can make a tremendous difference in how a public figure’s role is portrayed. You must be able to back up all claims when you take credit for your principal and able to justify those claims with documentation.

To learn more about ethical matters in media relations, consider TheCapitol.Net’s Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 13.4 Common Ethical Challenges

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5 Mistakes to Avoid in a Crisis

Trying to avoid a crisis with the media may be well and good, but the fact is that a crisis can not always be avoided. When one does occur, it is essential to know how to handle it, and, as importantly, what you should not do.

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1. Ignore the problem
One of the most common reactions to a crisis is to ignore it and hope it goes away. This rarely works, especially when it is a media crisis. When you have a crisis, you must meet it head on and deal with it immediately.

2. Not changing your decision making model
One of the most common mistakes organizations make is to try to overcome the problem by working harder. Whenever there is a communication crisis, a team that is already overworked suddenly must take on even more of a burden. To effectively deal with the crisis, new decision making protocols must be established. In some cases, you may need to form a completely separate Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitchcommunications team to specifically address that crisis.

3. Allowing lawyers to direct public relations policy
While it may be advisable to have the best attorney representing you if you go to court, when you are facing a crisis in the media you need an expert on the court of public opinion. Choose the right advocate to handle the right battleground.

4. Withholding information
If you attempt to withhold information, it will eventually come out. When that happens, it will add to the crisis and make it appear as if you are trying to hide something.

5. Not immediately correcting errors
The public understands that people are human and will, from time to time, make mistakes. When a mistake is made during a communications crisis, it is going to be amplified. If you say something erroneous, do not hesitate to correct it immediately. Failure to do so will only cause reporters to believe that you misled them on purpose. The result? They might just tell a few million listeners or readers that you deliberately deceived them. It is far better to come clean and own up to your mistake and correct it on your own.

To learn more about how to effectively handle a media crisis, consider TheCapitol.Net’s Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 12.15 Eight Mistakes to Avoid in a Crisis

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Writing Effective Newsletters

Newsletters can be delivered electronically, but there are still differences that set them apart from web sites. One of the most important differences is that while people visit a web site when they need to find something specific, a newsletter is personal and provides the basis for an ongoing relationship regardless of how it is delivered.

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When creating a newsletter, keep the content subject-oriented, not self-congratulatory. The content of the newsletter can be persuasive but avoid appearing merely self-serving.

One goal of sending out a newsletter is to encourage people to visit your web site, so include links throughout the newsletter that link to Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitchspecific sections of your website.

The newsletter should include information that is not yet available to the general public. By providing details that are not yet available in the off-line media you will be able to encourage your readers to continue looking for the arrival of your newsletter.

One question asked about electronic newsletters is how often they should be sent. There are no hard and fast rules for how often you should send out electronic newsletters. Newsletters that provide interesting and relevant information can be sent on a daily basis. Other newsletters are better suited for a weekly format. If you separate your newsletters by more than a month, you run the risk of readers forgetting you. However, providing your readers with information that is timely and relevant is more important than sticking to an arbitrary schedule. If something newsworthy has occurred, feel free to send out a special edition even if it is not yet time for a new edition to be sent.

Finally, offer recipients the choice of HTML or text versions of your newsletter. Some people simply do not want to have HTML files clogging up their email, while others prefer the flexibility it provides, so give them a choice.

To learn more about good writing, consider TheCapitol.Net’s Writing Workshops. To learn more about communicating effectively with the media, consider their Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 6.1 Tips for Email and E-newsletters

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Developing your Organization’s Media Message

Organizations can have multiple messages they wish to convey to stakeholders and the media at any given time. There are many ways a campaign message can be created, but here are four basic steps that can help to ensure the process goes smoothly.

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First, you must have agreement on the goal of the message. There is usually little debate when the goal is clear, such as supporting an effort to get Congress to pass a bill. In some cases, goals might not be clear and it will be necessary to clarify specific goals.

Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford FitchOnce the goals for the campaign message have been agreed upon, the next step is to identify the target audience–who the message is intended for. Do some research and identify their needs and interests. Ask yourself what their values are and how those values relate to your organization. A smaller audience significantly enhances the chance that your message will be successful.

Next, you need to develop and clarify the language you will use in your message. Words serve as the building blocks for any successful public relations campaign. The language you use in the campaign is critical, and can make the difference between success and failure. The choice of words can also have policy implications–journalists are always on the lookout for inconsistency. The language you use must mesh in a seamless manner with the actual policy. When deciding on the language, also consider your target audience. Ask yourself what words and tone will resonate best with the target audience.

Test your message with your target audience. It is well worth the time and effort.

Finally, be creative. Boring messages do not succeed. Competition for the attention of the public and the media is fierce. What images and phrases can be used to connect with the audience? Make your message stand out.

To learn more about developing a memorable message, look at our 2-day Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 3.5 Campaign Message Development

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Connecting your Message with your Audience

When you develop a communications plan, the goal is to get your message across to your intended audience. To connect your message with your audience, there are six common techniques you can use to accomplish your goal.

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One of the most persuasive tools in any communication plan is the use of numbers. However, make sure your numbers are solidly researched. Research them, double-check them, and then check them again. Statistics can be moving targets and you do not want to find yourself in a position of delivering a message that contains outdated or inaccurate statistics. One outdated or incorrect fact can cause the audience to question the remainder of your message.

Convey to your audience specific examples. Examples allow you to illustrate to–and connect with–the audience the way in which something functions in the real world. Do not just tell your audience something; provide them with an example that demonstrates how your proposal provides specific benefits.

Demonstrations can also be quite persuasive regarding any issue related to technology Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitchor science. Taking your audience through a piece of software or a website is much more effective than simply trying to convey that experience through the use of words.

Analogies can be extremely powerful. Analogies provide an easy way for the audience to connect to your message–they also provide interest and appeal to your presentation.

Bringing out a real individual who can tell a real story is much more persuasive than trying to use an expert or politician to get your message across to the audience. It is one thing to tell your audience something and something entirely different to hear the same thing from a real person that inspires compassion in the audience.

Another effective technique is to draw upon the memories of the audience and their own life experiences in order to persuade them of your position. Personal memories and experiences are powerful and compelling.

To learn more about connecting with your audience and communicating effectively with the media, consider our Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 3.10 How to Connect your Message with your Audience.

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The Importance of Online Communication for Advocacy and Legislative Affairs

Politics as a whole has been completely transformed by the emergence of the Internet. While pre-Internet forms of media still continue to dominate Washington, there is little doubt that online communication is having an impact. Today the Internet and associated online tools of email, blogs and other social media are considered to be indispensable tools for anyone involved in public affairs. These cost-effective methods are able to reach millions of people almost instantly.

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There are several important differences between older forms of media and newer, online forms of media. One of those differences is that online communication greatly increases the complexity of messages. While traditional forms of communication allowed for two or three core messages, we can now have multiple messages using online communication.

In addition, message delivery can now be completely unfiltered as a result of the ability to communicate online. This was not the case with traditional forms of media, in which communication was filtered directly by the media. While messages featured centralized control in the past, today that centralized control has been removed in online communication.

Another important difference between traditional forms of media and online communication is that interactive communication is now possible. The receiver can communicate with the sender. In the past, only one-way communication was possible. This has made it much easier for the public to become involved in issues that affect them on a daily basis.

In order to compete in today’s environment it is imperative that you have a comprehensive understanding of the tools available to you. Trying to navigate the world of public policy and politics while using strategies Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitchfrom yesterday is one of the fastest ways you can find to be ignored.

Developing an online communication agenda ensures that each of your public policy issues blend seamlessly with your offline goals. These goals typically include the promotion of an agenda, increasing membership or followers, enhancing productivity, feeling invested in a cause, and raising money.

To find out more about how you can use online communication methods to further your cause or issue, consider TheCapitol.Net’s Media Relations for Public Affairs Professionals course and our Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

TheCapitol.Net also has Capitol Learning Audio Courses that can help you learn more about how best to use different tools and techniques to communicate more effectively.

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