By Chloé Payen
I spent 4 years studying Public Relations and Communications at Concordia & UQÀM before graduating in 2013. We focused on many facets of PR such as media relations, project planning, event planning, marketing (to a certain extent), and more stuff stored in my brain’s filing cabinets. After graduating, I thought I had mastered the necessary tools and was ready to join the workforce. It is only a few weeks ago that I realized we forgot to cover one important aspect affecting our field: digitization. We’ve spoken about it as a foreign concept but I hadn’t realized how much it made our field continuously evolve. Therefore, here I am, 2 years later, learning how to adapt what I have learned to the digital era we’re in – #challenge. My example here is a press release. Its evolution is a great way to witness some key changes brought by digitization that can be applicable to most communication tools.
The writing process
Content needs to be scannable more than ever. We all know our press release might only get a quick look. Therefore, it needs to be straight to the point and easy to understand. Simple vocabulary and short sentences are key. Why not add something visually appealing? A video, pictures, perhaps?
Have you noticed how much information is circulating on the web? Check your Twitter feed and think about it – everyone acts as journalists nowadays, relaying information to whoever follows them. This is why, as communications professionals, our content needs to be even more valuable than before. The main difference here is that it should not only be interesting to journalists, it should be thought through directly for your target audience. Remember, information travels faster than ever now – it needs to be well packaged from the get-go. This is where the main evolution of a press release comes in: storytelling.
I was never taught to write a press release as a story. It used to be about respecting guidelines and cramming as many words as possible on one page: answering 5Ws and an H, using a quote, giving more details at the end and concluding with the “-30-” before including the contact info. All this has changed!
In order to interest journalists, PR pros now need to think about their audience’s interest first.
As PR professionals, we need to give life to a once lifeless document – as concisely as possible. We have to start writing stories that can easily be shared on the web & via social media. Basically, today, a press release’s main message needs to be clearly identified in 140 characters. Try developing your story with that in mind – it will help creating shareable content.
The relationship between PR pros & reporters
The rise of digitization and social media not only affects the writing of documents – it also changes the relationship between PR pros & reporters. Building press lists and cultivating relationships with specific contacts is easier than ever.
A few tips on building relationships with key bloggers/reporters:
- Follow the interests of key contacts via social media
- Be aware of their latest articles through monitoring and notifications
- Retweet them directly, share their content
- Comment on their posts so your name becomes familiar
A press release is only one example of how much digitization has changed Public Relations. Information travels faster and people (reporters included) are always on the hunt for unique and sharable content. Therefore, here’s my advice for all of us living the digital change in PR: