Tag Archives: media

Why headlines have become the story.

Pushed for time, I’m skim reading again. Glancing down the story list on BBC news on-line I take in the main news of the day without clicking. Now I’m flicking through the pages of the Evening Standard looking at the photos and then taking 30 seconds to scan the underlined bits of the school newsletter. It is much harder these days to get me to stop and read the full version because there is so much media competing for my attention. So, in this busy busy world the headlines have had to become the story. 

Ticker tape news headlines now run across the bottom of the TV screen, on mobile phones, on bill boards and in school/hospital/hotel receptions. Text alerts are the one sentence headline that has to tell the whole story.

Now think about the way you use social media – Twitter is just a series of headlines and those links on LinkedIn and Facebook – do you actually open them or just read the top few lines that display on the page?

Once you get this, you know that you are implicated too. It’s not just about how we consume, it also has to translate into how we produce – because we all ‘do’ content now.

So make your headlines count.

Confusingly there are 2 approaches here. One is to accept that your audience is going to want to swallow the information in one bite, so you need total transparency. This has to be upfront, honest and factual;

2 dead in Solent jet ski crash

The other way in is to tease the reader into opening the link. Here you can try clever, funny and irresistible. It’s hard and it’s a gamble – so good luck with that. Ideally you can be both witty and transparent, handing over both a piece of useful information and an invitation to find out more – like,

10 things you need to know about social media marketing

or, The New York Post’s,

Headless Body In Topless Bar

There are puns ; “Diageo reports spirited growth in whisky sales.”  

and then there are just times when punctuation causes confusion; “Hospital sued by 7 foot doctors.”

But nobody can rival The Sun for headlines. In Feb 2009 to accompany a picture of a Kestrel and a Barn Owl  fighting over food:

“Hawk Kestrel manoeuvres in the park”

or on the marriage of Elton John and David Furnish,

“Elton takes David up the aisle”

and finally a Yorkshire tale of foot and mouth disease – not the Sun I think,

“Sheepless in Settle”.

Something to think about while you’re composing your masterpieces. Do you have any favourites?

What does she do all day?

I am always telling people that they should share more of themselves online.

Successful businesses on Twitter let us into their lives in the most fascinating way with behind-the scenes snippets of the world they inhabit. I love hearing about menu meetings with chefs and chats with wine suppliers or tales of wonderful new product discoveries.

So – deep breath – I thought I’d tell you a little bit about me and what I get up to all day.

So much of my working life is spent in front of the computer that I have decided to use my time out in the world to really challenge myself – so I have signed up for a half marathon. The increasingly painful running sessions give me the chance to explore the lovely Berkshire countryside where I live and exercise the dog at the same time – what’s not to like?

The downside is that I am knackered and now have to find time to schedule a nap after my long runs! Today I did 9 miles and am sitting a little gingerly on the chair, but I am nevertheless refreshed and raring to go.

Most of my work at the moment involves social media of one sort or another and I am thrilled to see many of my long-term goals paying off. As a one woman band I often have to decide on the best way to do things by myself so I am delighted with this success. I have discovered that it really is possible to base your entire PR effort on social media and the more people who realise this the better! No need for horrid cold calling and spray and pray press releases. Over time you can make the contacts you need to succeed using social media alone.

When I am not running and performing social media magic I have been known to get involved in other writing projects, including blogs, copywriting, editing and other forms of intelligent and imaginative tap tapping on the keyboard (tell me what you need and I’ll tell you if I do it)

And then there comes a time in the day when I close it all down and dedicate myself to my kids (although they need me less and less). When they come home from school they are invariably grumpy and want feeding, feeding again and taking to things – and who can blame them, I wouldn’t want to be at school all day – been there and done that.

I am delighted to be able to be there for them – my proper career was as a BBC newsreader and journalist, which I adored, but it would not have left me any time to be the mum I want to be. I do sometimes regret that they never got to hear me on the radio – but I do voice overs sometimes and they are not that interested, so maybe I would have been disappointed?

And then it is time for DH to return – the life of the commuter is a hard one and so it’s best smiles on and a freshly cooked dinner on the table – perhaps a well deserved glass of wine? (if he sees this he will smirk as 1950s housewife I am not, but I am a decent cook)

That’s me then –  how about you?

P.S. I positively welcome new projects so if there is something you think I can help you with, do give me a shout!

How to avoid press release road rage

There’s a lot of noise and fury about press releases at the moment. People grumble about how much they hate them – how unimaginative and old-fashioned they are – how insulting and how infuriating.

I wonder if we’ve lost sight of what a press release was supposed to be in the first place? To me it is a means of communicating an idea (or information) from one person to another.

It doesn’t really matter how that message is sent – so long as it is relevant and to the point.

Some people put press releases online for search engine purposes but that is irrelevant here because they are clearly not trying to communicate useful ideas – they simply want to boost their profile artificially with Google. If you read any of this badly written gobbledy gook you will quickly realise that they don’t expect anyone to actually write about it.

So, I think the words Press and Release are holding up our efforts to communicate. If instead of saying “we need to send out a press release” we said,”we need to let people know about this” – we might be getting somewhere.

Obviously there are many different ways to let people know something and by refusing to tie yourself to a rigid format, like a press release, you can come to it fresh every time.

Thinking hard about each message – who might be interested and how they might want to hear about it – is the answer to wiping out press release road rage.

There will always be people who resent you contacting them with any kind of message. Some journalists and producers just love to be affronted and being affronted by a pr person is their favourite. There’s not a great deal you can do about them. Having said that, I do try to work out what they are so cross about and what it is they really want. The answer is usually a story that’s going to win them a book deal or get them on the front page – sadly I don’t often have one of those.

Effective communicators – either born or trained – know this already. It is not news to them that each message should be tailored. Where people struggle is when they are locked into tired processes which dictate that there has to be a press release – or when clients don’t really understand how it all works and ask for what feels safe.

Such a lot of this game is luck and timing – or simply lucky timing. Your idea arrives at exactly the point where producer A is thinking of doing a story about your thing. Our job is to try to get the right messages, to the right people at exactly the right time and now in the right format.

Good luck with that! And remember, to increase your chances of success – come to it fresh every time.

P.S. I have not listed all the alternatives to the press release – the point is not to be prescriptive and I would love to hear your ideas – but for what it’s worth I prefer an e-mail with the option of more information on request, but whatever you do don’t refer to that as a press release!

Why You Need To Act Now In An “Always On” World

Have you heard of David Meerman Scott?

He specialises in real-time marketing and talks about it on his blog Web Ink Now

His main point is that we live in an “Always On” world. We encounter opportunities all day long as we meet people and  interact via social media and as a result we need to be fleet-footed and flexible enough to seize those chances whenever they appear. Waiting to run ideas past the board is going to cost you dear in the “Always On” world.

As someone with a background in 24 hour news, this makes perfect sense. If a story drops on the newswires you need to check it, verify it and broadcast it as soon as possible, because if you don’t, another channel will.

News did not always move this fast. There was a time when a journalist in the BBC Radio Newsroom would be given one story to write first thing in the morning, which would not be due on air until 6.0 clock that night. He or she would literally have nothing else to do all day and consequently could afford to spend a good part of it in the pub.

By the time I came along, news bulletins were every half an hour. This meant that if a story broke we could actually broadcast it then and there instead of waiting until the next major bulletin, which could be some hours away.

In his book “Real-time marketing and PR” David Meerman Scott exhorts us to both live and respond in the here and now. There’s no point sitting around scratching your head about an opportunity that comes your way. You need to respond instantaneously and have the clearance and the confidence of your boss/clients to do that.

This means listening to conversations online to find out what is current  and acting on it – engaging the media about what they are going to write, not what they have already written – and using your social media relationships to make the most of all opportunities.

In a world which is always on can you afford not to be first with the news ?

Tell The Story You Want To Tell

I’ve been talking to  my brother. He is a journalist too.

He reckons we are cursed by a desire to find out how things work. Not in a “take-the-drill-to-bits” kind of way, but a need to figure out how society works, the  court system, schools and the media itself.

I like to think that I know how women’s magazines work, I’ve been reading them long enough. I picked up my first copy of Cosmopolitan when I was in Primary school.

Back then the human interest stories were all about housewives who had had enough of ironing their husbands’ shirts and had decided to get a business degree and become the CEO of a hugely succesful company.

Then it changed and the CEO women were all pining for some work life balance and had begun to downshift to the country. One even started a baby food company from her kitchen table, or was that a film with Diane Keaton?

Now you are most likely to read about a woman with a fascinating job in publishing who has also decided to set up her own mime company while training to do stone therapy. (Is she just unhappy do you think?)

The thing is, the magazine is telling us a ‘story’ about women’s lives. This may not fit in with you and what you are doing at all, it may not even be true but this is the story du jour and while that prevails that is the story they will be running.

If you want to use the media you have a choice.

Tell the story you want to tell, (you have unprecedented access to free publishing e.g. blogs) or ride the wave of current trends and fit in with the current story being told.

Either way is perfectly valid, the choice is yours but it helps to understand how the system works.

How to be extraordinary (if you have the time.)

When I first read about Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 hours I didn’t expect to be living some of them myself, minute by tortured minute.

I am having a bit of a Gladwell moment. His name is never far from my lips, sometimes bracketed by expletives, as I scrape the snow from my windscreen on the way to another of my daughter’s 6am training sessions.

For those of you not familiar with his work Malcom Gladwell has made a name for himself explaining the ordinary in an extraordinary way. In ‘Blink’ he looked at the social science of first impressions, in ‘The Tipping Point’ he documented the way ideas can go viral and in ‘Outliers’ we meet the concept of the 10,000 hours.

Basically 10,000 hours is what it takes to make someone exceptional at what they do as opposed to just talented. You can apply it to the Beatles who played relentlessly in their early years or to Bill Gates and the hours he spent programming. There are other fascinating ideas in the book but you must read those for yourself.

What interests me, is that I have a daughter, a county level swimmer, who trains 4-5 times a week and I am the one who takes her. Together we clock up hours at the pool and several more preparing to go. But I worked out that on the basis of Gladwell’s thesis my girl would have to keep this up for another ten years and would still have only have got 2,000 hours on the clock, by which time she would be 20.

This rather dispiriting calculation  leads me to the conclusion that ;

  1. Said daughter just doesn’t have what it takes to be the next Rebecca Adlington.
  2. I need to get up at 5.30am some more…a lot more.

But wait. Is this what we want ? Am I swim mom ? or just a rather tired parent trying to do her best by a child who has turned out to be quite good at something ? Just because a genius journalist/social scientist has told me why people excel above all others doesn’t mean we have to, does it ?

I think my conflicted position may be explained by British attitudes to failure (it’s not really that bad is it ?) but I know that won’t play well with the Association of British Swimmers. So to them, I do promise to try harder.

Meanwhile I am looking forward to Malcom Gladwell’s book of collected essays, in particular the one about Dog Whisperer Cesar Milan and yes since you ask, I do have a dog,no pressure then.