WWWWAAAA! The 8-step news release

In these days of posts, likes and tweets, it’s easy to overlook some of the old fundamentals of PR – such as the humble news release.

I was prompted to write this, er, post, after a new LinkedIn contact asked me for pointers on drafting a news release for a national newspaper.

It was the late Frank Jefkins, Rentokil’s former PR chief, who invented the SOLAADS outline for the model news release – subject, organisation, location, advantages, application, detail and source.

Since I could never quite recall this I decided a few years back to coin my own mnemonic.  My eight-point outline echoed my frustrated yell as I wrote releases, and possibly that of some recipients: WWWWAAAA!

This mixes some of Frank’s trusted formula with the open-ended questions that journalists are trained to ask. So what does it stand for? Let’s use the ‘announcement’ of the mnemonic itself to illustrate:

1          WHAT is the story? ‘Time-saving news release formula announced,’ or similar.

2          WHO is the story about? It’s announced by yours truly and aimed at busy PR practitioners or anyone who wants to write their own release.

3          WHERE is the location? This could include the venue of the announcement, the company’s base or the market’s geography, or possibly all three. 

4          WHEN did it happen? This is the timing of the announcement or ‘happening.’

5          ADVANTAGES? The release model helps save time and makes sure the story includes all the essential points.

6          APPLICATION? The model can be used day-to-day by practitioners, or included in media relations courses and induction packs.

7          ADDITIONAL INFO? Add more details here, such as the   downloadable WWWWAAAA! template or the iPad app (neither of which exists!) Tell readers where to get more info on the aide memoire and the company behind it.

8          ASK? Immediately after the release, add the details of the contact that journalists should approach for more info.

Oh, and: Ends.

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PR – the leader’s power tool

I agree with a recent observation by Ketchum Pleon’s Rod Cartwright that ‘PR is a key tool for conveying leadership at a time when leaders are under intense scrutiny.’

With the mainstreaming of social media, leaders and their PR counsel need to be attuned to the variety of different digital platforms available and know how to engage through each channel in an authentic way.

Social media, with their emphasis on real-time conversations and sharing with customers and other stakeholders, render the old ‘top-down’ communications model completely obsolete.

Planning communications campaigns follows a similar pattern to before, but with a few twists. Leaders and organisations need:

1  A clear mission and objectives for communication – allied to business objectives

2  A set of core messages about the organisation, its brand and      product offerings, for consistent communication. But blogger beware: social media engagement requires subtlety, not ‘in your face’ corporate messaging

3  Clarity on target audiences for communications engagement

4  The creative big ideas and solutions for engaging with key stakeholders. Remember that the ideas needs to be translatable into stories and conversational threads to maintain interest and build relationships

5  Appreciation of ‘register’ – the conversational tone of voice that replaces the old ‘promotional copy’ or ‘speechifying’ approaches. If you want to sell via social media, don’t be salesy! 

6  Measurement – what will success look like? Beware, though, of relying on just counting outputs like numbers of followers and likes and find ways to assess outcomes for reputation and sales. And don’t wait for the perfect metrics system before getting started!

Back to my opener – to hear Rod’s comments in full – and other commentators – check out this short video http://bit.ly/KiaQGG  shot at the recent ‘Power of PR’ conference in London.

Reflections

Here I’ll be sharing reflections on PR and marketing in the digital age. Many of the fundamentals of good communications remain the same as before – clear strategic goals, messages, audience targeting and ROI metrics. With social media continuing to evolve, the possibilities for two-way engagement and building lasting relationships with stakeholders have never been better. And the best ideas and campaigns have yet to come!

Please feel free to follow me on twitter: @newtonpr 

I look forward to hearing from you.