April 28, 2017

NOT Your Father’s Press Release

Get the word out via PR

“Since I attended Ann’s PR writing class and started implementing her tips, every press release I’ve written has been picked up by the media – with stories, interviews and sometimes photos. That’s what I call ROI!”
— Stephanie Sobotik, senior manager, global marketing communications at Freescale Semiconductor

Not Your Father's Press Release: In-house Public relations writing workshop imagePR professionals have been married to the traditional news release format since Ivy Lee created the release more than 100 years ago. Why, then, do we need a new approach?

With 2,500 releases going out each day — that’s one every 35 seconds — the impact of your traditional news release ain’t what it used to be. In fact, more than half of all traditional press releases never get covered, according to PR Newswire’s own research.

In this PR writing workshop, you’ll learn current best practices from the Public Relations Society of America’s “national writing coach.” You’ll find out how to go beyond PR 101 approaches to write media relations pieces that get posted and published, boost your search engine rankings and reach stakeholders directly.

Specifically, you’ll learn to how to:

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“Great step-by-step instructions on how to do it right.”
— Stacy Mayo, assistant account executive, Rhea + Kaiser

Think Like a Reporter

Develop stories that media outlets want to run

Consider the numbers:

  • Two-thirds of business-to-business editors said that fewer than half of the releases they receive are relevant to their publication, according to a survey conducted by Thomas Rankin Associates.
  • Some 65% to 75% of city editors believed media relations pieces promote “products, services and other activities that don’t legitimately deserve promotion,” writes Dennis L. Wilcox and Lawrence W. Nolte in Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques.
  • No wonder some studies estimate that 55% to 97% of all releases sent to media outlets are never used, according to Wilcox and Nolte.

So how can you create PR pieces that are among the 3% to 45% of those that actually get the word out?

In this session, you’ll learn how to think like a reporter to develop story angles that readers want to read (and that journalists and bloggers want to run).

Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • Fill in the blanks to a great benefits lead: You’ll leave with formulas and recipes for crafting leads that sell the story and stand out from the crowd.
  • Move from event to impact: Learn simple steps for transforming your event, speech or meeting coverage into news readers can use to live their lives better.
  • Create two types of stories media outlets want more of (and avoid one they wish they’d never see again!)
  • Go beyond “new and improved” to information readers really want to know about your product.
  • Steal secrets from Silver Anvil winners: What do nationally award-winning PR writers do that you don’t do?

Master the Anatomy of a News Release

Tap current best practices, from lead to boilerplate

Prose is architecture, Ernest Hemingway famously said. It’s not interior design.

So: Are you building a compelling foundation for your PR pieces? Or are you still using structural techniques you learned when you were 19?

Here’s the bad news: The story structure you’re using today probably isn’t helping you get the word out via media relations. In fact, the traditional news structure reduces readership, understanding, sharing and engagement and — according to a study by The Poynter Institute — does “not work well with readers.”

Here’s the good news: In this session, you’ll learn to use a structure that’s been proven in the lab to grab readers’ attention, keep it for the long haul and leave a lasting impression.

Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • Decide between triangles, boxes or lists: Choose a structure that increases readership, engagement and sharing. (Hint: The structure you’re using now is probably doing the opposite.)
  • Steal a trick from The New York Times: Trade in your bloated fact packs for snappy synthesis leads.
  • Build a better benefits lead with our fill-in-the-blanks approach.
  • Avoid PR 101 leads. Still stuffing all those W’s and the H into the first paragraph? Still writing “XYZ Company today announces that …”? It’s time to move on to a more effective approach.
  • Beat the boilerplate blues. Here’s one way to stay off The Bad Pitch Blog.

Write Killer Bites

Turn lame-ass quotes into scintillating sound bites

Half of reporters complain that quotes in releases don’t sound natural, according to a 2014 Greentarget survey. Maybe that’s why 78% of them don’t regularly use quotes from releases.

No wonder! As one of my clients says, “Quotes in news releases sound like the teacher in a Charlie Brown cartoon: ‘Wah wah wah wah.’”

So how can you get the wah-wah out and instead write quotes that reporters will actually use?

In this session, you’ll learn how to transform your quotations from bleh to brilliant.

Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • Write tight bites. Even a lame quote will sound better when you use our quote length targets.
  • Put a quota on quotes. Steal a trick from The New York Times to avoid overquoting.
  • Write quotes that sound human– not like a computer spit them out.
  • Avoid the worst PR clichés. PR Newswire sees 1,284 of these in a single month.
  • Steal techniques from Silver Anvil winners. Make your sound bites sound better.

Cut Through the Clutter in PR

Increase coverage, sharing and more with tight, bright releases

Regardless of what you’re writing, Cutting Through the Clutter can help you keep readers from running screaming from your message.

But when it comes to PR pieces, the stakes are even higher.

If your release is too long, for instance, Google News may reject it. If your lead is too long, journalists may stop reading. If you pack your release with too much hyperbole, you’ll reduce coverage, dilute SEO efforts and kill your chances at going viral.

In this session, you’ll how to write tight, bright PR pieces that increase readership, coverage, sharing and more.

Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • Target the right length to reach the 70% of journalists who spend less than one minute reading releases. (The median release on PRNewswire is three times this recommended length.)
  • Avoid a common PR practice that journalists say “gets in the way” of their doing their jobs, according to one survey.
  • Remove from your lead one but-that’s-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it element that’s obscuring the meaning of your story.
  • Stop relying on the most overused PR buzzwords: Journalists and bloggers — not to mention readers — will love you for it.
  • Write a lead that excites journalists before their internal alarm clock goes off and they move on to the next release.

Lift Ideas Off the Release

Reach journalists, bloggers and readers with display copy

It’s “the dirtiest four-letter word in the English language,” says Evelyn Woods Reading Dynamics: “‘Read.’”

Indeed, more than 70% of journalists spend less than a minute, on average, per release. That means they don’t read your message word by word. More likely, they skim.

So how can you craft PR pieces that reach flippers, skimmers and other nonreaders?

The answer is in your headline, deck, links and other display copy. These elements receive the most readership of all of the words we write. Yet too many PR pros blow off the display copy, writing some elements “the way we’ve always done them” and leaving out other elements altogether.

In this session, you’ll learn how to use your display copy to draw people into your PR pieces, make your releases more inviting and even communicate to flippers and skimmers.

Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • Steal techniques from Silver Anvil Award winning headlines. What do these winners do that you’re not doing?
  • Make the most of the most important word in your headline. Test yours against our checklist.
  • Write links that don’t get lost on portals. The best news release links are unlike any others. Do yours have the right stuff?
  • Avoid Google’s wrath. Learn why Google News ignores one in five releases — and how to make sure yours isn’t next.
  • And more … Get other PR writing best practices from the author of PRSA Tactics’ “Writing With Wylie” column.

Optimize for Google and Humans

Master SEO for releases

Optimizing your release can increase the audience for your news by 538%, website visits by 1,900% and tweets by 800%, according to five side-by-side case studies by SEO-PR and Rutgers CMD.

The good news is, news release optimization takes only a few simple steps. The bad news is, few PR pros know what those steps are. Even some of the best-intentioned pros use SEO techniques that get penalized — not rewarded — by Google.

Bottom line: If you’re still using the SEO tricks you learned five years ago, you are hurting, not helping, your SEO.

In this session, you’ll learn the latest best practices for optimizing your release to get found and read.

Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • Keep up with what Google wants. Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird. Oh my! Find out what SEO practices Google rewards — and penalizes — today.
  • Avoid Google’s wrath. Avoid best practices from last year that Google now treats as gaming the system. The penalty: lower rankings.
  • Link for SEO. Learn where to link, how often to link, how to write a release link (it’s different from every other kind) and what you must add to your links to avoid being penalized by Google.
  • Optimize for semantic search. Now that Google’s gotten smarter, as well as tougher, keyword stuffing can’t help, might hurt. So what’s a writer to do?
  • Write for search engine results pages. Help readers click on, as well as find, your release.

Get a PR writing workout with Wylie

Take your release from ‘meh’ to masterpiece when you practice your new skills on your own work

In the crunch of writing headlines and meeting deadlines, it sometimes seems as if there’s not enough time to pause and consider how you’re doing. But in our practice sessions, you’ll get a great opportunity for reflection and improvement.

Bring your laptop and a story to work on. We’ll give you a chance to write and rewrite, get and give feedback, and leave with a totally rewritten piece.

In these practice sessions, you’ll:

  • Master the techniques you learn in the workshop by applying them immediately. (That’s how we put the “Master” in the Master Class!)
  • Gain valuable insights on your work from your peers and from Ann.
  • Learn to analyze and improve others’ writing — the best skill you can develop for editing others or improving your own work.

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“Other writing coaches tell you what to do.
Ann shows you how.”
— Roberta Laughlin, vice president, Mutual Funds Marketing, Northern Trust

About Ann Wylie

Hi! I’m Ann Wylie. So why should you learn to Get the Word Out With PR Writing from me?

Ann Wylie photo

Get the word out Leave with proven-in-the-lab best practices for reaching readers at Ann Wylie’s in-house writing workshops.

That’s easy. Because I’m a nerd.

I’m a nerd.

I was never happier than when I was in graduate school, gathering information for my journalism thesis. Today, my idea of a great Sunday afternoon is to curl up on the couch with a cat, a cup of tea and a great communication study.

I love researching best practices, formulating techniques and sharing those approaches with others. So I’ve built a career that allows me to do just that.

I’m a trainer.

I taught graduate writing classes at a university for 10 years in my “spare time” — in the evenings after I’d worked a full day as a business communicator and magazine editor. Since then, I’ve traveled from Hollywood to Helsinki to train tens of thousands of writers in nearly 1,000 workshops at organizations like NASA, Nokia and Nike.

I’ve been designated an “IABC Recommended Speaker” for my top ratings at IABC International Conferences. And I serve as the Public Relations Society of America’s “national writing coach.”

I’m a writer.

And I’ve tested my tricks and techniques in the real world. During my tenure as editor of Hallmark’s employee magazine, for instance, CROWN was named the best publication of its kind in the world by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). Since then, my communications have earned more than 60 awards for excellence, including two IABC Gold Quills.

Today, one of the things that sets me apart from many writing trainers is that I practice what I preach. I actually write. In fact, half of my business is writing — newsletters, magazines, websites, brochures and the like — mostly for big, corporate clients. The other half is helping professional writers learn to write better.

Won’t you join me?

Frankly, you don’t have time to do a deep dive into writing tricks and techniques like I do. After all, you have a job. You have a life. You don’t have hundreds of hours to spend each year, digging into the research, finding ways to improve your writing.

Fortunately, all the years I’ve spent nerdishly analyzing, reading and researching writing techniques can cut hundreds of hours off your learning curve.

All you have to do is bring me in for my two-day in house NOT Your Father’s PR Writing Master Class. I look forward to seeing you there!

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“I learned more in this two-day class than I did in my two-year master’s program.”
— Rochelle Juette, communications specialist, Washington Closure Hanford

One-day writing workshop

  • Learn tips and techniques for Getting the Word Out With PR Writing in a customized, six-hour writing workshop.
  • Practice your new skills on your team’s own writing samples.
  • Continue learning after the workshop ends with a three-month membership to Rev Up Readership for up to 30 members of your team.
[Note: Discounted communication association workshops do not include customization or Rev Up Readership memberships.]

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Two-day Master Class

In the crunch of writing headlines and meeting deadlines, it sometimes seems as if there’s not enough time to pause and consider how you’re doing. But in our two-day Master Class, your team members will get a chance to write, edit and rewrite; get and give feedback; and leave with a totally rewritten piece. In the process, they will:

  • Master the techniques they learn in the workshop by applying them immediately
  • Get feedback with specific ideas they can use to improve your work immediately
  • Gain valuable insights on their work from their peers and from Ann
  • Learn to analyze and improve each others’ writing — the best skill you can develop for improving your own work

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Half-day seminar

Just have half a day? Let’s cover Think Like a Reporter and Avoid PR 101 Approaches.

Add writing guidelines

Want to make sure everyone’s on the same page with your new PR writing techniques — including your clients, approvers and reviewers? Let Ann develop customized writing guidelines, based on best practices, for your team. This is “the book” that lets everyone know, “Here’s how we write it around here.”

Your PR writing guidelines will include before-and-after examples of your team’s own headlines, leads, links and other story elements. That means your team will not only find out what they need to tweak, but how Ann would tweak it.

Add templates

Ever wish you had annotated models and checklists for writing your online messages? Let us develop formulas, templates and examples to make your online communications more effective and less time-consuming.

Your team will walk away with fill-in-the-blanks outlines they can use to write your most common types of PR pieces, whether they’re product releases, survey stories, tipsheets — you name it. Plus, you’ll get before-and-after versions of your own PR copy illustrating each of the templates.

WWAD? Find out with this service.

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“A semester’s worth of knowledge in a few hours.”
— Amy Kappler, communications specialist, Burgess and Niple


We recommend that every communication team start their training with Catch Your Readers. In this essential workshop, you’ll learn to use the bait your readers like — in print and online.

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What participants say about Ann’s PR training

Rating: 4.8 – ‎73 reviews4.8-star rating
Great – a must! Highly recommend.

Fantastic! Reinforced some of our best practices, and identified so many more that we can put to action immediately.

Great workshop! So glad I attended. Real takeaways. Ann is a fantastic presenter and so engaging.

Ann presents ideas in a way that solidify the concepts in my mind. Thank you!

I LOVED it! Ann is dynamic, informed and creative!

It was great. I learned a lot and had a good time learning how to edit and rewrite my press releases.

A+. It gave me a chance to reflect on my writing and take away lessons learned to my company.

Ann’s workshop is a fun, informative way to drastically improve my work.

Enlightening. Provides guidance, structure, suggestions, and overall a better understanding on writing for the reader.

Comprehensive learning experience packed with relevant facts and information to back up best practices.

The head of my writing team told me to attend and I can see why! I learned a lot in this course and am excited to apply it!

Progressive. Should be a movement!

Super enlightening, evidence-based tips, tricks on how to engage reporters, readers.

With 8 years of military public affairs experience I was worried this would be just a refresher, but I’m returning energized with a toolkit to shake things up!

The new structure to approach PR writing. The idea of throwing out the inverted pyramid is shocking but I’m for it!

It has changed how I think about my writing. I thought my writing was concise and easy to understand, but I have a lot of room for improvement.

So much great info I had never thought about before. Completely new way of looking at press releases.

Having a solid structure gives me somewhere to start instead of sitting at my desk grasping for straws.

“How to get away from boring releases! Good-bye CEO quotes, good-bye patting ourselves on the back. Hello interesting and entertaining release!”

“Ann has shaken up my perceptions about what PR writing should look like.”

“I truly believe that one tip I learned from Ann has enhanced the interest of the media at least threefold, as we received better media coverage than expected at several events.”

“My releases are tighter and much more attention grabbing. I’ve received compliments from even the biggest critics. I learned more from Ann’s workshop than from all the books I’ve read. This is down-and-dirty information that tells you all you need to know to write a great release. No fluffy stuff — just the tools you need to get the job done.”

“I learned more in an hour than I learned in my last semester in college (earlier this year) as a public relations major.”

“Puts me one step ahead of everyone else writing press releases and trying to get media coverage.”

“My manager came in to my office and said, ‘Wow, who wrote the release you just sent me? It was great!’ Overall I have seen an improvement in my writing skills daily.”

“Today my boss told me that she thinks I’m a ‘wonderful’ writer. (I feel like a million bucks.)”

“I was familiar with Ann through her PRSA columns. I wanted to see if a workshop with her was as idea packed as the columns and tips. Expectation exceeded!”

Ann Wylie's writing workout workshop

Transform Your Message From Meh to Masterpiece Master Class attendees write, edit, mentor each other and leave with a totally rewritten piece.

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Wylie Communications
949 NW Overton, Ste. 1102
Portland, OR 97209

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