PR pros get attention with tipsheets
When PR pros at the U.S. Green Building Council needed to round up resources in their Green Apple Day of Service, they didn’t write stories telling volunteers to get donations.
Instead, they produced a tipsheet called “Five tips for a successful Green Apple Day of Service.” That approach was so effective that it helped the council earn a Public Relations Society of America Silver Anvil Award.
Explain “how to,” and watch reporters pick up your release — and readers dig into your piece.
How to write a tipsheet
Here are eight steps for making the most of your next tipsheet:
1. Draw readers in with how-to stories.
Tipsheets are popular because they deliver “news you can use to live your life better.” So explain how to do whatever it is your organization helps people do.
These tipsheet topics from other Silver Anvil Award winners might inspire you:
- Cigna offered an interview opportunity on “how people can get more use out of their health coverage.”
- Novartis Animal Health, makers of Deramaxx canine pain-control medicine, gives tips for how to know whether your dog is in pain.
- Korbel Champagne Cellars outlined “Top Ten Signs He’s About to Pop the Question,” “Top Ten Tips to Secure a ‘Yes!’ During Proposal Season” and tips for avoiding the “Top Ten Proposal ‘Don’ts.”
- Select Comfort, creator of the Sleep Number bed, offered tips for “making the most of your sleep schedule,” “Back-to-School Sleep Lessons for Parents” and “Secrets of Sleeping for Two: Sleep Tips for Pregnant Women.”
- UPS developed a release on “10 tips for worry-free packing, shipping.”
- VOX vodka created a tipsheet on how to “Infuse your party with style: Tips and trends for a spectacular summer soiree.”
- Xerox published “10 signs that suggest you need to enter Xerox’s office makeover contest.”
- MSA Safety Works released a tipsheet called “10 Easy Ways to Improve Safety During Home-Improvement Projects.”
2. Reach flippers and skimmers with a deck.
Add that one-sentence summary after the headline to deliver more details. Instead of:
Five tips for a successful Green Apple Day of Service
Five tips for a successful Green Apple Day of Service
Draw volunteers, donations for your Martin Luther King Day event
3. Set up the story in the introduction.
Here’s the lead for the U.S. Green Building Council tipsheet:
It could be better. The best tipsheet intros:
- Illustrate your point in the lead. Grab attention by showing instead of telling with a story, statistic, analogy or other concrete, creative element.
- Give context in the background section. Summarize “Why these tips now?” with research or broader context.
- Summarize your story in the nut graph. Now that you’ve grabbed reader attention by showing, it’s time to tell folks where you’re taking them. Here’s where you transition into the tips.
4. Organize tips logically.
Choose the right structure for the body of the story:
- Alphabetical structure is best for glossaries, for instance.
- Chronological structure is the right choice for a series of steps. (As everyone who’s ever put together an Ikea bedside table well knows.)
- Hierarchical structure works best for top 10 lists.
The U.S. Green Building Council used hierarchical structure, which makes sense for this piece.
- Think locally: One of the greatest things about the Day of Service is that it provides an entire community with the opportunity to show their commitment to improving their local schools. Get local businesses in on the act by asking for donations of whatever they can offer — supplies and materials like dirt, paint, tools and more. Something maybe even easier for them to provide: gift cards or store credit for your group to use toward your Day of Service needs.
- Potluck! With a large volunteer pool, you can often gather all the supplies (food or otherwise) you need by sending around a checklist and asking everyone to chip in. People have all kinds of things kicking around in their basements and garages, like shovels, hammers, rakes, ladders and extra tools. Use your event’s registration page on mygreenapple.org to ask volunteers and others to contribute the supplies you’ll need. Volunteers can RSVP for your event right on the site and let you know what they’ll contribute.
- There is such a thing as a free lunch! Local delis, grocery stores or restaurants might provide free lunch (or coffee, waters, juice, etc.) for the Day of Service. Offer them the opportunity to post their own signage on site so they’ll get some good publicity for their good deed.
- Get online: In addition to mygreenapple.org, community sites like Craigslist.com, Idealist.org and volunteermatch.org can help you publicize your event, recruit volunteers and search for free or cheap supplies and equipment.
- Get creative: After the 2012 Day of Service, we heard from several creative project captains who went outside traditional giving circles for support of their projects. Companies such as Ernst & Young, Starbucks, Home Depot, Target and many others provided local projects with volunteer support and materials.
5. Add bold-faced lead-ins to each item on the list.
Lift ideas off the screen: Show scanners the items on the list with bold-faced lead-ins.
Then make sure those bold-faced lead-ins are parallel and action-oriented. You should be able to begin each bullet with the same phrase, “To make your event successful …”
- To make your event successful, think locally. Check!
- To make your event successful, potluck! Hmmm … that doesn’t work. Instead, use the imperative voice: Host a potluck.
- To make your event successful, there is such a thing as a free lunch! Nope; doesn’t work. You need the imperative again: Offer a free lunch.
- To make your event successful, get online. Check!
- To make your event successful, get creative. Check!
6. Number your list.
If you promise five items in the headline, demonstrate that you’ve met that promise in the list itself. So:
- Think locally.
- Host a potluck.
- Offer a free lunch.
- Get online.
- Get creative.
7. Break up paragraphs.
Aim for an average of 42 words or less. Go too much longer, and people will skip your paragraphs.
The U.S. Green Building Council’s paragraphs weigh in at an average of 67 words each — 60% longer than recommended. But was easy to wrestle them down into these crisper chunks, averaging 38 words:
- Think locally. The Day of Service gives communities the chance to help improve neighborhood schools. Get local businesses in on the act by asking them to donate supplies like dirt, paint and tools — or even gift cards or store credit.
- Host a potluck. Your volunteers may well have shovels, hammers, rakes, ladders and extra tools kicking around in their basements and garages. Use your event’s registration page to ask them to RSVP to bring the supplies you’ll need.
- Offer a free lunch. Ask local delis, grocery stores or restaurants to provide breakfast, lunch, coffee, water and juice for the Day of Service. Invite them to post their own signage on site so they’ll get publicity for their good deed.
- Get online. Publicize your event, recruit volunteers and search for free or cheap supplies on community sites like Craigslist.com, Idealist.org and volunteermatch.org, as well as mygreenapple.org.
- Get creative. Companies such as Ernst & Young, Starbucks, Home Depot, Target and many others delivered volunteer support and materials to our 2012 Day of Service projects. Don’t be afraid to outside traditional giving circles to get support for your project.
8. End with a bang.
Draw to a conclusion with a:
- Wrapup that includes a call-to-action. Restate your key message in the penultimate paragraph.
- Kicker that leaves a lasting impression.
And remember: The common theme for a successful Green Apple Day of Service is, “Don’t be afraid to ask.”
Need more inspiration?
Check out some of Ann’s tipsheets.
Get more tips on tipsheets.