NOT Your Father’s News Release

Learn to get the word out in this PR-writing workshop

“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

PR 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?

NOT Your Father's News Release

Beat the odds Learn to put your releases among the 3% to 45% of those that actually get the word out.

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, fewer than 50% of all traditional news releases ever get covered, according to PR Newswire’s own research.

Fewer than 50% of all traditional news releases ever get covered, according to PR Newswire’s own research.

But in this in-house PR writing workshop, your team members will learn current best practices from the Public Relations Society of America’s “national writing coach.” They’ll find out how to go beyond PR 101 approaches to write media relations pieces that get posted and published and reach stakeholders directly.

Specifically, they’ll learn how to:

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Agenda

Think Like a Reporter

Develop stories that media outlets want to run

Some 55% to 97% of all releases sent to media outlets are never used, according to Dennis L. Wilcox and Lawrence W. Nolte’s Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques.

Think Like a Reporter: Develop stories that media outlets want to run

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

Put your PR pieces among the 3% to 45% that actually get the word out. 1

In this session, your team members will 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: Get formulas for 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?
“Ann’s approach helped me showcase the story angle our readers want to read. Best of all, senior management was thrilled with the new style.”
— Loren LeVasseur, public relations supervisor, Coverys

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Write Hot Releases

Tap current best practices, from lead to boilerplate

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

Write hot releases: Tap current best practices, from lead to boilerplate

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

Organize PR pieces to grab reader attention, keep it for the long haul and leave a lasting impression.

In this session, your team members will learn how to organize PR pieces to grab reader 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: What’s really supposed to go into these things?
“Every press release I’ve ever written needs to be completely rewritten!”
— Jennifer Cole, public affairs specialist, USDA NRCS

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Cut Through the Clutter in PR

Measurably boost readability with our targets, tips & tools

Regardless of what you’re writing, Cutting Through the Clutter is the No. 1 way to keep readers reading.

Cut Through the Clutter in PR: Measurably boost readability with our targets, tips & tools

But the stakes are even higher when it comes to PR pieces. That’s because, say, if your lead is too long, Google News might reject it. If it’s too short, Google News will reject it.

Leave this session with “the numbers” you need to measurably improve your readability.

Fortunately, academics have tested and quantified what makes copy easy to read. Unfortunately, that research virtually never makes it out of the ivory tower and into the hands of PR writers who could actually apply it.

But your team members will leave this session with “the numbers” you need to measurably improve your readability. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • Pass the Goldilocks test: Write a headline that’s not too long or too short, but just right. (Google News ignores one in five releases because the headline is too long!)
  • Write a one-minute release: Journalists rarely spend longer reviewing releases, according to a GreenTarget survey.
  • Stop using the most overused PR buzzwords: Journalists and bloggers — not to mention readers — will love you for it.
  • Write by number: What’s the right length for your release? Your paragraphs? Your quotes? Your sentences? Your words?
  • Use a cool tool (to quantifiably improve your copy’s readability. PR pros in our Master Classes have improved readability by up to 300% with this resource.
“This is the best writing class I’ve attended in my 25-year PR career.”
— Mark Alden, PR manager, National Semiconductor

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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.

Write Killer Bites: Turn lame-ass quotes into scintillating sound bites

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.’”

Transform your quotations from bleh to brilliant.

So how can you get the wah-wah out to write quotes that reporters will actually use? In this session, your team members will 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.
“Without question, the best workshop I’ve ever taken.”
— Sarah Julian, director of communications, Oklahoma Public School Resource Center

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Lift Ideas Off the Release

Reach nonreaders with display copy

Sixty percent of your audience members aren’t reading your release, pitch or bylined article, according to estimates by professors at the University of Missouri.

Lift Ideas Off the Release: Reach nonreaders with display copy

So how can you craft PR pieces that reach nonreaders?

Pull readers into your PR pieces, make them more inviting and even communicate to flippers and skimmers.

In this session, your team members will learn how to use your display copy — subject lines, headlines and links, for instance — to pull readers into your PR pieces, make them more inviting and even communicate to flippers and skimmers. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • Reach the 67% of “readers” who skim the news, according to Harris Interactive Poll. (Just 19% read news word-by-word.)
  • Write links that don’t get lost on portals. Plus, avoid the wrath of Google News by adding one essential element to your links.
  • Make the most of the first 11 characters of your headline. Otherwise, potential readers might skip instead of click.
  • Make your release, pitch or other PR piece 47% more usable by adding a few simple elements.
  • And more … Learn other PR writing best practices from the author of PRSA Tactics’ “Writing With Wylie.”
“Every PR pro should take this!”
— Najeema Holas-Huggins, communications manager, Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

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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.

Optimize for search: Master SEO for releases

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.

Learn the latest best practices for optimizing your release.

In this session, your team members will learn the latest best practices for optimizing your release. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • 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.
“Ann has shaken up my perceptions about what PR writing should look like.”
— Deb Stenberg, communication director, Federal Way Public Schools

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Get a PR-Writing Workout With Wylie

Take your story from ‘meh’ to masterpiece

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.

Get a PR-Writing Workout With Wylie: Take your story from ‘meh’ to masterpiece

Have your team members bring a laptop and a story to work on. You’ll get a chance to write and rewrite, get and give feedback, and leave with a totally rewritten piece.

Get 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.
“The release I worked on in Ann’s Master Class got 68.5% more page views and 19% more coverage vs. our top competitors than average. It got picked up by two targeted industry publications and resulted in a follow-up interview with our metro daily.”
— Loren LeVasseur, public relations supervisor, Coverys

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Trainer

“Other writing coaches tell you what to do.
Ann shows you how.”
— Roberta Laughlin, vice president, mutual funds marketing, Northern Trust

About Ann Wylie

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.

Ann Wylie runs a training, editing and consulting firm called Wylie Communications. She works with communicators who want to reach more readers and with organizations that want to get the word out.

Her workshops take her from Hollywood to Helsinki. There, she helps training clients at organizations like NASA, Nike and Nokia polish their skills and find new inspiration for their work.

Ann has earned more than 60 awards, including two IABC Gold Quills, for her communications. She is the author of more than a dozen learning tools that help people improve their communication skills, including RevUpReadership.com, a toolbox for writers.

Learn more about Ann

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“Ann is brilliant and arms you with the tools to succeed.”
– Katie Anselmo, internal communication manager, Comcast

Formats

“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

Get your team on the same page with a one-day, 6-hour workshop:

  • Learn tips and techniques for NOT Your Father’s News Release. Includes workbook and handout masters for you to copy. They’ll learn how to:
    • Think Like a Reporter: Develop stories that media outlets want to run.
    • Write Hot Releases: Tap current best practices, from lead to boilerplate.
    • Cut Through the Clutter in PR: Measurably boost readability ls.
    • Lift Your Ideas Off the Release: Reach nonreaders with display copy.
  • See how your team is doing with customization. I’ll use your team’s writing samples as examples in the workshop.
  • Keep them learning after the workshop ends with a three-month membership to Rev Up Readership for up to 30 members of your team.

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Two-day Master Class

Help your team members master the techniques they learn in class with a two-day, 12-hour workshop:

  • Learn additional tips and techniques. The two-day workshop includes additional modules:
    • Write Killer Bites: Turn lame-ass quotes into snappy sound bites.
    • Optimize for Google and Humans: Master SEO for releases.
    • Get a PR-writing Workout With Wylie: Make over your release.
  • Master the techniques they learn in class by applying them immediately, getting feedback from Ann and the group, and rewriting. That’s how we put the Master in Master Class.

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Webinar series

Save travel expenses and reach far-flung colleagues with a webinar series:

  • 4-session series covers the one-day workshop material
  • 6-hour session covers the Master Class material, but without the feedback and practice.

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Add writing guidelines

Want to get all of your communicators on the same page about what constitutes good writing? When your communicators walk out of our session with customized writing guidelines, you’ll be able to:

  • Tell your communicators what to do with “the book” of proven-in-the-lab best writing practices that I share in my Catch Your Readers workshop
  • Show your communicators how to do it with before-and-after examples of your content providers’ own work to illustrate each best practice
  • Help your communicators sell ideas to reviewers and approvers with brief summaries of the research behind the rules
  • Make it easy for communicators to implement the guidelines with four handy one-page cheat sheets that content providers can use to check their own work or to edit others’

BONUS: As I’ll be rewriting some of your team’s writing samples to illustrate the befores and afters, I’ll be able to show your participants “How Ann would have done it” in class — one of the biggest requests we get in feedback.

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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 stories, whether they’re tipsheets, survey stories, HR stories, product releases, webpages, brochures — you name it. Plus, you’ll get before-and-after versions of your own pieces illustrating each of the templates.

WWAD? Find out with this service.

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Questions? Ann@WylieComm.com.

Browse all in-house writing workshops

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[1] Wilcox & Nolte

Free writing tips
  • Get tips, tricks & trends for Catching Your Readers
  • Learn to write better, easier & faster
  • Discover proven-in-the-lab writing techniques