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Moved!

March 31, 2011
tags: , ,

Just to let you know, my blog has now moved to a new home. you can find me here: http://www.teawith.me.uk

Five tips for delivering quality copy

March 17, 2011

One of the most common issues I come across in PR is the ability to deliver consistently fresh and engaging copy. When working for clients it’s easy to just hammer out the same message in the same format in press releases and features, especially in b2b and technical PR.

PRs often deal with so many publications, often across a wide variety of sectors, that it can be easier and more economical to rehash an existing feature or press release, only tailoring the minor details.

However, for those aiming to position clients as ‘thought leaders’ and offer editors something new for their publication, it’s important to try and inject something new, relevant and newsworthy to each release or feature.

It’s not often that I write advice style blogs, but below are five key points PRs should bear in mind for almost everything they write for publication.

 

1) Research

Yes, it takes time. But understanding the bigger issues surrounding a specific topic, and including this in copy, demonstrates depth of knowledge to the target audience and adds weight to any key messages.

 

2) Facts and Figures

Provided they’re up to date and from a credible source, facts, figures or statistics can really strengthen a story. Again, this touches on showcasing depth of knowledge.

 

3) Look for the obscure

Bandwagon topics usually offer an abundance of information, which results in very analogous coverage. Digging out a gem of information that no one has uncovered could be what makes your story stand out from the others in the battle for coverage.

 

4) Don’t think like a PR

Always take time to put yourself behind the desk of the editor or in the shoes of the target audience. It sounds obvious but consistently thinking about what’s in it for the target market, rather than just benefits to the client will help with writing far more balanced articles.

 

5) Ask

Part of PR is building up strong relationships, so being able to have a frank discussion with editors about what they need should be straightforward. Asking them outright if there’s something specific they’re looking for shows that PRs are committed to delivering quality copy, not just pushing client products.

 

Good PR is all about innovative ways of delivering information, and although some of the above may be obvious, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded when all the focus is on delivering targets on time.

 

A non-scientific analysis of a scientist

March 3, 2011

I was lucky enough this week to get into Professor Brian Cox’s lecture at the Ecobuild show. The theme was ‘Can Science Save Us?’ and I had expected it to be busy, but the queue for a 4.15pm lecture started at 3pm. It wound around the top floor, down the corridor and all the way down to the bottom of the stairs. The northern professor seems to be swinging on a star at the moment and the both public and press can’t get enough.

Now, having experienced it for myself I completely understand why. Essentially, he just talks about something he loves. And he’s not ashamed to show that he loves science, in fact it seems nothing gives him greater joy than being able to explain to non-scientists just how uncomplicated science really is. He had the audience charmed and yet he didn’t seem to realise – apart from one lady who stood up at the end and announced that she loved him, as grateful as he was, those kinds of declarations obviously still make him uncomfortable.

The field of science isn’t known for its sex symbols; in the professor it may have found its first. But, whether people turned out for a glimpse of the well-known Colgate smile or to listen to what he had to say, the fact is people turned out.

There is substance to the ‘rock-star scientist’; he’s engaging, well-informed and on the ball. He talks like a normal bloke and it’s a Lancashire accent that delivers potentially complex information in simple terms. That fact alone makes him more personable than any other physicist I’ve come across. Not that I can name many, mind you. And I suppose that’s the crux of the matter. He’s given warmth and personality to a subject that has, for a long time, been thought of as cold, clinical and well…a bit dull.

A terrible blurry photo of Brian Cox

He doesn’t seem afraid to stick his head out of the test tube and have an opinion on subjects like the effects of politics on the future of science. At the end of the lecture I had the opportunity to ask him a question and I was intrigued to know if he felt the media were being a help or a hindrance to science and the message of climate change and sustainability. The answer, as I suspected, was that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the media and host Samira Ahmed confirmed that as a broadcaster she’s facing increasing political pressure. It felt like a genuine answer from both of them, not a diplomatic one, and I think this is a big part of the reason so many people are listening to what Professor Cox has to say.

And the answer to the question Can Science Save Us?’ Despite not answering the question in the lecture, a kindly soul in the audience reminded him and he firmly believes so, but education and willingness to understand science’s advances are key to this success.

A Short Sharp Shock

February 24, 2011

I am, by nature I think, a short story writer. It’s not that I don’t believe I have the ability to write a novel or that I think it’s just a bit too much like hard work. Rather,  it’s just naturally what flows from my chipped nail varnish fingertips to the screen.

But making a career out of being a short story writer is almost laughable. Despite a resurgence in the genre in the last few years, it’s still highly unlikely that an agent would touch them with the proverbial. One has to be an established writer with novels bulging from a belt before they’re given due consideration.

The main issue is money; there isn’t any to be made from short stories. I recently read this interview with Lucy Luck Associates on the theshortstory.org.uk which offers an agents view on the viability and revenue expectations that short stories offer. It doesn’t make for positive reading.

This long-standing opinion of the genre is somewhat unfair. It’s a challenging genre to get right, limited length means a small window to draw the reader in, bring the story to a good conclusion and leave the reader satisfied.

It surprises me, given this increasingly fast-paced society we are hurtling into, that short stories have not increased in popularity. With time a precious commodity, surely a short story delivers a hearty but bite size meal? In the time it takes to travel from Victoria to Kings Cross on the Tube, someone could have been blissfully drawn into another world and come back out the other side.

We happily dip in and out of novels, why not short stories? Are they not by nature far more suited to our current here and now culture?

What’s odd is that there are many, many competitions dedicated to the short story, a lot of which have cash prizes. There are also festivals celebrating this style of writing which are very popular and never fail to draw in the crowds.

However this may be where part of the problem lies; it seems to be viewed as the domain of the amateur. Those who dabble in literary endeavours whilst getting on with their real lives. Who may harbour ambitions to be a world renowned author but are lacking several things needed to actually get there. Are short story writers on the whole viewed as wannabes? As enthusiastic hobbyists that create short stories because they lack the lengthy inner prose needed to produce a best-selling novel?

I sincerely hope not, but it’s difficult to remain positive and determined when short stories are so often automatically dismissed by those at the top. Perhaps its time the powers that be looked again at the market opportunities for this clearly much-loved genre.

 

Letters from the Heart

February 23, 2011

I often bemoan the declining art of letter writing, but there’s one type of letter in particular that deserves to be saved from the advancement of digital communication.

Love letters.

Handwritten declarations of feeling, scribbled notes of passion, or carefully worded letters of apology; whatever their purpose, we attach an aura of romance to them.

They map tales of love affairs during wars, of long lost or forbidden love. More often than not these letters are searingly honest; laying bare the deepest of emotions with words filled with hope or despair.

A love letter gives us an outlet to say what we truly mean, to not get flustered over finding the right words when face-to-face with the person who means the most to us.  They are often kept by recipients, bundled away like priceless treasures for safekeeping, and taken out on occasion to read and be reminded of the effect we’ve had on others.

And receiving a letter makes us feel special, knowing that there is someone in the world who cares enough to take the time to sit and write down all the thoughts and air deeply buried emotions.

“To write a good love letter, you ought to begin without knowing what you mean to say and to finish without knowing what you have written.”
-Jean-Jacques Rousseau

That statement captures the abandonment with which love letters are often written, a love email just doesn’t have the same effect. I’m not even sure if you can get a love text. Or how deep you can be in 160 characters. There’s something endearing about rambling declarations of feelings; a flowing stream of consciousness which explains to the receiver all the different ways in which they light up your life.

And the best bit is that they can be written anytime. No need to wait for a special day, or a momentous occasion, just when the notion takes you. Although it’s always better to have someone to send one to.

 

 

What’s the big idea?

February 14, 2011

So David Cameron is on a mission. Que the Mission Impossible theme tune and let’s all watch the action unfold.

Oh wait, we’re the ones who must spring into action according to Mr Cameron. Take back control of our neighbourhoods and mend this broken society we’ve all become embroiled in.

He makes it sound like the whole of the UK has plunged into an episode of Shameless.

Mr Cameron’s bleating calls to arms (minus the actual ‘arms’ part as this would defeat the point of the Big Society) for volunteers to monitor our libraries (if we have any left), pull weeds from our parks (as long as he doesn’t try to sell them off too), and generally monitor everyday occurrences have somewhat of a hall monitor approach to them.

Pretending to remove the power from the state and give it back to the people, but by using people that the government have recruited and deemed suitable for the job seems like a little bit of a Trojan manoeuvre.

I’m not wholly against giving more power to communities, but I’m not sure Mr Cameron or his government has a deep enough understanding of the society they are referring to. They’ve never really had any experience of it, bar what they read in reports or happen to see in the news. It’s like the Pope giving advice on sex.

Most of us that live down here on a day-to-day basis are more than aware of the problems he talks about. They’ve been around for a while and anyone who watches Secret Millionaire will know that numerous volunteer projects already exist in the most deprived areas, they just don’t get any recognition or a lot, if any, funding.

Neither am I against volunteering, however I’m intrigued to know how Mr Cameron intends to entice people, when most viable candidates are working later than ever before and couldn’t afford to get somewhere on top of paying extortionate prices just to get to work. From this perspective it does seem like a bit of a rock and a hard place situation, but from Mr Cameron’s raised vantage point it appears to look like clouds and rainbows.

I’m also a little wary of why this is all over the news now. Call me cynical but I can’t help feeling there’s something else waiting in the wings ready to drop on us and provide an even cheerier start to the year on top of the £1.30 per a litre petrol prices and VAT hike.

Visual Talents

February 9, 2011

I had originally started writing a blog post about about something completely different but I was distracted by some lovely images taken by a friend of mine.  I have a bit of a soft spot for photography, not in the sense that I harbour secret desires to be a photographer, just that I love it as a form of expression.

As a creative person, seeing the different methods other people employ to convey something beautiful, ugly, different or even just plain, everyday occurrences really interests me.  A scene that I might describe one way using words could be shown completely different through an image or, put together, they could enhance each other, giving more power to the imagination.

During a conversation with a very mathematically gifted friend we discussed how I look at things and see words, phrases or sentences, where as he looks at the same things and sees patterns and rhythms, the photographer friend mentioned above said he viewed the same things in a frame. The brain’s ability to process the same vision in accordance with specific individual talent is frankly, quite amazing.

And now I’ve entirely forgotten what else I was going to write about…