PR tools and tactics

When practitioners need to deliver information to the media, they can choose from several PR tools and tactics. Some of these tools (things you prepare) and tactics (things you do) may be sent to the media with other materials that supplement them. (See supplementary tools later in this section.)

PR tools

Audio news release (ANR) – Most of these taped news releases, sent to radio stations, feature voice actualities of organization spokespersons or representatives. An ANR may be sent with paper copy of a wrapper to be used by the newscaster. The wrapper also may be pre-recorded. An ANR usually contains spot news or an organization’s reaction to spot news or a current issue.

Billboard announcement – A brief message, submitted by non-profit or community groups, on community needs and activities. They are run free of charge on community cable television channels.

Bylined articles – Articles written mostly for trade and business publications. The article byline is that of a key player in the submitting organization.

Camera-ready features – Columns or feature stories – usually evergreens – ready to be used by a newspaper. They include heads, graphics, and photos and are sent either on glossy sheets (repro proofs), disk, or CD-ROM or are posted on the organization’s website. They comply with newspaper standards in that they seldom mention the name of a product or company more than once. The content either is newsworthy in itself or the facts presented bestow a benefit upon the reader. (Also called sponsored editorials.)

Chatter sheets – Sheets with interesting, timely, and brief bits of information (e.g. trivia, historical milestones, consumer tips, etc.) on themes or topics relevant to an organization that are sent to DJs to use during their shows.

Community calendar announcement – A brief description (who, what, when, where, and perhaps why) of a community need or activity, included in a radio or television “community calendar” segment.

Community notice – A brief description (who, what, when, where, and perhaps why) of a community event, need, etc., listed free in a special section of a newspaper or periodical. (Those focusing on events often are called event listings.)

Feature – A story that gives detailed information on an issue, a trend, a situation, an industry, a company or organization, or a person. A feature often focuses on the human element, and most are designed to enlighten, entertain, and/or educate. Feature stories can be submitted to community newspapers and magazines (query first) on paper or on disk. Camera-ready features can be created and sent to community newspapers as well. Ideas for features can be pitched to various media.

Filler – A short piece of interesting but minor or untimely material that the print media can use to either fill space or to provide community interest information.

Free speech message – The broadcast version of the guest editorial, these are opinions presented by an individual or group on a topic of general public interest. They are taped at the radio or TV station.

Guest editorial – An analysis of or commentary on news events or public concerns, written by someone outside the publication whose credibility is based on his/her knowledge of a particular subject and/or position in an organization.

Letter to the editor – A letter written for and sent to a newspaper or magazine to – among other things – present an organization’s position, make a correction, or respond to another story or letter.

News release – A news story written for and released to the news media, particularly newspaper. News releases submitted to newspaper are written according to CP style guidelines. When a news release is prepared for radio, it is written according to BN style guidelines. A news release can be distributed on paper, on disk, by email, by a PR newswire, or posted on a website. A news release has a flag with the word(s) News or News Release in large type near the top of the “page.” When the information in a release is community oriented, the flag can read Community News. Other alternatives include Sports News, Business News, etc.

Promo – A broadcast announcement that promotes an upcoming program or activity on a radio or TV station. If an organization is involved in a project with the station – as a sponsor or a participant – a promo may be done mentioning the organization’s name and/or address and/or slogan.

PR prop – Inexpensive but interesting and relevant items sent with “soft” PR materials to attract media attention and, perhaps, serve as props for the visual media, particularly television.

PR photographs – Photographs taken for publicity purposes and submitted with cutlines to the print media. Photos may illustrate a news release, fact sheet or other PR tools.

Public service announcement (PSA) – A broadcast announcement, for which no charge is made, that promotes the programs, activities, or services of governments (nonpartisan), nonprofit organizations, or other groups serving community interests. Information for PSAs can be prepared in point form, as a script, or pre-recorded.

Radio program or feature – Taped news and public affairs features provided by an organization at no charge to radio stations. Programs and features may be on such topics as consumer hints, author interviews, and new product information.

Reader tip sheets – Sheets that contain helpful tips on various subjects for media audiences. They are designed to be used “as is” by the media.

Social media release (SMR) – An enhanced news release, the SMR follows the sample principles of newsworthiness as the traditional news release, but it’s augmented by various bells and whistles such as audio, video, social bookmarking links, photos, and RSS feeds.

Video news release (VNR) – A videotaped news story produced by an organization and distributed to television newsrooms. VNRs are particularly useful at times of crisis or when an organization has an angle based on unusualness or human interest. VNRs may be accompanied by B-roll footage.

PR tactics

Audio phone feed – Providing radio stations with a special number they can call to tape one or two minutes (or less) of information you have recorded for continuous automatic sending. This provides stations with actualities they can use.

Interview – An organizational spokesperson is interviewed by a reporter at the request of either the organization or the reporter. A broadcast interview can be live or taped for presentation later. An interview for the print media may be for the primary purpose of providing the reporter with the information she/he needs to do a story on the organization or with facts, quotes or other information for another story.

Media availability – Informing reporters that a spokesperson will be available for interviews on a specific date(s) at a specific time or times at a specific location.

Media briefing – A session designed to provide background information or explanation rather than spot news to interested media representatives who often are given background materials as well.

Media centre or press room – A room designated exclusively for the use of reporters. Some institutions, such as the White House, have year-round press rooms or centres. Other organizations set up centres on or off their own premises on as as-needed basis and for a limited time only. Along with these physical rooms, Web media centres are becoming increasingly popular.

Media drop – This involves arranging to have a celebrity, spokesperson, mascot, etc. “drop in” on a radio or TV station. It also refers to dropping off creative PR props and other materials to create buzz and hopefully earn an on-air mention.

Media junket – An all-expenses paid trip offered to reporters so they can witness an event, interview a celebrity, or see a facility. Although not acceptable to straight news media, they are still offered to and accepted by some travel, sports, and entertainment reporters. Reporters may receive PR tools such as bios, media kits, photos, etc., as well as “freebies.”

Media participation – Obtaining the support of a particular media outlet or outlets regarding an event or cause. This could involve promos, prizes, ticket giveaways, or a range of celebrity activities.

Media preview or showing – A showing or performance prior to general availability, public release, or actual opening.

Media tour – A client or an organization spokesperson is sent out to visit media outlets – in town or out of town – for interviews and appearances. Another kind of media tour involves traveling to media outlets to brief key journalists.

News conference – A media event organized by someone who wishes to make an announcement directly to the news media. News conferences usually are called to provide reporters with details on spot news. Media kits usually are given to reporters who attend the news conference.

Photo opportunity – Providing an opportunity for the media to obtain a photograph(s) or videotape footage of a newsworthy person/people and/or an interesting happening.

Product plug – An agreement between a producer and a company to use a product or service in exchange for a product/service mention.

Publicity stunt – An interesting or unusual “event” created strictly as a publicity vehicle. It has sufficient human interest or unusualness to make photo and/or story material newsworthy or publication or broadcast.

Radio media tour (RMT) – A series of pre-planned telephone interviews between a spokesperson and a successive group of radio stations.

Satellite media tour (SMT) – A spokesperson in one location is interviewed via satellite by TV journalists elsewhere.

Talk show appearance – Placing your spokesperson on a talk show in electronic media where he/she can speak with callers.

Visit to an editorial board – Meeting a newspaper’s or magazine’s editorial board to offer insight into organizational policies and procedures or to present positions on current and important issues. Representatives of large organizations are most apt to be invited to such a session.

PR Pitching

One key to successful placement rests in the ability of the practitioner to sell the gatekeeper on the newsworthiness of the story. Pitching involves approaching an editor, producer, news director, or reporter and trying to interest him or her in writing, covering, or airing a possible story, covering an event, or doing an interview. The following PR tools all are used when pitching to the media.

Column note – A brief pitch to a columnist, providing him or her with a piece of information relevant to her/his regular column.

Media advisory – A written notice sent to media providing information (who, what, when, where, and why) on a news conference or other newsworthy but not necessarily immediate story or event the sponsoring organization would like covered.

Media alert – A written notice sent to media providing information (who, what, when, where, and why) on harder, more timely news. If alerts are used indiscriminately, the effect becomes muted.

Media contact list – A list of organizational experts, with the topics or subject matter on which they are qualified. A contact list can be supplied to the media as paper copy, on disk, or on your website.

Pitch letter or memo – A one-page pitch in letter or memo format that sells the recipient on having a specific person participate in a public affairs program or talk show, providing expert opinion for a breaking story, or participating in a joint contest or other promotion. A TV memo is a type of pitch memo designed specifically to sell TV gatekeepers on story ideas, while a query letter is a type of pitch memo directed to editors of periodicals.

Query letter – A one-page pitch to a periodical that sells the recipient on a story idea, the person and organization supplying that idea, and the relevance of the idea to the periodical’s readers.

Story tip sheets – Pages that contain leads for stories that the reporter may want to develop and sources for him/her to contact.

TV memo – A written pitch to a television news director, assignment editor, or producer. It includes a summary of the news content (including the five Ws), a list of photo opportunities, and a list of possible interview subjects. A TV memo may be accompanied by a fact sheet, backgrounder, bio, or other supplementary PR tools.

Supplementary PR tools

Backgrounder – A document that contains background information on a person, organization, issue, etc. A backgrounder provides more extensive information than is generally included in stand-alone PR tools such as news releases.

Biography (Bio) – A brief account of a person’s life or a portion of that person’s life. The document may also be called a profile.

B-roll – Supplementary or back-up video material that may accompany a VNR. B-roll generally follows the primary material on the same cassette.

Electronic media kit (EMK) – A package for television that contains a VNR and B-roll footage. Depending on how it is delivered, it may include a copy of the script as well as supplementary PR tools such as backgrounders, fact sheets, etc.

Fact sheet – A short document that provides information, usually in point form. It is used to support other PR tools such as news releases. Fact sheets provide details on an organization or event.

Graphics – Artwork (drawings, charts, graphs, etc.) or photographs provided by practitioners to help illustrate a story.

Media kit – A package consisting of a news release and supporting documents that are usually bundled together in a two-pocket folder with the release on the right and supporting documents on the left.

Position paper – A document stating the organization’s position on some public issue. Position papers may be distributed in response to media requests or inquiries, they may be included in media kits, or they may be sent, with a covering letter, to all media interested in the organization’s position on a certain issue.

Sidebar – A sheet with information that offers more detail on the main news release. It could be a brief human-interest story or information that includes graphics such as charts, graphs, etc.

Taped actualities – An audiotape that has an interview with or speech by a spokesperson. The broadcast media can use excerpts as soundbites.

PR Tools of the trade

Practitioners also make use of the following “tools of the trade” to assist them with their publicity and media relations endeavours. These PR tools are not designed to be seen by or sent to the media.

Briefing book  – A collection, often in a loose-leaf binder, of briefing material provided to management or other corporate spokespersons prior to a news conference or other event. It consists of potential questions plus suggested answers and, often, fact sheets, backgrounders, etc.

Editorial calendar – Many publications, primarily trade and business periodicals, plan content and themes up to a year in advance. An editorial calendar lists the special editorial focus for each issue.

Media Database – A media database is a structured directory of journalist and influencer contact information. This allows communications professionals to search and find the right people to reach out to when seeking earned media coverage. Learn how media databases can help you find the media contacts your looking for.  Read Media Databases: The Ultimate Guide.

Media directory – Practitioners can buy a general (all media), geographical (Canada, U.S., European, etc.), specialty (health, business, environment) or customized listing of publications and broadcast stations that includes key personnel, contact information, etc. The directory may be in print form, on CD–ROM, software, or online.

Media list – A list of media outlets, with key news gatherers and gatekeepers relevant to an organization’s publicity objectives and audiences. It includes names, titles, contact information, and often brief information on features and deadlines. Using a variety of resources, including media directories, practitioners can create and update their own lists. If funds are available, they can subscribe to an electronic service such as Marketwire.

Media monitoring/analysis service providers – These companies track their clients’ media coverage and provide them with comprehensive reports and/or access to a database that provides detailed information on content, tone, distribution, etc.

Publicity manual – A document that contains information on mass media outlets relevant to an organization. While it has all the information that is in a media list, it also contains data on deadlines, information on reporters, and notes based on the creator’s experiences with various media.

PR wire service – A commercial enterprise that provides news releases and other PR tools at no charge to the mass and new media. Organizations pay the service to disseminate their materials.

Web media centre – A special page or pages on the organization’s website that is designed specifically for the news media. The media centre contains pages devoted to breaking news, news release archives, supplementary materials such as backgrounders and fact sheets, an organizational calendar of upcoming events, addresses and phone numbers, and a site map for the centre. There also should be links to other pages on the site.

Re-printed with permission from Introduction to Public Relations, by Claudine Wilson, APR. ISBN: 978-1-55323-498-2

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