Chapter 14: News Releases, Media Alerts, and Pitch Letters

News Releases: Simple document whose main purpose is the dissemination of information to mass media such as newspapers, broadcast stations, and magazines.

Lisa Barbadora, director of public relations and marketing for Schubert Communications, gives tips for “news-centered” releases:

  • Use short headlines and subheads to highlight main points and pique interest.
  • Don’t use generic words such as “world-class” to position your company.
  • Tell the news.
  • Don’t use lame quotes.
  • Follow the Associated Press Stylebook and specific publications’ editorial standards for dates, technical terms, abbreviations, etc.

A few questions should be answered to give the news release direction:

  1. What is the key message?
  2. Who is the primary audience for the release?
  3. What does the target audience gain from the product or service?
  4. What objective does the release serve?

Three reasons why you should use the inverted pyramid structure in a news release:

  1. If the editor doesn’t find anything interesting in the first 3 or 4 lines, it won’t be used.
  2. Editors cut stories from the bottom.
  3. Readers don’t always read the full story.

Media Alerts: Memos used to let the media know about an interview opportunity with a visiting expert or alert them that a local person will be featured on a network t.v. program.

Fact Sheets: Distributed to the media as part of a media kit or with a news release to give additional background information about the product, person or event.

Media Kits: Prepared for major events and new product launches.  The basic elements are:

  • The main news release
  • A news feature about the development of the product
  • Fact sheets on the product
  • Background information
  • Photos and drawings with captions
  • Biographical material on the spokesperson
  • Basic brochures

Pitch Letters: A short letter or note to the editor that tries to grab their attention. 

This information was taken from the book  Public Relations Strategies and Tactics, Ninth Edition by Dennis L. Wilcox and Glen T. Cameron.

Published in: on April 29, 2009 at 12:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 13: New Technologies in PR

The Internet gives PR people a multifaceted form of worldwide communication and extensive access to audiences for strategic research opportunities.  The following are a few of the main uses of the Internet by PR pros:

  • Email Distribution:  Ex: messages to individuals, transmission of news releases, pitch letters to media offices.
  • Web Sites:  Provide a way for organizations to tell Internet users what they do, to publicize projects, and to support policies.
  • Blogs, Moblogs and Vlogs:  A blog is a regularly updated online journal that also has links to news items and stories on the web.  Mobs post content to the Internet from a mobile device.
  • Really Simple Syndication (RSS):  A web based process of searching and gathering together news and information that is then fed to the user’s computer or wireless device.

PR pros should keep the following facts about the Internet in mind:

  1. Its reach is worldwide.
  2. The content of the Internet is virtually uncontrolled. 
  3. Issue tracking can be more thorough using the Internet and far more immediate.

The Internet introduces several innovations in existing research methodologies.  Here are just a few:

  • Hybrid Surveys
  • Online Focus Groups
  • Online Experiments
  • Copy Testing
  • Online Theater Research

In addition to  the benefits of the Internet, there are also problems PR people should keep in mind:

  • Search engines are prioritizing search results based on fee payments from companies and organizations, biasing search results.
  • There is still a fairly high skill level required to set up a functional website.
  • Controversial security problems and legal questions of copyright infringement, libel, invasion of privacy, and pornography remain unsolved.

News Release Delivery: More than a dozen American companies deliver news releases electronically to large newspapers and other major news media offices.  Releases are transmitted by satellite tend to receive closer, faster attention from media editors than those arriving by mail.

Video and Audio News Release Distribution:  Satellite transmission makes the fast distribution of video news releases possible.

Teleconferening:  Groups of people separated by many miles can interact instantaneously with strong visual impact, saving time and transportation costs.

Webconferencing:  A less expensive alternative for videoconferencing.

This information was taken from the book  Public Relations Strategies and Tactics, Ninth Edition by Dennis L. Wilcox and Glen T. Cameron.

Published in: on April 29, 2009 at 12:20 am  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 12: PR and the Law

Traditionally, libel was a printed falsehood.  Slander was an oral statement that was false.  Today, courts use defamation for both.

A person filing a libel suit must prove that:

  • The false statement was communicated to others through print, broadcast, or electronic means
  • The person was identified or is identifiable
  • There is actual injury in the form of money losses, loss of reputation, or mental suffering
  • The person making the statement was malicious or negligent

People in PR must be particularly sensitive to the issue of privacy in at least 4 areas:

  1. Employee Newsletters: One should avoid anything that might embarrass an employee or subject an employee to ridicule by fellow employees.
  2. Photo Releases:  PR departments should take the precaution of filing all photographs, dating them, and giving the context of the situation.
  3. Product Publicity and Advertising:  An organization must have a signed release on file if it wants to use the photographs or comments of employees and other individuals in product publicity, sales brochures, and advertising.
  4. Media Inquiries about Employees:  PR personnel should follow basic guidelines as o what information will be provided on the employee’s behalf.  Employers should give a news reporter only basic information.  Provide confirmation that the person is an employee, the person’s title and job description, and date of beginning employment.

Copyright means protection of a creative work from unauthorized use.  There are several copyright guidelines PR people should keep in mind.  Here are a few:

  • Ideas can’t be copyrighted, but the expression of those ideas can be.
  • Permission is required to use segments of TV programs or motion pictures.
  • Photographs of current celebrities or those who are now deceased can’t be used for promotion and publicity purposes without permission.

A trademark is a word, symbol, or slogan, used singly or in combination, that identifies a product’s origin.  There are three basic guidelines regarding the use of trademarks:

  1. Trademarks are proper adjectives and should be capitalized and followed by a generic noun or phrase
  2. Trademarks should not be pluralized or used in the possessive form.
  3. Trademarks are never verbs.

Regulations by Government Agencies:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has jurisdiction to determine that advertisements are not deceptive or misleading.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) closely monitors the financial affairs of publicly traded companies and protects the interests of stockholders.  The 3 concepts most important to PR people are the following:

  1. Full information must be given on anything that might materially affect the company’s stock.
  2. Timely disclosure is essential.
  3. Insider trading is illegal.

Investor relations personnel must also avoid such practices as:

  • Unrealistic sales and earnings reports
  • Glowing descriptions of products in the experimental stage
  • Omission of unfavorable news and devlopments
  • Leaks of information to selected outsiders and financial columnists

Commercial speech doesn’t have the same 1st Amendment protection as other forms of speech.  The government may regulate advertising that is:

  • False
  • Misleading
  • Deceptive
  • That promotes unlawful goods and services

This information was taken from the book  Public Relations Strategies and Tactics, Ninth Edition by Dennis L. Wilcox and Glen T. Cameron.

Published in: on April 28, 2009 at 9:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 11: Reaching a Multicultural and Diverse Audience

As the demographics in the US change, there are three major age groups that deserve special attention from PR professionals:

  • Youth and Young Adults:  Today’s 15-24 year olds has over $350 billion of the market’s purchasing power.  They are an important demographic because they influence their parents’ buying decisions, have their own purchasing power, and will mature into adult consumers.
  • Baby Boomers:  Born between 1946 and 1964.  They are concerned about health care, insurance, retirement planning, and personal investing.  Many corporations have taken a keen interest in reaching them because of their wealth and numbers. 
  • Seniors:  Age 65+.  Public relations people should ignore the stereotype of “old folks” when appealing to seniors.  

Here are some characteristics of seniors PR people should keep in mind:

  1. They are often less easily convinced than young adults, demand value in the things they buy, and pay little attention to fads.
  2. the vote in greater numbers than their juniors and are more intense readers of newspapers and magazines.
  3. They form an excellent source of volunteers for social, health, and cultural organizations because they have time and often are looking for something to do.
  4. They are very health conscious, ,out of self interest, and want to know about medical developments.

There are 5 basic concepts that should be considered when developing a communications campaign for multicultural consumers:

  1. Organize a team with an inherent understanding of the customs and values of the various demographic groups you are trying to reach.
  2. Understand that consumers of diverse cultural backgrounds respond better to messages that are culturally relevant.
  3. Remember that consumers of diverse cultural backgrounds are extremely loyal, and once the product becomes part of their life, they’ll keep buying it.
  4. Use the primary language of the audience.
  5. Use a spokesperson who represents the audience.

Other Emerging Audiences:

Catholic and Evangelical Groups:  From a marketing public relations point of view, it is clear that products structured around religious themes sell.

The Gay/Lesbian Community:  They have a high level of brand loyalty and tend to purchase products that target advertisements to gay consumers and support gay issues.

The Disability Community:  PR people should be sensitive to their needs and how to effectively communicate with them.

Women:  “Today’s women hold an overwhelming share of consumer purchasing influence, making more than 80 percent of household purchase decisions, and spending over $3.3 trillion annually.”

This information was taken from the book  Public Relations Strategies and Tactics, Ninth Edition by Dennis L. Wilcox and Glen T. Cameron.

Published in: on April 28, 2009 at 7:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 10: Conflict Management

Strategic conflict management is the use of public relations to influence the course of a conflict or crisis.  Its key components are:

  • Strategic- for the purpose of achieving particular objectives
  • Management- planned, deliberate action
  • Competition- striving for the same object as others
  • Conflict- sharp disagreements resulting in a direct threat of attack from another entity

The Conflict Management Life Cycle shows the “big picture” of how to manage a conflict.  Strategic conflict management can be divided into 4 phases.

  1. Proactive Phase:  this includes activities and thought processes that can prevent a conflict from arising or from getting out of hand. 
  2. Strategic Phase:  in this stage, an issue has been identified as an emerging conflict and the PR people need to take action.
  3. Reactive Phase:  Once the conflict reaches a critical level, the PR professionals must react to events in the external communication environment as they unfold. 
  4. Recovery Phase:  In the aftermath of a crisis, the organization should employ strategies either to repair its reputation in the eyes of key publics.

Issues management is a proactive and systematic approach to:

  • Predict problems
  • Anticipate threats
  • Minimize surprises
  • Resolve issues
  • Prevent crises

Public relations counselors W. Howard Chase and Barrie L. jones were a couple of the first practitioners to specialize in issues management.  The process is defined in 5 basic steps:

  1. Issue Identification:  Organizations should track the mainstream media to learn what issues and conerns are being discussed.
  2. Issue Analysis:  Once an issue has been identified, the next step is to assess its potential threat to the organization.
  3. Strategy Options:  If the issue is potentially damaging to the company, the next step is to consider what to do about it.
  4. Action Plan:  Once a policy has been decided on, the next step is to communicate it to all interested publics.
  5. Evaluation:  With the new policy in place and communicated, the last step is to evaluate the results.

Here are a few tips on what to do during a crisis:

  • Put the public first.
  • Take responsibility.
  • Be honest.
  • Never say, “No comment.”
  • Designate a single spokesperson.

This information was taken from the book  Public Relations Strategies and Tactics, Ninth Edition by Dennis L. Wilcox and Glen T. Cameron.

Published in: on April 28, 2009 at 6:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 9: Public Opinion & Persuasion

Opinion leaders are described as:

  • Highly interested in a subject
  • Better informed on an issue than an average person
  • Avid consumers of mass media
  • Early adopters of new ideas
  • Good organizers who can get people to take action

There are two types of leaders:

  1. Formal opinion leaders:  These are also called power leaders.  Examples: elected officials, presidents of companies
  2. Informal opinion leaders:  These may be role models who are admired and emulated.  Example: celebrities supporting certain issues.

There are several theories about mass media effects:

  • Agenda-Setting Theory:  Theory says that the media content sets the agenda for public discussion.  The media tells people what to think about but not necessarily what to think.
  • Media-Dependency Theory:  When people have no prior information regarding an issue, the mass media plays a role in telling them what to think.  They depend on the media for information.
  • Framing Theory:  The framing of issues occurs because such framing impacts- public understanding and policy formation. 
  • Conflict Theory:  Conflict in the public arena can be a constructive process that builds toward consensus.  They generate or promote conflict to gain positive position in the marketplace of ideas.


Persuasion is the freedom of speech used by all individuals to influence opinion, understanding, judgment, and action.  Persuasion is used to:

  1. Change or neutralize hostile opinions
  2. Crystallize latent opinions and positive attitudes
  3. Conserve favorable opinions

A number of factors are involved in persuasive communication:

  • Audience analysis:  Knowledge of audience characteristics such as beliefs, attitudes, concerns, and lifestyles
  • Source Credibility:  Makes the message more believeable if the source is credible. 
  • Appeal to Self-Interest:  People are motivated by 8 basic appeals:  power, respect, well-being, affection, wealth, skill, enlightenment, physical/metal vitality
  • Clarity of Message:  Most persuasive messages are direct, simply expressed and contain only one primary idea.
  • Timing and Context:  The environmental factors must support the message and the audience should be familiar with the context of the message.
  • Audience Participation:  Affects a person’s change in attitude or reinforcement of beliefs.
  • Suggestions for Action:  People endorse ideas only if they are accompanied by a proposed action from the sponsor.
  • Content & Structure of Messages:  Experts use devices such as drama, statistics, surveys, examples, testimonials, mass media endorsements, and emotional appeals.
  • Persuasive Speaking:  There are several techniques successful speakers use, such as yes-yes, which is when the speaker starts with questions that the audience will answer “yes” to.

Public relations people should be careful when using persuasion.  Here are a few ethical criteria for using persuasion:

  • Don’t use false evidence to support arguments or claims.
  • Don’t intentionally use unsupported reasoning.
  • Don’t represent yourself as an “expert” on a subject when you’re not.
  • Don’t deceive your audience by concealing your real purpose.
  • Don’t advocate something in which you do not believe yourself!

This information was taken from the book  Public Relations Strategies and Tactics, Ninth Edition by Dennis L. Wilcox and Glen T. Cameron.

Published in: on April 28, 2009 at 5:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 8: Evaluation

The fourth step of the public relations process is evaluation.  It measures the results against established objectives set during the planning process.  Professor James Bissland defines evaluation as “the systematic assessment of a program and its results.  It is a means for practitioners to offer accountability to clients- and to themsevles.”

There are some basic evaluation questions all practitioners should ask:

  • Was the activity or program adequately planned?
  • Did the recipients of the message understand it?
  • How could the program strategy have been more effective?
  • Were all primary and secondary audiences reached?
  • Was the desired organizational objective achieved?
  • What unforseen circumstances affected the success of the program or activity?
  • Did the program or activity fall within the budget set for it?
  • What steps can be taken to improve the success of similar future activities?

Studies show that 4-5% of a typical public relations budget is spent on evaluations and measurement.  There are three levels:

  1. The most basic level.  Practitioners can measure message distribution and media placements. 
  2. Measures audience awareness, comprehension, and retention.
  3. This is the most advanced level.  It measures changes in attitudes, opinions, and behaviors.

Audience awareness can be measured through survey research that uses unaided recall to determine whether the audience understood and remembers the message.

A public relations practitioner can measure the audiences’ attitudes through baseline or benchmark studies. 

Other ways to measure activities in public relations are:

  1. Communication audits
  2. Pilot test and split messages
  3. Meetings and event attendance
  4. Newsletter readership

Editors of newsletters should evaluate readership annually.  These evaluations can help ascertain:

  • Reader perceptions
  • The degree to which stories are balanced
  • The kinds of stories that have high reader interest
  • Additional topics that should be covered
  • The credibility of the publication
  • The extent to which the newsletter is meeting organizational objectives

This information was taken from the book  Public Relations Strategies and Tactics, Ninth Edition by Dennis L. Wilcox and Glen T. Cameron.

Published in: on April 27, 2009 at 11:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 7: Communication

CommunicationModel.jpg Communication Model image by Advocate7x70

Communication, also called execution,  is the third step and the most visible part in the public relations process.  Patrick Jackson, a former editor of pr reporter,  believes it is important for a message to be:

  • Appropriate
  • Meaningful
  • Memorable
  • Understandable
  • Believable to the prospective recipient

There are five elements of communication:

  1. It has a sender/source.  This is the encoder.
  2. A message
  3. A channel, which is the means of which to message is relayed.
  4. A receiver.  This is the decoder.
  5. Feedback from the receiver to the sender.

When it comes to listening to a message, there are two types of audiences:

  1. Passive Audiences:  Individuals in this category pay attention to a message only because it’s entertaining.  They need messages that are creative and stylish.  They are usually lured by photos and catchy slogans.
  2. Active Audiences: These are individuals already interested and looking for more information. 

It is important to produces messages that match your audience.  Here are a few tips for writing clearly:

  • Use symbols, acronyms, and slogans
  • Avoid jargon: Jargon interferes with the message and makes it hard for the receiver to understand it.
  • Avoid cliches and hype words: These undermine the credibility of the message.
  • Avoid euphemisms: This is “an inoffessive word or phrase that is less direct and less distasteful than the one that represents reality”
  • Avoid discriminatory language: PR people should double check every message to eliminate undesireable gender, racial, and ethnic connotations.

The key to understanding how people accept new ideas is through the Adoption Process.  There are five stages:

  1. Awareness: A person becomes aware of an idea, often by means of an advertisement or news story.
  2. Interest: An individual seeks more information about the idea, by picking up a pamplet for example.
  3. Evaluation: The person evaluates the idea on the basis of how it meets specific needs and wants.
  4. Trial: The person tries the product on an experimental basis, for example, using a sample.
  5. Adoption: The person begins to use the product on a regular basis or integrates the idea into his belief system

People approach innovation in different ways depnding on their personality traits and the risk involved.  There are five levels:

  1. Innovators:  These individuals are venturesome and eager to try new ideas.
  2. Early Adopters: These individuals keep up with new ideas and are often the opinion leader for their friends.
  3. Early Majority:  These people take a deliberate, pragmatic approach to adopting ideas.
  4. Late Majority: These are individuals who are often skeptical and somewhat resistant but bow to peer pressure.
  5. Laggards: Very traditional people and the last to adopt a new product.

This information was taken from the book  Public Relations Strategies and Tactics, Ninth Edition by Dennis L. Wilcox and Glen T. Cameron.

Published in: on April 27, 2009 at 7:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 6: Program Planning

Program planning is the second step of the public relations process.  This step is labeled “A” because it is the Action part of the plan.  This is when the organization starts making plans to do something about an issue.  A good PR program needs an effective strategy to support an organization’s business, marketing, and communications objectives.

The 8 Elements of a Program Plan Include:

  1. Situation:  Three situations often prompt a PR program: (1) The organization must conduct a remedial program to overcome a problem.  (2) The organization needs to conduct a specific one time project to launch a new product.  (3) The organization wants to reinforce an ongoing effort to maintain its reputation and public support.
  2. Objectives:  Once you know the problem, you need to establish objectives to fix the situation.  Ask questions such as “Is it realistic?”
  3. Audience: PR programs should be targeted towards a specific audience.  Look at the demographics of the public such as age, income, and education.
  4. Strategy:  This is a broad statement that provides guidelines for the overall program.
  5. Tactics:  These describe the specific activities that put each strategy into effect and help achieve the objectives.
  6. Calendar/Timetable: This depends on the program.  Some may last a few months, and others could last more than a year.  There are three aspects involved:  (1) The Timing of the Campaign- It is important to take into account the environmental and the time when the key messages are most meaningful to the targeted audience.  (2) Scheduling of Tactics- A typical pattern is to focus the most effort at the beginning of the campaign.  (3) Compiling a Calendar- The PR pro has to think ahead to make everything happen in the right sequence at the right time. 
  7. Budget:  Usually the organization establishes the amount of money they would like to put into the project and asks the PR staff to write a plan with that budget.
  8. Evaluation:  Objectives must be measurable in some way to show clients and employers that the program accomplished its purpose.

This information was taken from the book  Public Relations Strategies and Tactics, Ninth Edition by Dennis L. Wilcox and Glen T. Cameron.

Published in: on April 21, 2009 at 8:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 5: Research

Research is an important part in planning, program development, and evaluation process in public realtions.  PR firms spend about 3-5% of their budget on research, but experts believe firms should spend closer to 10%.

PR pros use research in a number of ways.  They use research to achieve credibility with management, to test messages, to prevent crises, to sway public opinion, and to generate publicity, just to name a few.

There are 3 broad approaches to research:

  1. Secondary research:  This includes archival research, library and online databases, and the Internet.
  2. Qualitative research:  This is “soft” data, usually open ended questions, valid but not reliable, and exploratory in nature.
  3. Quantitative research:  This is “hard” data, requires close ended questions, valid and reliable, and uses random samples

Examples of Qualitative Research:

  • Content analysis: This is the systematic & objective counting of information.
  • Interviews: An intercept interview which is when a PR firm conducts the interview in a public place.  The problem is that it is unreliable.  In depth interviews are a PR firms best approach.
  • Focus groups:  This helps identify attitudes and motivations of important publics.  It also lets the firm test out the message before launching the entire campaign.

PR firms must put a great amount of effort into their surveys to receive accurate responses.  They must:

  • Carefully consider wording
  • Avoid loaded questions
  • Consider timing and context
  • Avoid the politically correct answer
  • Give a range of possible answers

PR firms can reach the people they are surveying through mail questionaires, telephone surveys, personal interviews, omnibus surveys, and Web and e-mail surveys.

This information was taken from the book  Public Relations Strategies and Tactics, Ninth Edition by Dennis L. Wilcox and Glen T. Cameron.

Published in: on April 21, 2009 at 7:29 pm  Leave a Comment