5 tips for writing a great press release

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As a PR student, it is important to develop the confidence to write a good press release as soon as possible, it is an essential skill that will always be needed. I remember when a former LCC student spoke about his assessment day for the Edelman graduate scheme and one of the tasks was to write a press release. He was against an English literature graduate who was not aware of what a press release was – so use your advantage as a PR student to nail the art now.

Keep reading for my top tips for press release success!

  • Get to the point – the 5 w’s and one h, do not underestimate the power of the who, what, when, why, where and how. The most important information should be in the ‘top line’ of your press release, 10 words or less is the goal.
  • Keep it clear and concise – journalists receive hundreds of press releases everyday, so make sure yours stands out. Ensure you have a great subject line, the structure is professional and that your headline attracts attention straight away.
  • Know the difference between passive and active sentences– it is essential to be clear, concise and to the point with every sentence, no jargon! Read each sentence and ask yourself, can I write this in a more concise way? – the answer is probably yes, you can.
  • Think from a journalist perspective– what do they want and what will make news? Research each journalist before you contact them, they are more likely to run your story if it is something that interests them personally. Also, keep in mind the deadlines of each publication to ensure you submit your release in plenty of time.
  • Use interesting quotes and images – quotes and images bring a story to life. Quotes are a great way for important information such as facts and statistics to stand out. And images are a proven way of increasing engagement, so to top off your engaging copy, use a relevant image to support and enlighten the story!

P.s. Janet Murray’s book ‘Your Press Release is Breaking my Heart’ gives a great insight into selling your story in the media – it is definitely worth a read!

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A visit to Edelman New York

UnknownNever did I ever imagine myself inside Edelman New York, asking questions on digital communication and life in PR. It was an inspiring day that I will never forget. In fact, I never imagined myself venturing half way across the world to visit New York city, without the company of my wonderful mother or boyfriend- a very small PR student visiting the ultimate city of New York, this was a real test of independence! New York had always been top of my bucket list, a place I have always dreamt of visiting. And yes, it lived up to my expectations and more.

Two weeks ago, a small group of London College of Communication’s PR students visited New York city (the home of PR) and I left feeling extremely inspired, refreshed and motivated. The highlight for me, was visiting Edelman’s office in New York. Edelman is a leading global communications marketing firm, the office in New York is home to 800 communicators specialising in consumer marketing, corporate and public affairs, digital engagement, health and science communications, financial communications, sports and entertainment marketing and research. I thought I would share the key points that I learnt from my day at Edelman.

  1. PR is changing – there is a continued disruption of the traditional communication functions. Although the traditional values of communication and quality of writing are still essential, creativity and digital competency is now just as important. Edelman now call themselves a ‘communications marketing’ agency,  demonstrating how PR firms are becoming increasingly multi-functional, having to compete with Ad agencies and becoming integrated/marketing/comms rather than just PR firms. They spoke about how the company is now hiring people not just from PR backgrounds but also from lots of different disciplines such as, Engineering, Graphic Design, English Literature and History graduates, to bring as much diversity to the agency as possible. This reiterated the importance, to stay open-minded as a PR student and to have as many skills as possible to bring to the interview table.
  2. Agency > In house PR – I have always been more attracted to the idea of working in-house for a company or brand that I am passionate about, to work with a small, creative team of like-minded individuals. However, Edelman changed this mindset of mine and I left feeling utterly inspired and passionate to work for an agency such as Edelman. The company seemed to have such a positive team spirit and the diversity and differentiation of day to day activities, proved very exciting and attractive. Working for a global agency also opens up lots of opportunities to travel within the job, which is an amazing opportunity when working as a PR. I got such a positive feel from the agency, it is definitely an environment I aspire to work in.
  3. Edelman has possibly one of the best views of New York… 

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I feel very privileged to have been given such a wonderful insight into New York’s leading PR firm. I would like to thank my course leader, Adrian Crookes, for organising the day and Edelman, for such an inspiring experience and making us feel so welcome.

Lessons from the professionals

Since the start of the academic year, one hour every Thursday has been dedicated to listening and learning from inspirational PR practitioners from all areas of the industry. I have found the masterclasses extremely beneficial, acting as an opportunity to speak to PR professionals, learn about different roles within the industry and ultimately, network!

Here are 3 masterclasses that particularly stood out for me:

1. Will O’Neil from WE Comunications – before joining WE, Will worked at Weber Shandwick and We are Social. With 12 years’ experience of hiring ‘some of the sharpest minds working in the industry today’, Will shared what he looks for when recruiting for PR positions and how to stand out from the crowd. He also talked through WE’s creation of the Volvo campaign, demonstrating how you can be hugely successful on a very small budget. I was utterly inspired by Will’s passion for the industry and the work of WE Communications. Take a look at their Volvo campaign!

2. Lynsey Fox – now works at London College of Fashion as the Media and Communications manager. Lynsey shared her experience in the PR industry and how she has got where she is today. Her work experience included: Senior Account Manager at Freuds, PR Manager for Hugo Boss and Freelance PR Manager for Monsoon Accessorize. But what stood out for me the most, was how positively she described her time working at M&S as their Press officer for Lingerie and Special Projects. She explained how rewarding it is to work in-house for a brand that you are passionate about, to see it succeed and grow. She worked on the campaign ‘We Boobed’ after the crisis over DD+ bras being more expensive than smaller bras. She emphasised how important it is in PR to sometimes just hold your hands up and say sorry.

I was inspired by her excitingly diverse experience and positivity, I left the room feeling very positive about the industry I have chosen to be in.

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3. LCC PR graduates, Perception vs. Reality – possibly the most refreshing talk of the year. Four recent graduates came back to LCC to give insider knowledge about their life as a student on the course and their transition from University to the PR industry. It was so uplifting to see previous students from my course now in successful PR roles and ultimately, living the dream! The panel included:

Aaron Shardey – graduated 2015 – now working at Edelman London

Gabriella Soderling – graduated 2015 – now working at the technology agency Hotwire PR

Maury Chasteau – graduated 2014 – now working in-house in financial PR for investment bank First Capital

Fran Jankowiak – graduated 2014 – now working at fashion agency Pop PR

It was stimulating to listen to the graduates praise the course and how they feel it complimented and set them up for real world. Although, the success of an individual is dependent on the individual and not their course, it was refreshing to hear the success stories from people who were once in my shoes and put my dreams into perspective.

I would like to thank my course leader, Adrian Crookes, for organising these masterclasses.

If you have been inspired talking to a professional within the PR industry, please do get in touch – I would love to hear from you! 

Understanding what goes into a press conference

For one of my units this year, BA Public Relations teamed up with 21st Century Tiger – a charity based in London Zoo, who work to support tiger conservation projects around Asia.  We were asked to create an innovative membership scheme, to encourage long term supporters and advocates for the charity. We then had to organise a press conference and pitch our campaign to the charity and our course leaders; BA journalism students would also attend in attempt to create an accurate experience by challenging us with questions. We were briefed by the client, 21st Century Tiger, and then it was all down to us to have the campaign and press conference ready in just a few weeks.

Firstly, in our groups we were asked to create a PR agency, fully branded and established. Then, as ‘Cosmo PR’, we held regular team meetings to come up with the idea for our membership scheme. After weeks of planning, creating posters, business cards, writing invitations and organising the event, we were ready for the big pitch!

I was to represent the CEO of Cosmo PR and speak at the press conference on behalf of the agency. At first, 21st Century Tiger was a charity that nobody in the group knew anything about, this identified the importance of detailed research and demonstrated that you can learn to speak accurately in an area you previously may not have been confident in. I was also responsible for hosting the team meetings and keeping track of our progress as a group- this was an huge test of leadership and organisation skills, but I embraced the challenge and thoroughly enjoyed the role.

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The 19th February 2016 marked the day of the press conference. As a team, we felt quietly confident (but also quite nervous) as we worked extremely hard to ensure we were prepared. Our membership scheme (Tiger Champion) was based on loyalty, giving family orientated rewards back to it’s members to encourage long-term support. Overall, we felt our work paid off and we were genuinely pleased with how the conference went.

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We are still awaiting our grades for the unit; but nonetheless, the whole experience has given us a small insight into the world of PR, providing us with invaluable experience which undeniably, will pay off in the future. I would like to thank my course leader, Adrian Crookes, on behalf of my group, for such a great opportunity!

Psychology and it’s role in PR

The main purpose of Public Relations is to communicate information to a public, a skill which undeniably demands the need for persuasion. Therefore, as a PR professional, I think it is essential to understand human psychology and how people react to certain stimuli- essentially, how the human brain works.

Back during the first term of my studies (September 2015), I discovered Edward Bernays, also known as the ‘father of Public Relations’ and a leader in decision making. He was the nephew of Sigmund Freud and generously tapped Freudian theory to develop some of the most unprecedented PR campaigns of 20th Century.

Determined to alter the way humans act and feel, he applied Freud’s work to understand what goes into human decision making. Rather than appealing to rational thought, Bernays focussed on more primal needs; he was the first to show American corporations how they can make people want things they didn’t need, by linking mass produced goods to their unconscious desires.

The relationship between PR and psychology was pushed to the back of my mind until recently, where we have been looking into ethical practice of PR, which brought human psychology to the surface again.

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As an aspiring PR professional, I now think it is essential to understand the foundations of Public Relations and the history of where it began. Edward Bernays has had a remarkable impact on modern day Public Relations and as a result, I feel every budding PR should work to integrate his findings on human psychology with PR practice.

3 key things that I have taken away from Edward Bernays:

  1. Understand your audience/client.
  2. Never be afraid to take a risk.
  3. Make sure every decision is underpinned by ethical consideration.

I would also thoroughly recommend a very interesting documentary series called The Century of the Self (available on Youtube). It tells the story of the influence Edward Bernays had on the 20th Century and how propaganda was turned into PR after the Second World War.

3 days in Copenhagen

Just before christmas, my boyfriend and I decided to visit Copenhagen- to explore a new city & enjoy Denmark’s festivity. Here are the key places that stood out for us, that I would recommend to anyone wanting to visit the city.

1.- The Tivoli Gardens

This really was the most beautiful experience, with lovely restaurants, unique christmas stalls, nostalgic rides and Copenhagen’s famous ‘glog’ (very similar to mulled wine), it is impossible not to feel festive! The lights were incredible,  it felt as though I was part of a fairy-tale.

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2.- Torvenhalle

The most AMAZING food market I have ever experienced. If you arrive hungry, you will definitely spend a fortune. It had a lovely atmosphere, with incredible coffee bars and food stalls. This was a perfect way to spend a saturday morning and get to know Danish food.

 

3.- Neighbourhood

This was certainly my favourite meal of the trip, serving potentially the worlds best organic pizza and cocktails. I cannot fault this even if I tried.

 

4. Mikkeller Bar & Brewery

Mikkeller Bar is the perfect place to go for a beer. It had a really nice, intimate atmosphere with around 25 beers on draft (Cameron loved it). They serve all their beers in wine glasses, which I thought was a nice touch- I definitely didn’t feel too manly drinking my ‘american dream’ beer out of a wine glass.

 

5. The Botanical Gardens

This is typically known for its extensive complex of historical greenhouses, complimented by beautiful grounds to explore. This was a really lovely part of the trip as it was something neither of us have experienced in the UK.

 

6. Nyhavn

And finally, you cannot go to Copenhagen without visiting the classic town of Nyhavn. We walked here from the city centre, which only took about half an hour. There were lovely shops, cosy restaurants and lots of traditional Danish culture. We then visited the infamous ‘Little Mermaid’; it was quite an adventure finding her from the harbour town, but we saw some lovely sites along the way.