Archive for the 'Press Release' Category


5 Ways to Get the Media to Pick Up Your Story – Part 1 of 3

Please welcome guest blogger, healthcare communications professional Rachel Brand who will bring The Side Note a series of three blogs for the next three weeks on health care public relations.

Do you want to write more compelling press releases and earn more coverage?

You should. Health care is ripe with dramatic medical rescues, fascinating technology, unsung heroes and stirring ethical debates. But these stories often don’t get told. That’s because pr pros are writing leads like this:


The new health insurance plan, authorized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is designed to provide coverage to uninsured individuals who have been denied health insurance or been offered only unaffordable options.

Sure, it’s important. But is it interesting? And – will it drive coverage?

1. Lead with the impact

For your next lede, ask yourself out loud, “what does it mean to the man in the green pick-up truck?” You can see him, across the park under the tree, sitting in his rusty forest green truck.

In other words, how does your news benefit, effect or change the lives of real people?

How about:

Thousands of uninsured Americans, desperate for healthcare coverage because they are chronically ill, can now see a doctor thanks to a new federally funded health insurance plan.

But what if your program doesn’t have any direct impact on people, at least not yet? Then…

2. Lead with people

Whether you are promoting a walk to fight cancer, a rally for homelessness, or the appointment of new CEO of your hospital, find a person and tell his or her story. Better, yet, tell the story of an important person in an unusual way.

Typical CEO appointment releases have headlines/first paragraphs like this:


(Anytown, USA) Lawrence Leader, currently the COO of St. Elizabeth’s Regional Hospital, has been appointed CEO of the hospital. He takes over as current CEO Marcy Mercy retires after a long and distinguished career.

But what if you took a half hour to find out Larry’s story?

The results might be:


(Anytown, USA) Larry Leader’s mother, a first-grade schoolteacher in Moline, IL, used to count out coins from her wallet each Saturday morning before grocery shopping. Rarely was there extra to buy candy.

Poor but strong-willed Florence Leader pushed her children to go to college. Larry, the youngest of five, enrolled as an Army medic to pay for it. …

The moral of the story? Writing a compelling press release that leads with the impact or leads with people is a better way to get the media to notice your press release.

(Continued next week)

Rachel Brand is a healthcare communications professional who can teach writing over brown bag lunches at your company. Contact her at rachel (at)


Benefits of Optimizing Press Releases

Picture 39PR and marketing practitioners have known about the benefits of press release optimization and have been doing it for their clients and their own agencies or organizations for a while now. Despite this widespread knowledge, I still run across business owners and CEOs who aren’t familiar with the benefits and don’t realize how simple and quick optimizing a release can be.

If there is anything you can do to help boost your search engine outcome – aside from optimizing your Web site – it’s optimizing your press releases. If you’re not already, you should be posting your releases on your Web site and, whenever possible and appropriate, posting them to a wire service.

Below is a great checklist from Online Marketing Blog to help you optimize your press releases:

  • Clearly define the goal and target audience of the release
  • Research keyword phrases (1-2 per release)
  • Add phrases to the title, sub heading and body copy
  • Use keyword phrases when linking to landing pages or other corporate Web site pages – not “click here”
  • Add media (images, video, audio) to the release as well as alternative formats of the release (MS Word, PDF)
  • To count conversions, use tracking codes in the URLs that point from the press release to landing pages
  • Post the release to the company online newsroom
  • Write a blog post version of the announcement and include a link to the press release
  • Distribute the release via a wire service such as PRWeb, Marketwire, PRNewswire or Business Wire
  • Optional: create and distribute a social media version of the press release
  • Monitor release rankings, social mentions, traffic and outcomes

Telling the Social Media Masters from the Masqueraders

907225_venitian_maskIn today’s social-media-driven society, many companies are scrambling to implement online social strategies in their marketing and PR programs. This frenzy may lead some organizations to grab the first “social media guru” who comes along in order to help them execute these initiatives.

Many people and companies may tell you they practice social media and have great results. Some may even promise you thousands of followers. But how do you know they’re legit? How do you know they aren’t just feeding you a line in order to get your business?

David Armano of Logic + Emotion helps break this down:

1. My last job was selling junk bonds
As mentioned in “Social Media’s Top 10 Dirty Little Secrets,” there’s a bandwagon to be jumped on. As you do background checks on those you choose to partner with in social business, you should be able to see ties from the past to what they’re doing now. Has this person been working in community- or Internet-related fields? That’s a good sign. Was this person selling pre-paid calling cards beforehand? Maybe not so good. There are no hard rules here, but some previous positions transfer better than others. Use common sense.

2. I’m an expert, just see the testimonials
Actually, there really isn’t anything wrong with people identifying themselves as an expert in a field or highlighting positive statements from clients or colleagues. However, it’s up to you to leverage tools like Google, LinkedIn, etc., to see what others have said about these people or to investigate further—don’t just take them at their word.

3. I can guarantee you X number of followers
Anyone who starts their pitch by promising friends, followers or even positive word of mouth is suspicious. This tells you they’re looking to “sell you” a quick fix, which is probably in response to the hype being placed on metrics such as this. The social way of doing business is often a slow burn, with complex problems to address. There are no silver bullets in an industry built on connections, relationships and the direct empowerment of citizens.

4. Social media will save you
No it won’t. Anyone framing social media as the solution to the world’s problems is more than likely looking to make a buck. That said, the prospect of doing business in a socially calibrated fashion is bigger than a new communication channel, it’s a shift that’s causing changes. However, never confuse shift with salvation.

5. Build it and they will socialize
Be wary of anyone selling a point solution that promises instant social interactions, conversations, collaboration, etc. Many businesses fail because they were built at the wrong time, in the wrong place or with the wrong tools. Any respectable practitioner will try to investigate where fertile ground is before building anything, and they will tell you if this ground doesn’t exist.

While it’s important to implement social media in your marketing program, I urge you to move slowly and deliberately in the initial stages – don’t simply grab the first person or group that comes along and says they can help. And once you have begun the setup phase, move with some forethought well.

Picture 34To repeat a concept I heard yesterday during a PRSA Colorado luncheon with Jessica Thompson (@McCafeYourDay), manager of communications for McDonald’s USA, she said to think of Twitter like a cocktail party. Don’t run in screaming, “Look at me.” Instead, take your time. Get the vibe of the room. Listen to others in the room. Then, join the discussion by replying to other tweets. Once you’ve done that, start your own tweets.

My advice, try not to get swept up in the social media frenzy. Choose your partners wisely, and enter the new media realm thoughtfully and confidently.


time to move your franchise to canada?

Canada flagCanada offers enormous opportunity for franchisors seeking to grow beyond our U.S. border, according to a press release issued by Canadian law firm, Cassels, Brock & Blackwell. The release comes as franchise lawyers in the U.S. and Canada prepare for the American Bar Association’s 32nd annual Forum on Franchising conference in October.

The press release stated that well-known U.S. franchise Buffalo Wild Wings is expanding their operations in Canada.

This press release got me thinking, “Why all this fuss about Canada?” I did some high level research online and this is what I found:

Franchiseek Canada:

  • Canada has the second largest franchise industry in the world, led only by the U.S. One franchise operation exists for every 450 Canadians.
  • Approximately one out of five consumer dollars are spent on franchise good and services.
  • Of all the franchises that opened in Canada within the last five years, 86 percent are under the same ownership and 97 percent are still in business.

Canadian Franchise Association:

  • The Franchise industry in Canada represents more than $100 billion in sales annually.
  • Franchised businesses account for 40 percent of all retail sales.
  • Franchising accounts for $90 billion per year in sales nationally, or 10 percent of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Is your franchise facing expansion difficulties in the U.S.? Maybe it’s time to look at other markets. And, Canada seems to be the most viable option currently available to franchisors.

Have you considered expanding into a different country? Where? Why?


Public Relations for Lead Generation? Absolutely.

First lets clarify something. There is a difference between public relations and media relations. I define media relations as the actual process of developing relationships with reporters and media outlets to get your stories covered in the press. Public relations includes media relations but also includes the entire world of communicating with the public as well as creating and maintaining your public image.

If this economy is forcing you to deal with budget cuts and staff changes, stop spending money on media relations. Allocate, instead, money for public relations that will help drive lead generation and increase your business. Any PR pro that you consider working with should be able to tell you how public relations can help build business. If they can’t, you may need to reconsider working with that person or group.

Our major recommendation for using public relations to build leads is to let PR people do what they do best – write.

1. Write press releases. Think “search engine optimization” as you write them. Include key search terms in the headlines and throughout the release. If it’s not a story worth publicizing, don’t worry about it. Just get it posted on your Web site. Again, this is about lead generation, not media exposure.
2. Write white papers. Even if your target audience is not buying or looking for your services right now, they eventually will be. Get the papers posted on your site where people can find them.
3. Write research articles. Is your staff doing research? Make sure businesses know about the work you are doing and the results you are finding. If you are not doing research, there are lots of great ways to embark on research that are low-cost and easy to use. Get the research articles posted on your site.
4. Write case studies. Write about the work you have done, the successes you have made and the clients that believe in you. When possible, optimize the case studies so they can be found online.

I am a huge believer in public relations. I don’t think any company should embrace marketing without including a public relations component in the mix. But I will be the first one to tell companies in the business to business marketplace to quit doing media relations if they are having budget issues. Focus on public relations as a lead generation source and embrace what it can do for you.


healthcare and social media (part 2.)

As promised, Part 2 of Healthcare and Social Media will focus on two hospitals we think are doing a magnificent job integrating social media into their marketing strategy.

#1 The Mayo Clinic

Last month, the Star Tribune’s Chen May Yee reported on the Mayo Clinic’s communications manager, Lee Aase. Aase is essentially responsible for the hospitals social media marketing programs. He currently keeps the community up to date on the Mayo Clinic’s latest news and events via Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Blog accounts.

Aase explains that many patients say they chose the Mayo Clinic for treatment after watching video content on the hospitals YouTube channel. Most notably, “Aase found a six-month-old YouTube video of an exuberant white-haired couple playing the piano in the clinic atrium, to the surprise and pleasure of onlookers. He posted it on Sharing Mayo Clinic. In two weeks, the number of views soared from 1,000 to over 68,000.”

#2 The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton

Dayton Children’s Web site recently posted a media release that detailed their social media marketing implementation strategy. Some of the high-level points include:

-Created a Facebook page in December 2008. The page now has over 500 fans.
-Started the campaign internally, asking employees to become fans of the page first.
-Facebook “Cause” page enables fans (over 800) to donate to Dayton Children’s.
-Marketing communications and development departments are sharing maintienence responsibilities.
-Twitter account was launched in March 2009. They now have over 650 followers.
-Dayton Children’s launched their YouTube page over a year ago.
-Video content includes TV commercials, new stories and patient stories.

Both the Mayo Clinic and Dayton Children’s are doing a great job incorporating social media into their overall marketing campaigns. It’s very interesting that the Mayo has a blog and Dayton’s Children does not. In the same token Dayton’s Children is networking via a localized social media channel ( and the Mayo is not.

We hope today’s second installment is very helpful and, we would like to know how your healthcare organization is using social media to reach your employees, patients and families. Please share your story here.


Kellogg Company misleads consumers

miniwheats1Recently, Kellogg Company was handed a wrist-slap by the FTC for misleading consumers during a national campaign to promote its Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal.

According to the FTC, “Kellogg claimed […] that a breakfast of Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal is clinically shown to improve children’s attentiveness by nearly 20 percent. The complaint alleges that, in fact, according to the clinical study referred to in Kellogg’s advertising, only about half the children who ate Frosted Mini-Wheats for breakfast showed any improvement in attentiveness, and only about one in nine improved by 20 percent or more.”

As far as I can tell, Kellogg is not going to be fined. Instead, they are being asked follow the rules. According to the FTC:

“The proposed settlement would bar Kellogg from making comparable claims about Frosted Mini-Wheats unless the claims are true and not misleading. It requires that claims about the benefits to cognitive health, process, or function provided by Frosted Mini-Wheats or any morning food or snack food be substantiated and true. The settlement would prohibit Kellogg from misrepresenting the results of tests, studies, or research regarding any morning or snack food product.”

I think that a national brand like Kellogg should be fined because they should have known better. Instead it sounds as if the FTC is just going to give them a warning. This is a great learning opportunity to remind all brands that their advertisements need to be factual and not misleading.


Free Press Release Distribution Sites

Justin McGill

Justin McGill

I ran across this great list of free press release distribution sites a while back and recently noticed that it’s been getting lots of props from the PR community on LinkedIn. We can thank Internet marketer Justin McGill for the list of approximately 73 free sites. I haven’t used any of them yet, but I have a few clients in mind that could certainly benefit from a no cost distribution service. Thanks, Justin!

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