Archive for the ‘Press Releases’ Category

P.R. Pros Should Know the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics

May 22, 2017

Are you familiar with the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics? I recently participated in a Twitter chat with SPJ and ethics were the topic of the discourse. The current version of the SPJ Code of Ethics was adopted by the 1996 SPJ National Convention, after months of study and debate among the Society’s members. Sigma Delta Chi’s first Code of Ethics was borrowed from the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1926.

The SPJ Code of Ethics is voluntarily embraced by thousands of journalists, regardless of place or platform, and is widely used in newsrooms and classrooms as a guide for ethical behavior. The code is intended not as a set of “rules” but as a resource for ethical decision-making. It is not — nor can it be under the First Amendment — legally enforceable. I personally believe that anyone who works for the media or with the media should review this and have it “tatooed” on their forehead. Well, not literally, of course, but certainly figuratively.

Although the SPJ Code of Ethics is required study for most students of journalism and professionals working in the press, I question whether or not many journalists are living by this code based on what I see on daily on network and cable TV news reports (and online outlets) that lack balance and often use sound bites out of context in a way that screams bias.

Since public relations is the source of many news stories, the SBJ Code of Ethics should be adopted by all P.R. Pros who work with the press to maintain journalistic integrity. For easy reference, we’re sharing the code here and you can download the SPJ Code of Ethics as a PDF Poster and even a Bookmark on their website. This is a great resource to have handy in your office.

The SPJ Code of Ethics

PREAMBLE:  Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility. Members of the Society share a dedication to ethical behavior and adopt this code to declare the Society’s principles and standards of practice.

SEEK TRUTH AND REPORT IT:  Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information. Journalists should:

  • Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
  • Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
  • Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.
  • Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
  • Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
  • Never distort the content of news photos or video. Image enhancement for technical clarity is always permissible. Label montages and photo illustrations.
  • Avoid misleading re-enactments or staged news events. If re-enactment is necessary to tell a story, label it.
  • Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public.
  • Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story.
  • Never plagiarize.
  • Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.
  • Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.
  • Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
  • Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
  • Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.
  • Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
  • Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.
  • Recognize a special obligation to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open and that government records are open to inspection.


ACT INDEPENDENTLY: Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know. Journalists should:

  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
  • Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
  • Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
  • Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
  • Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
  • Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
  • Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.


BE ACCOUNTABLE:  Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other. Journalists should:

  • Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
  • Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
  • Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
  • Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
  • Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.


MINIMIZE HARM:  Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect. Journalists should:

  • Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage.
  • Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
  • Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
  • Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort.
  • Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
  • Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about
  • themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention.
  • Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
  • Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
  • Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes.
  • Be judicious about naming criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
  • Balance a criminal suspect’s fair trial rights with the public’s right to be informed.

Here’s to the integrity of all journalistic endeavors.

Peace and coconuts,

Marianne Schwab, Executive Producer, CMP Media Cafe

Follow us on Twitter:  @CMP_MediaCafe

Multimedia News Releases (MNRs) Are Press Releases on Steroids That Increase Earned Media Results

May 4, 2017

Want to increase your earned media results and make your press release get journalists to sit up and take notice? Well, then you need to turn it into a Multimedia News Release (or MNR). They are press releases on steroids and can increase earned media results dramatically. In fact, 71% of journalists need PR pros to provide more multimedia content according to a recent survey by Cision which also uncovered that some journalists always (or often) use multimedia elements in their story. The bottom line is they need your visual elements to support your story.

Source: Cision

In case MNRs are new to you, they are a media package distributed through a wire service that includes press releases with multimedia content along with documents, images, video, and infographics or other multimedia elements.

There is no doubt that media consumption preferences of Americans have changed and there is a trend toward mobile readership with a significant uptick in video requirements.  We eagerly consume with our eyes and feast on the latest food and beverage products, tech gadgets, fashion trends, beauty tips, sports gear, and so much more, and multimedia offers a spicy “zing” journalists and bloggers are looking for to make content come alive.

In response to these trends, journalists are now catering to this increased multimedia use and PR pros can get a leg up if they implement images, graphics, and video, into their press release strategy. MNRs are the best tools to deliver journalists what they need. By providing multimedia content, you can increase your earned media opportunities and provide more engaging stories to the consumers you want to reach with your brand.

When you use an effective earned media strategy, MNRs can provide an opportunity for you to tell newsworthy stories in a variety of formats. You can also build brand credibility, educate, entertain, and, ultimately, drive business forward with your targeted consumer audience.

Source: Cision

With thousands of news releases being distributed every day, your story needs to grab the attention of journalists and newsroom decision-makers. By incorporating multimedia elements like photos and videos you can get traffic bumps of up to 77% according to some sources. If you’re looking for opportunities to reach a broader audience and drive more views, then an MNR is a powerful way to do this since the content can be shared on blogs or across social channels in addition to broadcast, thereby spreading a release’s main messages even further.

Creating multimedia news releases are a smart PR tactic and here are some guidelines to consider when producing content for your MNR:

#1 – Start with an attention-grabbing headline. Journalists cited press releases and story leads as their #1 most valuable PR resource in a recent Cision study. They scan through hundreds of stories on the newswires and field over 500 emails or more each day, so unless you have written a headline for your story that grabs their attention right away, you are not going to cut through all the clutter. We have five ways to write headlines that will increase your earned media results so you will want to check it out on our blog.

#2 – Write a user-friendly press release. Think like a journalist or blogger when you write your MNR press release and write it (or adapt it) to that style of writing. You must break free of the standard rules for writing press releases to have the most success with a more newsy or friendly writing style.

#3 – Think of your story visually. It’s very easy to get caught up in the written word and not consider images to support your story angle, but it essential that you think about visual storytelling.

#4 – Photos. Visual storytelling is a critical pillar in any effective communication strategy so think about how to support your story with strong images that nail it. Photographs and graphics (including infographics) are the easiest way to bring your story to life. Provide the highest resolution image possible to allow journalists and your audience to resize the media for different channels. Also, your multimedia elements must be yours or be free and properly licensed since you need to provide the images for free and unrestricted use.

#5 – Videos. If a picture paints a thousand words, then video paints a million. With today’s access to easy video production and editing tools, you don’t need a video production expert to create a good video, but you may want to hire a consultant to guide you through the process who has newsroom sensibilities and experience. We’ve produced high-quality news-style videos on a minimal budget using high-resolution photos and edit moves (i.e. push, pull, pan, zoom) combined with sound bites and/or just a simple voice over. Here are a few video tips to be successful with production and earned media results:

  • Less is More: 60 seconds or less is a general ideal length for videos and 30 seconds is even better so your script needs to be concise since most viewers have a very short attention span. According to Ad Age, you will lose 33% of viewers by 30 sec, 45% by 1 minute, 60% by 2 minutes, so you can see how important an experienced content producer is for helping you develop your video.

Viewer Engagement Research by Visible Measures

  • Think ahead: Before you edit or shoot, you need to develop a script and/or a storyboard to ensure your message comes across as you intended. In the case of a real-time, live-streaming event, your featured “player” should have some newsworthy sound bites prepared that compliment or reinforce your message.
  • Turn quotes into soundbites. While reporters typically like to conduct their own interviews, they will often grab a quote from a release or a soundbite from an MNR if they’re under a time crunch. Make your sound bite of choice even more appealing to reporters/bloggers by giving them a video file to embed with their article. Also, make it memorable and newsworthy (or don’t bother).
  • Be creative but don’t overdo it: If you notice the directing, it is bad directing. It’s okay to be creative if that’s part of your industry, then go for it, but don’t do fancy camera moves that make the audience notice the camera move more than what is being said. You can use extreme angles to create a dramatic effect but only if it makes sense for your story.

#6 – Make it social media friendly. Think about how your MNR and elements can be shared across social media channels including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and more. If you have a great story, you get even more traction.

#7 – Don’t go it alone. There’s a lot that goes into the content creation of an MNR to make it successful. At CMP Media Cafe, we work closely with our clients to develop the most effective content creation story angle and visual assets including the best MNR distribution package for your brand to guarantee success.

How effective are MNRs? Depending on how the MNR is constructed, the category or industry, and newsworthiness of the story, it’s not uncommon to see reach results hit 75 million UVPMs. If you’d like to learn more, please contact CMP Media Cafe.

Perhaps we can officially declare text-only press releases a thing of the past because MNRs help make your story more attractive and easier for reporters to access the content they need.


NOTE: Cision’s annual survey of more than 1,550 North American journalists and influencers reveals key findings on how journalists use news releases and multimedia to tell better stories. According to the Cision 2017 State of the Media Report, when communicators pair compelling messages with rich formats like photos, videos, social media posts, infographics and data, they can drive better and more accurate coverage and increase earned media opportunities.

Peace and coconuts,

Marianne Schwab, Executive Producer, CMP Media Cafe

Follow us on Twitter:  @CMP_MediaCafe


Headline Hacks Are the Secret to Massive Media Exposure

April 24, 2017

When I was a network television producer, I was inundated with PR pitches every day. In fact, it is not uncommon for producers and assignment desk decision makers to field over 500 emails or more a day so unless you have written a headline for your pitch that grabs their attention immediately, chances are they’ll hit the delete key and your email story pitch will go right to the trash folder.

This has nothing to do with the value of your story, product or client but if you can’t get reporters or producers to open your email pitch (press release or media alert) based on your headline, even a good story will never get noticed by assignment desks, beat reporters, or producers.

Here are five ways to write headlines that will increase your earned media results:

#1. Stop Writing Headlines to Please Your Client – Write to Please Producers. Too many times, publicists think more like a client than they do the media. They’re client pleasers, not media pleasers. They use “Public Relations 101” Rules to Writing Press Releases taught by college professors (who often have no real world experience). Clients LOVE it. Media just finds the pitch boring.

#2. Start Thinking Like a TV News Promo Writer. In a world where the media needs to instantly grab viewers, listeners, and page views, with exciting headlines, you need to study how they promote their newscast and then follow their lead when it comes to your pitch.

#3. Use Deliberate Vagueness to Create Curiosity. There was a commercial airing in California several years ago that was produced like a pseudo 11-o’clock news station promo. It started with the reporter voiceover announcing, “There’s something lurking in your kitchen that’s very dangerous.”  There were images of a kitchen counter loaded with food and a refrigerator door being opened as shots of various foods were panned inside the fridge.  Then the voiceover continued, “It’s in your refrigerator and it could kill you.  Details at 11.”  The ad was an obvious satire on how news stations over sensationalize promos to grab viewers, but the satire is not too far from reality. This also uses another effective technique using a threat that instills fear so you’re compelled to find the answer. It’s effective, but don’t over do it.

#4. Headline Hack Magazines and Websites to Use Their Formulas. Whenever I’m stuck in a line at the grocery store, I love reading the headlines of magazines and tabloids at the checkout for headline structure inspiration. Hey, don’t judge me. They have amazing examples for writing headlines that make you want to know more so you buy the publication. Same thing happens when you’re surfing any online news outlet. Study the best headlines and hack their formulas. You’ll be amazed at the results.

#5. Grab Interest to Read More Using Lists or Mistakes. Lists and mistakes are always a hit with producers. From the “Five Best Beach Destinations” to the “Three Biggest Mistakes Parents Make with Teenagers,” these are headlines that pique interest and compel newsrooms to open the email.

Finally, think of ways to jazz up your headline and, depending your client’s type of business (and whether or not they are publicly traded), you may need to get the legal team on board, but imagine finding a way to craft headlines that dramatically increase your story getting before the eyes of news room gatekeepers and decision makers to explode your earned P.R. results.

The key to success is grabbing the attention with media decision makers using an intriguing headline (subject line) that screams “open me” and then following through with a story that supports the tease since you don’t want to “click bait” a reporter or producer.

Peace and coconuts,

Marianne Schwab, Executive Producer, CMP Media Cafe

Follow us on Twitter:  @CMP_MediaCafe

Top Five Reasons Lists Work as Press Releases

January 22, 2014

Many P.R. pros make look down on this technique, but lists make great press releases.  Why?  Because if you do them correctly journalists will actually read them and that’s the point, isn’t it?   Your goal is to get media professionals and decision makers to read what you write so you can get that highly sought after publicity that makes our world go round and lists are an excellent technique to have in your press release writing tool box.

The bottom line is that lists work and are actually one of the most tried and true press release formats.  Take a look at any online blog, news site or open up any magazine, trade journal, or newspaper, and you’ll find at least one story that’s written as a list.   So, why are lists so effective?  Oh, I know, let’s write a list:

Top Five Reasons Lists Work as Press Releases

1.  You Capture Readers with a List Headline.   Whether you’re scanning the home page of your favorite online news source or waiting in line at the grocery store where the magazines are staring at you while you wait, you’ll notice that many publications will have list headlines on them.  BuzzFeed is particularly clever with this technique.  Why do they do it? Because the editors of online publications and magazines know that this will grab readers.  In fact, there’s just something about “Five Ways to Save $100 Every Week” that makes you want to click on the link or even pick up the magazine to find the article.  You’re compelled.  You can’t help yourself.  You want to find out the recipe for the secret sauce to savings.

2. Lists are Easy to Scan.  In our short attention span society of mini-meals of media, readers want to digest material quickly.  Almost like the old Evelyn Wood School of Speed Reading on steroids.   There a couple of reasons why you should write easy-to-scan press releases. First, just like your email inbox is overwhelmed with emails, journalists are sent hundreds of press releases every day and here’s a big “surprise:”  They seldom read every press release word for word, but scan them to find information that they find interesting (or think their viewers, listeners or readers will find interesting).  When you have limited time, you can scan a list in a few seconds and get a good overview of the story.

3. Readers Can Preview Content Easily with List Headlines. You must describe what the story is about in your headline clearly and concisely so the news room decision maker can quickly determine if the story will work for their broadcast or publication. Also, this is really a helpful tool and technique when you distribute your press release online.  Readers tend to scan online content rather than read it based on reputable eye-tracking studies and a list-style press release makes it easier for readers to interact with your content online.

4. A Good List Will Sound Authoritative.  Lists are generally written to serve as the go-to resource for a particular topic. When you write, “Top Five Ways to Save $100 Every Week”, you’re saying that your personal finance methods are the best and you have expertise on the topic to give it credibility.

5. Lists Create Controversy that Gets Attention.  Readers love lists and lists get people talking since there will always be something you left out or people don’t agree with and they’ll want to let you know about it. This concept applies to press releases too because they create a more interesting story that will engage viewers, listeners and readers and that’s what broadcast and print media is about to producers and editors.  Grabbing an audience so the advertisers will want to sponsor your program or publication.

So the next time you’re starting a P.R. campaign, start thinking about a press release written with a good relevant list that relates to your client, product or service that will grab attention.

Peace and coconuts,

Marianne Schwab, Executive Producer, CMP Media Cafe

Copyright (c) 2014. CMP Media Cafe. All Rights Reserved.

The Number One Mistake Pros Make on Press Releases

May 25, 2011

When I was a producer at some major television programs, I would be deluged by press releases.  Unfortunately most of these press releases got thrown in the trash.  Yes, that was the day of hard copies being sent through snail mail or fax, but now, it’s even more difficult to cut through the media clutter.

Getting newsroom attention is not easy.  It’s harder and harder to get producers on the phone to give them your pitch even if you’ve developed those media relationships.  Now, everyone wants you to submit your pitch (aka press release and/or media alert) through email.  That is if they don’t just cut you off completely and put your emails into their spam filters.

There are also many outlets for press release distribution online but in most cases, they’re a waste of time.  Not because the services don’t do the job of distribution and getting your press release into the search engines, but because the press release is the problem.  So what’s the number one mistake even seasoned P.R. pros make on writing press releases?  The press release has a boring headline/slug line with no angle.

The headline is the most important piece of the press release and it needs to be strong enough to grab thejournalist’s attention so that he or she will actually read the rest of the story.

Think about it, what do news room assignment desks, producers and media decision makers see first?  The slug line or headline to your news release or media alert.  You’ve spent hours crafting every word of your press release and getting it approved by your client, but it’s never read because you’ve lost the decision makers before they read word one.   Here’s what I’m talking about. 

I’ve put together some good “bad” examples of headlines that I found at an online press release website:

SFR Company Gets New Home in Utah.

Sally Jane, Author of Crime Thrillers, Promotes Her New Book

R2D2 Company Concentrates on FANUC Echo Robot Sales

(NOTE: The names have been changed to protect the innocent)

Here are some good examples of headlines I found at that same online press release website:

Tiny Spacecraft Could Help NASA Find Unmapped Planets

Avoiding the Con in Construction

4AllPromos Saves Lives with Summertime Promotion Products*

(*although this could be better)

Your slug line should sound like a tease for a news cast.  The difference between the two sets of examples?  The good slug lines can almost be turned into a tease for a newscast and say, “details at 11,” whereas the bad slug lines say, “who cares?”  For example, “Tiny spacecrafts could find new planets?  Details at 11,” or “Tune into tomorrow at 6 and we’ll show you how to avoid the “con” in construction.”  Here’s how you might spin a better slug line from one of the bad headlines with something like, “She’s solved two crimes without leaving her office.  How’d she do it?  (Tune tomorrow and find out).”

Now there are definitely news releases that have certain restrictions where the SEC is concerned on financial reporting, but if you’re promoting a product, person, or brand, then start thinking how producers and news editors think.

With that said, do not resort to cheap tactics to make your story seem more interesting than it really is or use a marketing-hypefilled headline that reads like an advertisement instead of a news story.  Always practice good journalism ethics and craft a headline that reflect what the story is truly about.

Finally, if you do half their work for them (i.e. create their tease line or headline so they see how they’ll grab viewers or readers with your story), then you’re on your way to becoming a rock star in P.R.

Peace and coconuts,

Marianne Schwab, Executive Producer, CMP Media Cafe

Copyright (c) 2011. CMP Media Cafe. All Rights Reserved.