How are you telling your stories?

All bloggers have the odd habit of tapping into that ‘out of body’ mentality whenever they experience something worth writing about. What I mean by that is this; bloggers rely upon relaying their everyday experiences as written stories by analysing themselves emotionally and mentality. The word ‘blog’ is actually a contraction of the words ‘web log’, which in the early 90’s simply described an online diary. So story telling really is at the heart of blogging. Don’t use your blog to tell the news, provide something really unique – your adventures and insights.

Telling your stories is another matter. You could begin at a low point, such as Stephen Fry’s beautifully honest post ‘Only The Lonely’. Alternatively you could start on a high (quite literally) such as when travel blogger, Beyond Blighty, tackled her fear of heights through a bungy jump. If you’re brave go for a varied mix of “Yay”, “Do’h” and “Yay” such as when Adventurous Kate got shipwrecked in Indonesia.

All of these blog posts serve as useful examples of what I’m about to show you next. All stories can be put directly onto a graph, as shown in this video below by the author Kurt Vonnegut. The process is remarkably simple.

So, here are my questions…

  • What shape are the stories that you’re writing on your blog?
  • Are you writing the news and if so, what makes your blog stand out from other news sources?
  • Are you drenching your blog in opinions and, if you are, how are you telling those opinions?

So often I tend to worry about the amount of people who are reading my blog rather than the content I am producing. Lessons, such as Kurt Vonnegut’s, remind me that blogging is an art-form and sometimes it is best to focus on the ‘How should I write this?’ rather than ‘How many people might read this?’.

Thanks to Mike Sowden who introduced me to Mr Vonnegut’s work.

Oi Journalists! PRs can write too

When you write a news story you are attempting to grab the attention of journalists, search engines and even readers. Universities can attempt to teach the fine art of crafting news stories, but in reality, only a real world press office experience can teach. Part of the reason for growth in the PR industry is because technology has resulted in a 24/7 news generated world. Where PR either acts as gatekeeper for news stories or builds its own self-publishing channel (such as publishing blog posts).

Just sift through a newspaper and try to spot a story that wasn’t the result of a PR agency, in-house team, news wire or a public blog post. Independent news scanner, Churnalism, often identifies popular news stories that come as a result of a simple ‘copy and paste’. We could blame journalists for being lazy but how else can they keep up with the speed of modern media?

Just look at trade publications that have to churn out content with (usually) tiny editorial teams. The reason some trade may rely on PR heavily isn’t because they are lazy but because tight deadlines hold them back from crafting everything in-house. That is why such publications hire people like my friend Ben Hamilton (check out his website) to create infographics. The fact is news stories are crafted and journalism skills are required to hone the perfect story.

Good writing skills aren’t just the result of journalistic wizardry though. We can learn too. Here are some simple pointers to head you in the right direction:

Adopt eco-writing (less is more)
It might be tempting to write like Stephen Fry but in PR we are talking about crafting news stories. If there is too much fluff then journalists will ignore your copy and readers will be frustrated by the time they wasted.

Write for the digital age
You need to write for people and for search engines. Keep your title short, identify key words and craft the perfect summary. Whilst a journalist may ignore your release, Google or Bing may think otherwise.

Use supporting material
Media releases should be supported by relevant images, videos and links to websites. This not only gives releases credibility but may catch the eye of journalists and readers alike. Apart from anything else; don’t you find a pure text release boring?

3 Simple reasons why your business needs a blog

When planning a digital public relations campaign it is critical that there is a central point of communication. Digital strategists are people who design roads for people online. Once these roads have been built, public relations steps in to provide a story, the narrative of which will be laid across all digital channels. The final layer is to look at how a user’s journey online can be measured. Every journey must have a clear ending, which acts as a central point to a campaign.

One of the best ways to have a central point to a campaign is by starting a blog. Other forms of central points to digital campaigns may include:

  • An online press office
  • An interactive landing page (game, video, etc)
  • An online store

Here are 3 simple reasons why your business needs a blog:

1. Show that you’re still alive
Traditional websites are dead in the sense that their nature is inherently stagnant. No matter how interactive the pages are, content must always be fresh. Blogs are a perfect way to keep visitors to a website reassured that a business is active and not an outdated graveyard. In theory it’s very easy to keep a blog active, just keep publishing new posts. In practice this task is much harder as creating content is a time consuming business. Good bloggers (even in the business world) are usually passionate, deep-thinking and totally balmy. Professional communicators such as Neville Hobson show at least two of these traits which might be why he has been so successful!

2. Take control of your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
When you type your business’ name into Google what is on the first page of results? I’ll let you into a little secret; in most cases blogs rank higher than traditional websites. Their very nature makes them perfect for search engines; plenty of backlinks, referrals, recommendations, comments, social sharing and fresh content. When all of these elements come together a form of credibility is implied, perfect search engine fodder. Take control of your SEO by frequently blogging around your industry sector and don’t be afraid to share your opinions. The most boring business blogs are the ones which read like bog standard press releases.

3. Manage Reputation
Managing the reputation of businesses is an activity which I’m involved with on a daily basis. The whole of the internet is a vast invisible matrix of communication, made even more intricate by the advent of social media. In the past it took a great deal of money and expertise to become a media company. Today it’s remarkably simple to publish content online, any amateur can do it and many businesses have still not come to grasp with this aspect. Today the foundation of business reputation exists online and is based upon the information people come across. This means your business must become its own media company. Today the need to rely upon winning over journalists to have your content published is over – publish your own content.

The best business blogs manage to provide a voice of credibility online, which is priceless in an online world which is becoming increasingly driven by reputation.

Reading is brain food for good writing

No matter how many training sessions you attend with journalists from The Sun, The Mirror and BBC News – being a good writer is about finding your inner voice. Unfortunately for public relations professionals, we often spend so much time client side that we forget to talk like proper humans. It’s a serious matter and takes a degree of self-determination to alter. No better way to do this than reading.

On a daily basis I spend a round trip of three hours travelling to central London. Over the course of a five day week this is calculated to approximately 15 hours of commuting (that’s not considering any London based engagements outside of the ordinary). On average it probably takes a person 20 hours to read a book of 400 pages (crowd sourced stat here). This means if I read more on the way to work I could roughly devour four books a week!

Four books of varying writing styles, ranging content and factuality means one happy bookworm. Even if I did manage to bomb my way through 48 books a year, extent doesn’t matter, rather what is learnt. Sometimes it seems that, as PR professionals, we are so busy producing content that we actually run out of time to appreciate well-written content. Life doesn’t read like a press release and it’s a mistake to keep our noses fixated in our day-to-day client activities.

Over the last few months I’ve drastically changed the way I consume content; focusing on diversifying material and upping relevant client related publications. On a regular basis this includes (but not limited to) reading:

–          The Telegraph
–          The Financial Times
–          The Times
–          The Express
–          The Mirror
–          The Economist
–          New Humanist Magazine
–          The Huffington Post

That’s not including the client specific publications (namely tech trade, travel and political dabblings). What really brings all of these publications alive is when office spats are created as a result of the mix of views presented by a mix of publications. At the beginning of this week I debated on the proposed censorship of pornographic content across UK websites as a result of a pull-out in the times.

Reading is brain food for good writing. Reading allows us to experiment with writing in different voices and, in doing so, can help us find our own. Putting digital wizardry aside; the key to being successful in PR is to be good at writing, which means enjoy to reading. I’m still learning something new each day.