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Get Schooled in Public Relations: How to Talk PR Like a Pro

by Adriana Howell

marketing public relations seo social media successes writing

If you’re a killer public relations pro (like the BIGfish team), you probably already throw around some confusing (to the outside world) PR terminology on the daily. But if you are just starting out in the industry or just hired a public relations firm, some of the terms you’ll hear used on a regular basis may go right over your head. Never fear: consider this your official PR vocab crash-course. Class is in session.

Media relations: The act of conversing with the media. Not all public relations is media relations, but all media relations is public relations. This includes pitching, scheduling briefings, following up with additional assets (press releases, images or fact/product sheets) and overseeing / following the story to publication. Media relations is more than simply pressing “send” on an email; it involves making and maintaining relationships with reporters and, for the BIGfish team, is the majority of the work we do.

Hard news: Current, relevant, serious news or events that have a timely tie-in. Hard news could include a product launch, data findings or something that ties into current events. For a hard news story, timeliness is especially important.

Soft news: These news stories tend to have less of a timely relevance and cover more general company or industry news (think 5 Ways to Save Money on Car Insurance). For soft news stories, your publicist may pitch you as an expert source or cite a relevant company initiative to get your name included in a story.

Press release: A document outlining new information from a company, usually about hard news and supplemented with a quote from a company spokesperson. These are either distributed via a wire service like Business Wire or PR Newswire (see below) or put on a company website and used in media outreach. Some common announcements worthy of a press release include a new product launch, appointing a new executive or releasing a new study.

“The wire”: An online press release distribution center. There are several wire services in the United States that offer press release distribution, including Business Wire, PR Newswire and PRWeb. You don’t  always need to use a wire service to distribute your release since they can be somewhat pricey (often upwards of $1,000) – but don’t worry, your PR team can help you figure out what the best strategy is for your announcement.

Boilerplate: A brief company summary that appears at the bottom of a press release; it can also be used as a quick reference for journalists who inquire about your company. Your boilerplate includes information like when / where your company was founded, a concise description of what you do, what your mission is, etc.

Fact sheet: A one or two-page document containing quick facts about a company and/or its top executives and commonly used by media for high-level fact checking. A fact sheet may be used to provide background information, mission statements, important biographies, fast facts, logo and more. You may also have (or want to create) fact sheets for specific products that include the most important information like product name, description, a photo, specifications and price.

Press kit / media kit: A bundle of information often found on your website or sent by your PR team to supplement a pitch (see below). This may include a press release, company backgrounder, fact sheet, high-resolution product images and descriptions, headshots, etc. Your press kit provides additional information and assets journalists will likely want or need for their story in one easy-to-navigate place.

Media list: A list of journalists and their basic information created and used by PR professionals. A media list will be tailored to each individual pitch to ensure journalists are the appropriate contact for the story.

Pitch: A brief email sent by your PR team to journalist on a certain topic or story. Your PR team can pitch journalists either hard news or soft news, depending on what’s going on at your company. This is not a generic email blast, but a strategically crafted pitch that gets sent to a well-researched group of media targets (kept organized in that media list we just talked about).

Briefing: Television, radio, phone or in-person interviews with reporters that allow the spokesperson to go into greater detail about his/her company or a specific announcement (don’t worry, your publicist will probably media train you beforehand – see below).

Media training: The process by which a PR professional prepares a company spokesperson for media interviews. During media training, the spokesperson will learn best practices for interviews; common interview mistakes; techniques for answering tough questions; feedback on personal interview style; sample interview questions; tips for broadcast and radio interviews, like speaking in soundbytes; and additional strategies for acing press briefings.

Under Embargo: Pitching “classified” information to select journalists under the premise that nothing will be reported until a specified date and time. Using a good ol’ gentleman’s agreement, a PR professional may pitch journalists important information in advance “under embargo” so articles are lined up to publish in time with a big announcement or product launch.

Exclusive: Offering a large story to one specific journalist – and that journalist only. When you see “EXCLUSIVE” at the beginning of an article, you know that outlet was the only one given this information directly from the source.

Press hit / press mention: A mention of / a story about your company (or company’s spokesperson) in a news outlet.

Unique views per month (UVM): The average number of visitors a website receives per month. Similar to UVM, broadcast is reported in viewership numbers, print press hits in circulation and radio in listenership.

Still with us? Congrats – you’ve passed the class. Go out there and speak PR with the best of them.

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BIGfish is an unconventional PR agency that helps its clients redefine their industries through thoughtful storytelling and strategic PR campaigns. By integrating traditional PR with social media and marketing support, BIGfish generates awareness and motivates consumer behavior.

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