Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Why headlines (or subject lines) matter and where to find "free" money!

By: Steve Scaffidi, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

Read these two very different headlines. An Earth-like planet found in a habitable zone! Hot cakes are actually not selling well at all. Now admittedly these two actual news headlines don't have much in common. One announces what could be one of the most amazing space discoveries of all time, while the other flips a popular saying on its head to relate a challenge in the food and restaurant industry. Which one grabs your attention?

You could certainly argue that the discovery of a planet that could host alien life light years away from Earth warrants not only one exclamation point, but perhaps two or three. But is the headline interesting enough to make you want to click on the link and read more about the discovery? I would argue no. I've seen these stories before, and frankly, most never turn out to be much of anything. Now perhaps if the headline writer had put it this way: "Far away planet could host life?" I might be inclined to give it a closer look.

Who doesn't like hot cakes? And using a fresh spin on the "selling like hotcakes" analogy makes me-as an avid consumer of both flapjacks and waffles-want to know more. What's causing this lag in popularity for one of my favorite breakfast menu items? And will this threaten my morning routine? Now that's just me, maybe my neighbor sitting next to me at the local coffee shop has much different tastes, and wouldn't give it a second look. That's the challenge for a headline writer. 

Humor works in many ways, and successful writers of news stories, press releases, or even tweets and facebook posts understand that most readers like to be entertained, and grabbing their attention is certainly the most obvious point of a well-written headline. In the rapidly increasing pace of mobile technologies and smartphones you get a few seconds to make your case. Is the story worth clicking on or not? 

Building a successful headline or subject line isn't easy and with over a million folks working in public relations, most news reporters or editors have seen everything in the way of clever ways to get a story noticed. It's an art form, and probably more important than any text you could put in a news release, since most people don't spend much time reading all the way through them. Whether your headline shocks, amuses, piques or informs, spend some time crafting the best possible attention-grabber you can. It could pay off in real measurable interest in what you're "selling." 

And for that "free" money, check the washer and dryer. That's the only place I ever find any extra cash lying around!
What's the best subject line or headline you've ever written?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

It’s time to map out your PR plan for the New Year!

By: Scott Stein, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

With 2016 just around the corner, it’s the perfect time for small businesses to plan for the year ahead. It’s also a great time to think about how to step up your Public Relations efforts in the New Year.

If your past PR efforts have included a news release now and then, it’s time to put together a more extensive plan that will get your company noticed. The first thing to realize is that, to be successful, Public Relations has to be more than just an occasional news release. 

PR reaches audiences on a different level than marketing and advertising. It helps to establish you and your business as experts in your field, offering third party validation through the news outlets. Having that public image as an expert gives consumers a sense of reassurance.

So what should be included in your 2016 PR plan?

Consider the following:

  • News releases – highlight “newsworthy” items like new hires, significant company accomplishments and special events
  • Speaking engagements – identify targeted audiences and let them know about your expertise and your availability to speak to their group in a non-commercial manner
  • Pitches to trade or business publications – be sure to check their editorial calendars to see if your expertise lines up with a topic they are planning to address in an upcoming issue
  • Media alerts – if a topic related to your business hits the national media, consider sending out a media alert to “localize” the story

These are just a few things that can be included in a PR plan for the coming year. The key to having an impact – a consistent and persistent approach.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Proofread, proofread and proofread!

By: Cole Buergi, VP of Business Development, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

I’m always amazed at the number of documents I see that are riddled with mistakes. It’s just about everywhere you go now days. Whether it’s at the bank, a restaurant or online, people are getting very sloppy in their writing. 

These errors include misspelled words, multiple font styles and sizes in the same document (which by-the-way screams copy and paste), and formatting that lacks any kind of formalized layout (which screams LAZY). 

I’m far from a perfectionist, but there’s really no excuse for it. Today’s computers have taken nearly all of the guesswork out of proofreading and it’s really easy to highlight copy to see if it’s the same font style and size. And as for layout, you should be able to look at it and see that it just doesn’t look right. 

I don’t have any hard evidence but it seems that these mistakes are made more often by the younger generations. I find that odd since they’ve had auto-correct since they were born as well as access to every word ever known to mankind at their fingertips. When I was a child, if I wanted to know how to spell something, I had to get out a dictionary about eight inches thick and look it up. With today’s technology, you just have to type how you think it’s spelled and let autocorrect do its thing. At least, most of the time that works. 

Yes, I do make mistakes periodically. For some reason that I can’t explain, I frequently type “your” when I mean “you’re” and vice versa. I know the difference and will even think the correct spelling while typing. The problem is my fingers just don’t cooperate with me. 

So the next time YOU’RE going to send a document you’ve developed to someone else, take a few extra minutes and read it out loud to yourself. You’ll be surprised by the errors you will catch and correct.

Do you have any tricks to help you find writing errors? If so, please share.