How to Write a Press Release

Crafting a Press Release: Six Steps to Keep in Mind

By Andrew Woodcock, TVG Account Executive

The backbone to being a good PR pro is being a good writer. I’ve heard it countless times: if you don’t know how to write, you won’t be hired by a PR firm.

And it makes sense: writing is a huge part of communication in general. Hiring a bad writer in a PR agency would be like hiring a bad cook in a restaurant. That’s why many interviews at PR agencies are usually accompanied by a writing exercise. More often than not, before or after the actual interview you’ll be required to write up a mock press release.

Check out the following steps I learned early in my career to help your press release make it to the front page!

Remember: It’s news, not an ad

Before you get started writing, keep this in mind: no journalist is going to use your press release if it sounds too much like a product promotion or company ad. People are bombarded with advertisements regularly, so anything that comes across too much as a sales pitch is going to be ignored.

Start with your headline. If it sounds too much like a billboard or advertisement, it’s time to do some revisions. Keep this in mind as you write.

Get to the point quickly

It’s 2017, and people’s attention spans are getting shorter by the day. Your readers’ time and attention are precious, so it is important to get as much information into as little space as possible. Put all of your whos, whats, wheres, whens and whys in the first paragraph (or even the first sentence if you can). Write concisely and accurately, being mindful of unnecessary information and errors such as run-on sentences.

Leave the fluff for English class

I’ll admit that I struggled with this step myself when I wrote my first few press releases at my first internship. As a political science student, I was used to writing long-winded sentences filled with flowery language in order to increase the page count of my research papers. That kind of writing will get thrown in the trash in a newsroom.

Your readers are neither college professors nor William Shakespeare. Keep your press release free of fluff or jargon that the average reader would find difficult to understand. Simple and clean is the way to go.

Have your quotes come from a human, not a robot

Quotes are quite possibly the most important part of a press release; they bring emotion and a human element to the text. Unfortunately, quotes are also the easiest part of the press release to mess up, and for the exact same reason – they rarely sound like sentences a human would ever say.

Rather than using quotes to continue to provide information, create quotes that bring depth and insight to your press release.

Check your work

Your press release is written. Great!  But before you send it out, always have your work checked and double-checked by your peers so there are no typos, grammar errors or misinformation. Once everything is checked, you’re finally ready to send it out.

Get creative with the pitch

The final step is the most fun: pitching. While not directly a part of the press release, the pitch note in an email is just as important to get your release published, as all of the other steps. Think of it as an extra headline, grabbing the news desk’s attention and interest in reading what you’ve submitted.

When writing the subject line in your pitch email, for instance, you should find the happy balance between attention-grabbing and information-providing. Don’t be afraid to try something unorthodox, as long as it’s relevant and professional. I once worked a Star Wars quote into a pitch note – it tied back to my press release nicely, and it was definitely attention-grabbing.

Now that you’ve written and pitched a great release, may the press be with you!


Need help writing your next press release? The Vandiver Group can help! Call TVG at 314-991-4641 and check us out on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Millennials in the Digital Space

“How Do I Reach These Kids?”: Millennials in the Digital Space

By Nathan Shryock, TVG Manager of Digital Strategy

The Millennial generation has adopted a very unique habit of forming digital communities.  These communities are made up of online social groups of people that share a common interest and are often tied to a person’s identity. It’s not uncommon for one person to belong to several different communities, each representing a different facet of their personality or interests. However, that’s not to say that Millennials only interact with people online.

For example, say a group of friends go out to a bar:

  • The artsy friend is going to make an Instagram (IG) post of the interior design.
  • The foodie/drink friend will post what cocktail they’re having to a social channel like Facebook and give a blurb on how they enjoyed it.
  • The musically inclined friend will comment on the music selection or make a post about the live band that played.
  • The social friend will gather everyone together for a group picture and post about the night they shared.

Digital Communities

Each person above fully invests in their experience AND commits to sharing with their digital communities. This kind of earned publicity is invaluable, and it’s FREE. The bar in the example received the attention of thousands of people inside those four distinctly different groups, with content curated just for them, without spending a dime. It is clear that embracing these digital communities is the key to reaching that elusive generation.

Reaching Millennials

Businesses commonly make the mistake of casting too wide of a net with Millennials. By trying to advertise to everyone, you effectively reach no one. Highly-targeted marketing is easier than ever in today’s social media-filled world. By simply paying attention to trends and behaviors of specific groups, half the work is done. Tapping into the culture of the different digital communities makes you more likely to not only grab the attention of the younger generation, but prompt them to share your content and create content of their own next time they visit.

So next time you see someone on their phone, pay close attention to what they are focusing on. It may just give you the insight you need for your next marketing endeavor.


Here at TVG, digital strategy is something we’re passionate about! Call us at 314-991-4641 or visit our website at www.vandivergroup.com to learn how we can help you effectively reach your audience in the digital space.

Messaging: A New Era of Business Communications, Part 2

Best Practices for Businesses Using Facebook Messenger

By Nate Shryock, TVG Manager of Digital Strategy

In Part 1 of this blog series, we outlined how messaging apps can be useful business tools. Today, we’ll explore some best practices for businesses who want to use Facebook Messenger to communicate with their customers.

Respond promptly

Facebook publicly displays your company’s response speed on your homepage. It is important to gain the “Very responsive to messages” badge, which is achieved by having a response rate of 90% and a response time of 15 minutes within the last seven days. Slow response times often lead to escalated social posting by an individual with complaints.

Shoot for 100% response rate

More than ever, people simply want to be heard. By acknowledging every post, your customers feel like a larger part of your community. While 24/7 monitoring is not always possible, Facebook offers tools to help ensure that people have access to help outside of business hours. Away messages, pre-written replies and chat-bots provide customers with an immediate response and let them know that their concern is heard and will be addressed.

Use first names

The power of messaging for business comes from the human element. Using a person’s first name is an easy way to build a rapport and establish a connection. If you are responding to a comment, use the @tag of their first name (ex: @Nate). In addition, have moderators sign off with their first names as well.

Know when to take a public comment private

One of the biggest challenges of social for businesses is how to handle negative comments. Facebook offers the ability to initiate a private conversation with any commenter, and will display a public message saying that they’ve responded to the commenter in private.

Keep an updated list of your best customers

While difficult to manage, showing special attention to your most loyal customers will surprise and delight them – making them customers for life. Something as simple as sending a happy birthday message with a coupon or discount goes a long way to creating a positive relationship.

Conclusion

Just like you wouldn’t want to leave a customer waiting in your store, you don’t want to leave them waiting on social. Messenger apps offer a quick and effective way to add the human element back into the digital business world. When used correctly, can build long-lasting and mutually-beneficial relationships with your customers.


Need help using messaging apps for your business?  Not sure how to create a strong digital strategy? TVG can help! Call us at 314.991.4641 or visit our website at www.vandivergroup.com for more information.

Messaging Applications: A New Era of Business Communications (Part 1)

Messaging Applications: A New Era of Business Communications (Part 1)

By Nate Shryock, TVG Manager of Digital Strategy

We’ve all had experiences with people who spend too much time on their phone. Family dinners, dates, Friday night outings… it is no secret that people are often preoccupied with their digital lives. As individuals, this is often extremely frustrating, but as a business this presents new opportunities.

Recently, messaging apps have had a meteoric rise in popularity. Take Snapchat for example. In 2013, Snapchat peaked at 5 million daily active users, and in three years increased to 100 million daily active users. By the next year, the “Big 4 Messaging Apps” (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Viber) combined had the same number of monthly users as the “Big 4 Social Networks” (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram). In September 2016, Business Insider reported that messaging apps had taken over Social Networking apps in monthly active users.

Messaging apps are no longer just for personal communication, either. A Nielson study, commissioned by Facebook IQ in March of 2016, found that “over the next two years, 50% of people surveyed expect to use messaging apps more for communicating one-on-one” and 67% expect to use messaging apps more to communicate with businesses. Messaging also appeals across all generations. When asked whether they prefer messaging over a phone call or email, 65% of Millennials, 65% of Gen Xers, and 63% of Baby Boomers all preferred messaging.

So, what does this all mean for businesses? To answer this, we’ll explore how Facebook Messenger can work in a business setting.

Social Listening

It is important to listen to what your community is saying on social. Facebook offers a messenger inbox that allows you to monitor not only your direct messages, but comments and reviews on both Facebook and Instagram. A survey conducted by The Social Habit in 2016 states that “among respondents to The Social Habit who have ever attempted to contact a brand, product, or company through social media for customer support, 32% expect a response within 30 minutes. Further, 42% expect a response within 60 minutes,” making Messenger a vital part of the customer service strategy.

The inbox also allows you to respond to public comments and gives users the option to mark comments as “Done” or “Follow up” or they can assign them to another team member.

The Human Touch

According to David Marcus, Vice President of Messaging Products at Facebook, Facebook sees the use of Messenger by businesses as an avenue to add the human element back into web commerce. David states, “for so long, doing business was always conversational. Web (e-commerce) is truly an anomaly. It feels good to have a more human relationship when you’re buying things.”

In Part 2 of this blog series, we’ll focus on some best practices for businesses using Facebook Messenger.


What do you think? Do messaging apps create a sense of human interaction when purchasing products online? Comment or Tweet us @VandiverGroup and let us know how you use messaging apps to connect with customers. Need a social media strategy? Our social media team would love to help build a strategy for you. 

The Plague of Viral Marketing

The Red Swimsuit Phenomena – The Plague of Viral Marketing

By Madeleine Smith

On Wednesday, May 4, Sunny Co Clothing posted a picture on Instagram of a red swimsuit. If you posted the picture of the swimsuit on your Instagram within 24 hours, you were promised the same suit delivered free to your doorstep! While shipping and handling were not covered, the swimsuit, which retails for about $64.99, was completely free. A portion of the proceeds from the shipping were to go to Alzheimer’s research.

Sure enough, Instagram blew up with this image. It went viral. Twitter blew up with funny commentary, and even celebrities made comments on social media about the infamous “red swimsuit.”

It didn’t take long for Sunny Co to realize they were in over their heads, where they responded with a post: “Due to the viral volume of participants, we reserve the right to cap the promotion if deemed necessary.”

On top of this, they stated that shipping could take 3-6 WEEKS.

At first glance, it seemed like a great marketing plan. Wow, brand awareness! Free advertising! Positive attention!  However, I’m interested to see how Sunny Co now plans to retain their customers.

Historically, when brands and products go viral, or grow rapidly, there is usually the inevitable downfall. This happens all the time. It happened to the once trendy LA fashion brand, Nasty Gal.

  • Sales hit $24 million in 2011, which was a 200% increase from the year before, the brand said publicly.
  • In 2012, they hit $100 million.
  • By 2015, they dropped down to $77 million.
  • In 2016, they filed for bankruptcy.

Nasty Gal and Sunny Co share the tactic of cultivating one-time buyers. Spending money on indirect advertising, like online ad banners, can score you a multitude of people who might buy your product once. But, if you spend $100 on an ad and one person buys an item one time, you aren’t really making money. The same scenario applies to Sunny Co’s red swimsuit. If you spend the time and hire the workforce to ship thousands of free swimsuits, are you really making money? On top of that, if you can’t deliver on your promise of a free product, are you really building your brand’s reputation for future success?

As far as I know, no one who participated in this promotion received their red swimsuit yet.  People I know have deleted their repost from Sunny Co, the original Instagram account has been shut down, and no one is talking about the brand or product anymore on social media.

Marketing dollars and social media exposure are valuable for brands when they’re targeted. If you’re in B2C sales, focus on building relationships. If your product is good, the sales will follow.  One hundred loyal customers are more valuable than 500 one-time buyers. B2C relationships last longest when they are built like any other relationship. Find your audience, personalize your message, follow up with good customer service and a good product, and retain your clientele.


If you need help crafting a successful digital marketing campaign, TVG has got you covered! Give us a call at 314-991-4641.

Cause Marketing is Important to Millennials, Too

Cause Marketing & Millenials

By Madeleine Smith

While the term “cause marketing” was coined in the 1970s, it’s become increasingly important today for companies to support a cause or sponsor a charity. If you want proof that cause marketing is on the rise, it’s in the numbers. Engageforgood.com tracks several consumer studies, all of which support the importance of cause marketing:

  • Cause sponsorship is reported to reach $2.06 billion in 2017, a projected increase of 3.6% over 2016 (IEG Sponsorship Report, 2016).
  • 33% of consumers are now choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good (Unilever Study, 2016).
  • 74% of employees say that their job is more fulfilling when they have a positive impact (Cone Communications Employee Engagement Study, 2016).
  • 80% of global consumers believe that businesses must play a role in addressing societal issues (Edelman Trust Barometer, 2016).

What’s most interesting is where millennials factor into the picture.  A 2014 Cone Communications Digital Activism Study found that:

  • 74% of millennials surveyed learn about a companies’ social or environmental business practices, versus the U.S. average of 54%.
  • 80% of millennials were likely to donate to a cause after learning about it online, versus the U.S. average of 63%.

However, millennials are often portrayed as the “me” generation – selfish, entitled, lazy… Also, it seems every millennial has had “the talk” with their grandparents,  how “back in the day, they had to actually read books to write research papers, and walk to school uphill both ways in the snow.” The bottom-line is that they think technology has made millennials’ lives much more convenient, and we have it so much easier than they did.

That’s probably true to some extent. Growing up with computers, cell phones, and technology has made things easier for some of us, but harder for others.

While I’m not walking to work in the rain or churning my own butter, I’m involved in my community. I’ve spent countless hours doing unpaid work for causes that I care about. And, after doing research, I know I’m not alone.

If you’re a business owner and you want to reach millennials, consider supporting a cause or devoting pro-bono work to a non-profit. Cause marketing statistics show that it does pay off, no matter what side of the transaction you’re on.


TVG has experience in creating successful marketing campaigns for a variety of clients. Need some help? Give us a call at 314-991-4641 or email us to know more.

The Art and Science of the Exhibit Hall: Presentation Skills for Conferences

Presentation Skills for Conferences

By Andy Likes, TVG Vice President

How many of you have been to a conference in the last year? You probably remember lots of helpful breakout sessions and keynote speakers you’d love to hear again. Now what about the exhibit hall? Read more

Celebrate “Silly” Questions Every Day, but Especially This Week

Celebrate “Silly” Questions

By Donna Vandiver, President & CEO

According to Parade magazine, September 28 is “Ask a Stupid Question” day. When Marilyn vos Savant was asked if there was such a thing as a stupid question, she replied, “Yes”. Read more

10 Things You Need to Know If You Work with Millennials

Working with Millennials: 10 Things to Know

By Abbey Theban, TVG Account Executive

As a millennial in the communications field, I know how much every brand, organization and corporation wants to get inside our heads. Read more

Why a PR Pro Should Help You with Presentation Skills

Why a PR Pro Should Help You with Presentation Skills

By Laura Vandiver, TVG VP of Research & Strategic Insight

We’ve all been there. Your palms are sweaty, your mouth is dry. It’s that awkward moment before you begin a big presentation. Public speaking or making a presentation – whether to a large group or small – is consistently rated one of the top phobias among Americans, as well as other cultures around the world. But, fear not friends! There is hope – and it comes in the form of your local PR professional. Read more

Super Bowl 50 Ads

Watching It For The Ads

By Jesse Selz, TVG Graphic Designer

I’d be lying if I said I was big fan of football, or that I even attend Super Bowl events for the purpose of watching the game. However, there are many other coexisting elements which are persuasive enough to make me an active participant: all the food and refreshments, watching the halftime entertainment, being part of the Super Bowl social-culture, and most importantly — the commercials. Read more

How a Lack of Communication Became a Major Fumble for the Rams

How a Lack of Communication Became a Major Fumble for the Rams

By Andy Likes, TVG Vice President

Like it or not, Stan Kroenke, his Rams franchise and the NFL are squarely in the middle of a crisis – and it’s all due to a lack of communication. When Kroenke purchased the majority ownership of the Rams in 2010, he told the NFL, Associated Press and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I’m going to attempt to do everything that I can to keep the Rams in St. Louis, Just as I did everything that I could to bring the team to St. Louis in 1995. I believe my actions speak for themselves.” Read more