“One of the top two abilities lacking in entry-level PR pros: strong writing skills.”
The American Egg Board chooses tipsheets
When Americans bought more plastic and candy eggs and fewer real eggs for Easter 2012, the American Egg Board turned to Edelman to take back Easter.
But Edelman and the Egg Board didn’t send out releases and tweets saying, “Eggs are great.” Instead, they created tipsheets on how to hard-boil, dye, decorate eggs and create dishes for Easter.
The result of this and other campaign tactics: Americans bought more than $40 million extra eggs for Easter 2013. And Edelman and the Egg Board earned a PRSA Silver Anvil award (PDF, members only) for their campaign.
They’re incredible! They’re not edible! They’re tipsheets!
And that, my friends, is the power of tipsheets.
Tipsheets are more likely to get read, shared, used and acted upon, according to research. They’re also, obviously, more likely to sell eggs — not to mention other products, services, programs and ideas.
Here’s a look at one of Edelman and the Egg Board’s tipsheets. How can you model this master to create powerful tipsheets for your own campaigns?
HGTV Interior Designer Sabrina Soto
Offers Easter Decorating Tips to “Dye” for
Nearly 200 million eggs are purchased for Easter celebrations in the U.S. every year. Whether young or young at heart, hard-boiling eggs and then decorating them is a favorite family pastime that brings out the creative side in everyone. According to a recent American Egg Board survey, nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of respondents say their families decorate one to two dozen eggs each year.
“Eggs are like a blank canvas — the decorating possibilities are endless, and you don’t have to stick to a standard store-bought kit,” says Sabrina Soto, HGTV interior designer. “In addition to dyeing eggs in beautiful colors, dress them up with items already sitting in your kitchen or closet like scraps of ribbon, buttons, glitter or even confetti.”
Here are a few more tips from Soto to get the egg decorating creativity hopping:
- Perfect Polka: Use the eraser end of a pencil to paint perfect polka dots on the egg. Just dip the eraser into acrylic craft paint and dab onto the egg. Make different patterns and use different colors to create perfect designs.
- Tattoo Decor: Kids always have those temporary tattoos lying around their rooms! Why not make egg decorating simple? Apply those same tattoos to eggs for a professional and easy look that kids will love.
- Ribbon Wrap: Tie a beautiful ribbon around a dyed egg. Mix colors and patterns for fun visual interest. Adorn with craft or fabric flowers, even buttons. For a more rustic look, use natural fibers such as hemp or twine with dried flowers in place of the ribbons.
Before Decorating, You Have to Hard-Boil
“After interior design, cooking is my second passion,” says Soto. “It always surprises me that while many people love to decorate eggs, they don’t know how to hard-boil eggs properly.”
In fact, less than one-quarter (23 percent) of survey respondents know the correct way to hard-boil eggs. What many don’t know is the key to hard-boiling eggs is not to boil them. Eggs that are cooked too long or at too high of a temperature become tough and rubbery, causing them to have unattractive green rings around the yolks. Follow these steps for bright yellow yolks and tender whites every time:
- Step 1: Put eggs in pan, add water, cover, bring to boil
- Step 2: Turn off heat, let stand for 12 minutes
- Step 3: Run cold water over eggs to cool and get ready to decorate
Soto recommends buying eggs a week to 10 days before decorating so they will be easier to peel.
Visit the Incredible Egg on Pinterest for more inspiring ideas and showcase your unique egg design when the “Easter Eggs-stravaganza Sweepstakes” kicks off on March 18. The grand prize winner will receive a gift card valued at $1,000 to put toward a room makeover and four runners-up will receive a gift card valued at $200.
Incredible Easy Egg Recipes
In addition to being great for festivities, eggs are affordable, contain high-quality protein and are a naturally good source of vitamin D, making them an ideal dish to serve a group at Easter brunch. Try these delicious and festive recipes:
- Breakfast Biscuit Quiches are a perfect start to any meal, and only take 30 minutes to prepare. Serve them to your guests on a platter as finger food.
- Benedict Strata is a delicious make-ahead entree choice for the big day.
- Mini Orange-Maple French Toast Breakfast Casseroles are perfect for brunch celebrations or easy entertaining and are sure to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth.
Get tips for tipsheets.
Ready to write your own tipsheets? Here are some tips to get you started:
Anatomy of a PR piece
Do you ever wish you had a checklist of best practices for writing tipsheets, survey stories and other releases — from headline to boilerplate?
At NOT Your Father’s News Release — our two-day PR-writing workshop in New York on Dec. 9-10 — you’ll learn current best practices, proven in the lab, for polishing your release’s headline, deck, lead, body, quotes and more.
Specifically, you’ll learn how to:
- Choose a structure that increases readership, understanding and satisfaction with your message. (Hint: The structure you’re using now is probably doing the opposite.)
- Avoid PR 101 leads. Still stuffing all those W’s and the H into the first paragraph? Still writing “XYZ Company today announces that …”? It’s time to move on to a more effective approach.
- Transform lame-ass quotes into killer sound bites.
- Avoid the worst PR clichés. PR Newswire sees 1,284 of these in a single month. How can you make your PR messages stand out?
- Beat the boilerplate blues. Here’s one way to stay off The Bad Pitch Blog.
- Avoid the wrath of Google. Learn whether, where and how to add search terms, links and other SEO techniques. Find out how to optimize for humans as well as for Google.
“You transformed my writing in a mere 12 hours. I look forward to the next.”
Brent Buchanan, Communication, Advocacy & Political professional, National Experience
Learn to engage readers with wordplay, metaphor, storytelling and more at this two-day Master ClassMy husband likes to quote Anonymous, who said: “If a man speaks in the forest, and no woman is there to hear him, is he still wrong?”
The corporate communication writer’s corollary: If you cover your terribly serious and important stories, and nobody pays attention, does your message still make a sound?
But at Make Your Copy More Creative — a two-day storytelling Master Class on Feb. 23-24 in Phoenix — you’ll learn how to write messages that grab attention, keep it longer, communicate more clearly, enhance credibility and are more likely to go viral.
You’ll walk away with techniques (not just what to do, but how) for painting pictures in your audience members’ minds so they understand your points faster, enjoy your information more and remember it longer.
And if you act by Dec. 23, you can save up to $300 on registration.
Fill your toolbox with tricks.
In two days, you’ll have time to cram your writer’s tool bag with tricks — hard-to-find but easy-to-implement techniques that will help you:
- Grab Attention With Feature Stories: Craft creative leads and kickers
- Make Your Copy More Colorful: Engage readers with fun facts, juicy details
- Play With Your Words: Spice up your headlines, leads and sound bites with wordplay
- Master the Art of the Storyteller: Tap ‘the most powerful form of human communication’
- Add Meaning With Metaphor: Clarify complex concepts with analogies
- Take Your Story From ‘Meh’ to Masterpiece: Bring your laptop and a story to work on, and leave with a totally rewritten piece.
If you’re a good writer, this Master Class will equip you with a bigger, better bag of writing tricks. If you’re struggling, the program can give you the tools you need to get up to speed almost immediately.
Wherever you are in your writing journey, in this workshop, you will:
- Learn the latest, proven-in-the-lab approaches for getting readers to pay attention to your message, understand it, remember it and act on it.
- Find out how to ditch outdated writing practices that actually annoy, rather than attract, readers.
- Get the information you need to have a successful conversation with management about what works in writing and why.
- Leave with fresh techniques based on relevant research that you can use to reach and sway your audiences.
Meet me in Phoenix.
Summer spends the winter in Arizona, the old saying goes. That makes Phoenix the perfect place for our February writing workshop.
I love Phoenix because … well, let’s be honest: The main reason I love Phoenix is that the most adorable 9-year-old on the planet — aka my niece, Laura — lives there.
But I also love this sophisticated city’s proximity to some of the most dazzling destinations in the country. From Phoenix, you can take a day trip to the Grand Canyon or the Apache Trail and still be back in time to grab the last order of chocolate-dipped bacon s’mores at Beckett’s Table. (At my house, we call that the desert-to-dessert tour.)
Why not make a long weekend of it?
I, for one, will be winding down from our winter writing workshop by hiking Camelback Mountain; finally visiting Taliesen West; ogling the turquoise at the Heard Museum; catching the Bruce Munro light exhibition at the Desert Botanical Garden; kicking back with the perfect craft margarita at Bitter & Twisted; then gorging on the six-course tasting menu at Binkley’s.
Maybe we’ll run into each other!
Save up to $300 when you register by Dec. 23.
I have no doubt that this Master Class will be the best money you invest on your professional development this year.
Plus, now you can save up to $100 with early bird registration if you sign up by Dec. 23. Save even more when you bring a friend or belong to RevUpReadership.com.
You’ll find out why Laura Ingalls, senior manager of communications for PetSmart Charities, said of this Master Class: “Ann inspired me to exorcise the dusty demons of my journalism career and embrace a livelier and more agile writer within.”
“Keep it people, stupid.”
Karen Friedman, television reporter turned media trainer
Human interest helps fight the 7 dreary P’sCall them the seven dreary P’s: programs, plans, policies, procedures, protocols, positions and products.
Bring these mind-numbing topics to life by turning them into an eighth P: people.
That’s what graduates of our most recent Master the Art of the Storyteller Master Class did.
Let people stand for protocols.
For instance, when Sharon Weinfeld, a communications strategist for the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, announced that a team of member nurses had decreased health care-related infections, she could have tersely delivered the news.
Instead, she brought the story to life with one nurse.
|Teams of bedside nurses from four New York City hospitals significantly reduced two healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) — central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) and catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs).|
Based at New York-Presbyterian (NYP)/Columbia University Medical Center, NYP/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, NYP/Weill Cornell Medical Center and North Shore University Hospital, the teams conducted the quality improvement initiatives as part of AACN Clinical Scene Investigator (CSI) Academy.
|New York City critical care nurse Katie Winkler winces, teeth clenched and body rigid, as she recalls the hellish — and preventable — ordeal of Charlie, one of her patients last year. Already immobilized, breathing only with the help of a ventilator and on a regimen of hourly IV meds as a result of a brain aneurism, Charlie contracted an excruciating and life-threatening catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI).|
For critically ill patients fighting for their lives, another infection is the last thing they need — and may be the last thing they experience on this earth. While sixty percent of critical care patients with CAUTIs and CLABSIs (central line-associated bloodstream infections) suffer long-term, irreversible effects, more than 27,000 of them die from these infections every year.
“Charlie didn’t have to endure that,” said Winkler, staff nurse in the Neuroscience ICU at New York Presbyterian (NYP)/Columbia University Medical Center. “CAUTI is completely preventable.”
Bring stories to life with people.
It’s The Writing Rule of One: Your readers care more about one person they know something about than dozens or hundreds of nameless, faceless souls.
So find a person to stand for your point.
Master the Art of the Storyteller
Storytelling is “the most powerful form of human communication,” according to Peg Neuhauser, author of Corporate Legends and Lore. Indeed, stories can help you get attention, boost credibility, make your messages more memorable — even communicate better.
At Make Your Copy More Creative — a two-day creative writing master class on Feb. 23-24 in Phoenix — you’ll learn to identify, develop and tell stories that will illustrate your points, communicate your messages and sell your products, services and ideas. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:
- Find the ah-ha! moment that’s the gateway to every anecdote.
- Elicit juicy stories with the key question to ask during an interview.
- Organize your material into a powerful story in just three steps with our simple storytelling template.
- Start an anecdote with a bang — instead of a snivel.
- Find anecdotes in the making with “WBHA.”
“The best day is the one when I can write a lead that will cause the reader at his breakfast the next morning to spit up his coffee, clutch at his heart and shout, ‘My God, Martha, did you read this?’”
Edna Buchanan, legendary cops reporter for the Miami Herald
Concrete details make great invitation leadsWhen I teach the feature-style story structure, communicators nod. It seems reasonable that readers would prefer concrete, creative stories to a hierarchical blurtation of facts.
BUT — and as Pee-Wee Herman said, there’s always a big but — they wonder, is the feature-style story structure for everything? Even emails? Even event invites?
Yes, Virginia, the feature-style story structure works for almost everything — emails included, event invites include. And here’s proof, thanks to Sarah Herr, employee communications manager at Sensus.
Sarah and her team have brought me in for two Master Classes this year, so these folks are serious about using best practices for reaching readers.
Which of these parties would you rather attend?
In our most recent workshop, Sarah was working on the Sensus holiday party invitation. Here’s where she started:
Reserve your spot at the Sensus Holiday Party and experience the event in a whole new venue this year! Based on your feedback, we’ve moved from a country club setting and into the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh.
During the event you will have run of the entire new portion of the museum, complete with science displays on three levels. While you mingle, enjoy drinks, live music and heavy hors d’oeuvres and carving stations.
But the key to a good invitation lead is to make folks want to attend the event. So tell them what they can look forward to in a concrete feature lead.
How would you find a feature lead for this story? I suggested that Sarah visit my BFF and research assistant, Google, to find out what her colleagues could do at the science museum.
Within minutes, Sarah has rewritten her piece:
Take a ride thousands of feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, touch a stone that’s traveled through space for millions of years or find out just how much DNA you and “Fido” have in common. Do all this and more at the Sensus Holiday Party!
We’ve moved from a country club setting and into the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh. During the event you will have run of all four floors of the new Nature Research Center, complete with interactive science exhibits and dioramas. While you mingle, enjoy drinks, live music and heavy Hors d’oeuvres and carving stations.
Need a last minute Christmas gift? Be sure to enter the prize raffle — or pick up a gift at the museum store. The store has bugs encased in candy, fossils and models interesting enough for the scientist in all of us.
Features work for virtually all media, channels, topics and audiences. Why not make your next message — email invites included — more creative and compelling with a feature-style story structure?
Think Outside the Pyramid
Our old friend the inverted pyramid hasn’t fared well in recent research.
According to new studies by such think tanks as The Readership Institute and The Poynter Institute, inverted pyramids: 1) Reduce readership and understanding; 2) Fail to make readers care about the information; and 3) Don’t draw readers across the jump. In short, researchers say, inverted pyramids “do not work well with readers.”
At Catch Your Readers — a two-day Master Class on April 20-21 in Atlanta — you’ll learn a structure that can increase readership, understanding and satisfaction with your message. Specifically, you’ll learn:
- How to organize your message to grab readers’ attention, keep it for the long haul and leave a lasting impression
- Three elements of a great lead — and five leads to avoid
- How to stop bewildering your readers by leaving out an essential paragraph. (Many communicators forget it)
- Five ways to avoid the “muddle in the middle”
- A three-step test for ending with a bang
“Clarity is the most serious communication problem in business.”
Ron Dulek, author of The Elements of Business Writing
Just 2% of adults globally perform at the top literacy level
Read it and weep: After decades of reporting five levels of literacy, the largest adult literacy study in the world has dropped Level 5, the top level, for lack of participation.The reason: Just 2 percent of adults worldwide performed at Level 5, so researchers combined it with Level 4 in their most recent report.
Welcome to the world of literacy today, according to the 2013 Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, or PIAAC.
PIAAC is an enormous, every-10-year study of adult literacy, developed and organized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The study seeks to determine how well adults are prepared to function in today’s society.
How are we doing?
How did these adults fare?
“Across all countries, only 2 percent of adults performed at Level 5 [the top level] on many of the variables in the literacy and numeracy scales,” researchers report.
So how can you reach readers in this environment? Make messages easier to read.
Write for Readability
If you write at the 11th grade level, 97% or more of U.S. adults won’t be able to understand your copy, according to the Department of Education’s latest adult literacy test.
So: Are you smart enough to write for a 5th grader?
At Cut Through the Clutter — our tight-writing Master Class on May 11-12 in Chicago — you’ll learn how to write easy-to-read messages that get more people to read your piece, read more of it, read it faster, understand it better and remember it longer. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:
- Save up to 40% of the cost of business communications by making them easier to read. (FedEx, for instance, saved $400,000 a year by rewriting operations manuals.)
- Increase reading by up to 75% by making one simple change to your copy.
- Use a cool tool (it’s free!) to measurably improve readability.
- Analyze your copy for 34 readability metrics — and leave with quantifiable targets, tips and techniques for improving each one.
- Measure, monitor, manage and report readability — your No. 1 tool for making your messages more effective.
“Revolutionised the way my communications team and I approach writing for online consumption.”
Nikki Van Dusen, manager, Internet Communications, Alberta Public Affairs Bureau
Steal 4 tips from the search giant’s own releases
Google issues few press releases: 13 in 2013, 17 in 2014 and just 10 in the first eight months of 2015. Most of them are earnings releases.
So when Google announced that it had acquired Nest, the release itself gave some insights into what Google rewards in releases.
Here are four techniques to steal from Google:
1. Write a short, active, hype-free headline.
Google results pages display up to 65 characters of headlines, so keep your headline to 65 characters or less. This one weighs in at 22 characters, including spaces.
When it comes to news, the verb is the story, so make yours strong and active. Note that Google’s verb is acquire, not a “PR verb” like announces, introduces or launches.
Skip the hype: Nobody searches for “unique, award-winning, best-of-breed gizmo,” so adjectives and adverbs take a toll on your SEO efforts. Take a tip from Google, and make your headline hype-free.
2. Rethink links.
Remember the glory days, when PR pros could stuff their releases with anchor links, secure in the knowledge that as those releases got posted on news portals and other sites, the client would reap the rewards in the inbound links that make up 75% of SEO results?
Those days are gone.
In our David vs. Google world, the giant always wins. In this case, Google’s 2013 algorithm update took on link schemes. Now, Google penalizes releases that use this approach.
That doesn’t mean you can’t include links in your release: Go ahead. Just be sure to include the NOFOLLOW attribute, which tells search engines to ignore these links. You’ll reap no reward, but you’ll also pay no penalty.
But note that Google includes no links in most of its releases, including this one.
3. Use plain, active language.
I’m sure Nest is “the leading home automation producer of programmable, self-learning, sensor-driven, Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats, smoke detectors, and other security systems.”
But “Nest’s mission is to reinvent unloved but important devices in the home such as thermostats and smoke alarms” does a better job of reaching humans — and search engines.
Keep your language simple and clear. Write about people doing things, not about “us and our stuff.”
If you can’t find a verb in your release, you’re on the wrong track. Notice these short, active verbs in Google’s release: reinvent, built, buy, save, keep, bring, fulfill, join, build. What verbs are in yours?
In fact, this release is so clear, you can almost read the legalese at the end.
4. Keep it short.
Google’s release is 223 words long. Folks, 400-word releases are so 1994. If you’re not putting a stamp on it, keep your release to 200 words or so.
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA — JANUARY 13, 2014 — Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) announced today that it has entered into an agreement to buy Nest Labs, Inc. for $3.2 billion in cash.
Nest’s mission is to reinvent unloved but important devices in the home such as thermostats and smoke alarms. Since its launch in 2011, the Nest Learning Thermostat has been a consistent best seller — and the recently launched Protect (Smoke + CO Alarm) has had rave reviews.
Larry Page, CEO of Google, said: “Nest’s founders, Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers, have built a tremendous team that we are excited to welcome into the Google family. They’re already delivering amazing products you can buy right now —thermostats that save energy and smoke/CO alarms that can help keep your family safe. We are excited to bring great experiences to more homes in more countries and fulfill their dreams!”
Tony Fadell, CEO of Nest, said: “We’re thrilled to join Google. With their support, Nest will be even better placed to build simple, thoughtful devices that make life easier at home, and that have a positive impact on the world.”
Nest will continue to operate under the leadership of Tony Fadell and with its own distinct brand identity. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of regulatory approvals in the US. It is expected to close in the next few months.
About Google Inc.
Google is a global technology leader focused on improving the ways people connect with information. Google’s innovations in web search and advertising have made its website a top internet property and its brand one of the most recognized in the world.
Google’s approach works. The Nest acquisition story appears on 6,440 Web pages and on 183 news sites.
What’s in your release?
Thanks to Stephen Kenwright of Branded 3 for bringing this release to our attention.
Reach Readers Online
Reaching online readers is complicated:
- Google’s algorithms seem to change daily, pitching websites whose writers don’t keep up into search results hell.
- Every hyperlink is a decision readers need to make — to click or not to click?! — distracting them from your message.
- Reading online is so onerous, it can cause symptoms ranging from eyestrain to back pain, from cognitive overload to — gulp! — death.
It’s enough to make a communicator pine for print!
In this environment, how do we Reach Readers Online?
At Get Clicked, Read, Liked and Shared — our online-writing Master Class on Sept. 28-29 in New York — you’ll learn techniques for overcoming the obstacles of reading on the screen to get the word out on the Web, in social media and via content marketing.
Specifically, you’ll learn to how to:
- Think Like a Friend, Fan, Follower or Visitor: Offer news you can use, and watch your reach and influence grow
- Create Content Marketing Pieces That Almost Write Themselves: Get our fill-in-the-blanks templates for tipsheets, survey stories, case studies and more.
- Avoid Google’s Wrath: Find out what writers need to know right now about SEO
- Cut Through the Clutter Online: Overcome the obstacles of reading on the screen
- Lift Your Ideas Off the Screen: Communicate to nonreaders with headlines, links and other online display copy
- Transform Your Story From “Meh” to Masterpiece: Bring your laptop and a story to work on, write and rewrite, get and give feedback, and leave with a totally rewritten piece.
Would you like to hold an in-house Get Clicked, Read, Shared & Liked workshop? Contact Ann directly.
“Excellent — engagement, information, entertainment. Practice makes permanent — as long as you make the right choices. Ann steers your creative spirits on the right course.”
Judy Overton, program manager, MD Anderson Cancer Center
Polish your skills at one of these events
Alas, I can’t invite you to the in-house seminars I present for private organizations.
But everyone’s invited to these upcoming public seminars in:
- Atlanta on April 20-21, 2016: Catch Your Readers, a two-day Master Class
- Chicago on May 11-12, 2016: Cut Through the Clutter, a two-day tight-writing Master Class
- New York on Dec. 9-10: NOT Your Father’s News Release, a two-day PR-writing Master Class
- New York on Sept. 28-29, 2016: Get Clicked, Read, Shared & Liked, a two-day Web- and social media-writing Master Class
- Phoenix on Feb. 23-24, 2016: Make Your Copy More Creative, a two-day creative writing Master Class
- Your own home or office on on Dec. 8: Create Content Marketing Pieces That Almost Write Themselves, a one-hour webinar for PRSA
Would you like to attend? Please contact meeting planners directly for details.
Want to polish your skills? Keep up with Ann’s latest two-day Master Classes.
Cut your training costs when you piggyback your program
Save money when you piggyback your workshop by scheduling it when I’m already “in the neighborhood.” Book your program the day before or after another organization’s and split my airfare and ground transportation with the other group.
Ask about piggybacking on my upcoming engagements in:
- Atlanta: April 20-21
- Bloomington, Indiana: April 5
- Chicago: May 11-12
- Englewood, Colorado: March 16-17
- Falls Church, Virginia: Dec. 2
- Houston: Nov. 2-3
- New York: Dec. 9-10, & Sept. 28-29
- Phoenix: Feb. 23-24
- Portland: July 27-28
- San Antonio: Jan. 14
- San Diego: June 28-29
- Vacaville, California: March 1-2
Save even more: Ask about my communication-association discounts and second-day fee reductions.
Contact me to discuss piggybacking.
Want to polish your skills? Bring me in for a workshop at your organization.
The folks at Wylie Communications have been enjoying:
Find out when I’m coming to your neighborhood, learn when you can sign up for one of my programs and otherwise keep up with my calendar.
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