Sarah Skerik's blog listings. Feed Zend_Feed_Writer 1.10.8 (http://framework.zend.com) http://www.profnetconnect.com/sarahskerik Timeless Storytelling Tips from Former PR Newswire Features Editor Fred Ferguson Editor’s note:  The following piece is based upon an article published years ago by our then Features Editor, Fred Ferguson.  We were saddened to hear news this week of Fred’s passing.  A PR Newswire employee for more than 16 years, Fred left an indelible mark on the organization and instilled keen news sensibility in many of his colleagues.   In today’s age of content marketing, his advice on fashioning effective news pieces is more relevant and timely than ever.


A computer programmer develops a program to keep Internet pornography from the PC his son uses.

A retired schoolteacher produces a set of cards to teach his own children math and vocabulary faster.

And a dance teacher confined to a chair because of a broken leg creates a videotape teaching chair dancing.

These are the personal, dramatic stories that once hid in routine news releases, according to Fred Ferguson, the former manager of PR Newswire’s Feature News Service who passed away on August 22, 2014.

His advice, which encouraged organizations to incorporate feature news writing into their press releases and publicity campaigns, is still instructive today, and not just for PR pros penning press releases.  Marketers who want their content to resonate with audiences should pay heed to Ferguson’s words too.

“Organizations and companies who need publicity may get more exposure by doing a feature story rather than issuing a straight news releases,” said Ferguson, who was a longtime reporter, editor and executive with United Press International before joining PR Newswire.  “Unless you’re announcing something or have breaking news, tell your story in a feature that won’t bury the heart of it.”

Ferguson’s tips for creating a compelling feature story focused rigorously on putting the audience for the story first, and the brand second.

  • Hit editors with the story in the headline, which is all they see in selecting stories.
  • Tell the same story in first paragraph, which should never be cute, soft, a quote or a question. These leads obstruct getting to the story. People, editors included, don’t read deep;
  • Support the first paragraph with a second that backs it up and provides attribution. Bury the product and service name at the end of the second paragraph so it becomes less advertorial.
  • Try to keep all paragraphs under 30 words and to three lines. This curbs fulmination, is easier for editors to cut to fit available space, holds the reader’s attention and is attractive in most page layouts;
  • Do not excessively repeat the name of a product or service. Doing so is story desecration and the feature loses print and broadcast opportunities;
  • Forget superlatives. Forget techno babble. Forget buzz words. Tell why consumers care instead;
  • Never say anything is first or the best, express an opinion or make claims unless you directly attribute it to someone. Editors avoid anything not pinned to someone;
  • Avoid the self-serving laundry list of products or services. A better way to introduce a product or service is to have a spokesperson discussing it as a trend or advising how to use it;
  • Know that putting the corporate name in all capital letters violates style and will be rejected by many as advertorial and unsightly. Also beware trademark repetition.
  • Do not use the corporate identity statement. Instead, use the information throughout the story so that it will be used. If you must use the boilerplate, put it in note to editor so it won’t interfere with text.

Storytelling is all the rage today in marketing circles.  Fred knew the power of stories, and taught scores of communicators the ins and outs of storytelling.

Our thoughts are with Fred’s family and friends, and he has our everlasting thanks for his sharing of his knowledge and enthusiasm with his cohorts, cronies, colleagues and clients.


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Fri, 29 Aug 2014 14:06:07 -0500 http://www.profnetconnect.com/sarahskerik/blog/2014/08/29/timeless_storytelling_tips_from_former_pr_newswire_features_editor_fred_ferguson http://www.profnetconnect.com/sarahskerik/blog/2014/08/29/timeless_storytelling_tips_from_former_pr_newswire_features_editor_fred_ferguson Editor’s note:  The following piece is based upon an article published years ago by our then Features Editor, Fred Ferguson.  We were saddened to hear news this week of Fred’s passing.  A PR Newswire employee for more than 16 years, Fred left an indelible mark on the organization and instilled keen news sensibility in many of his colleagues.   In today’s age of content marketing, his advice on fashioning effective news pieces is more relevant and timely than ever.


A computer programmer develops a program to keep Internet pornography from the PC his son uses.

A retired schoolteacher produces a set of cards to teach his own children math and vocabulary faster.

And a dance teacher confined to a chair because of a broken leg creates a videotape teaching chair dancing.

These are the personal, dramatic stories that once hid in routine news releases, according to Fred Ferguson, the former manager of PR Newswire’s Feature News Service who passed away on August 22, 2014.

His advice, which encouraged organizations to incorporate feature news writing into their press releases and publicity campaigns, is still instructive today, and not just for PR pros penning press releases.  Marketers who want their content to resonate with audiences should pay heed to Ferguson’s words too.

“Organizations and companies who need publicity may get more exposure by doing a feature story rather than issuing a straight news releases,” said Ferguson, who was a longtime reporter, editor and executive with United Press International before joining PR Newswire.  “Unless you’re announcing something or have breaking news, tell your story in a feature that won’t bury the heart of it.”

Ferguson’s tips for creating a compelling feature story focused rigorously on putting the audience for the story first, and the brand second.

  • Hit editors with the story in the headline, which is all they see in selecting stories.
  • Tell the same story in first paragraph, which should never be cute, soft, a quote or a question. These leads obstruct getting to the story. People, editors included, don’t read deep;
  • Support the first paragraph with a second that backs it up and provides attribution. Bury the product and service name at the end of the second paragraph so it becomes less advertorial.
  • Try to keep all paragraphs under 30 words and to three lines. This curbs fulmination, is easier for editors to cut to fit available space, holds the reader’s attention and is attractive in most page layouts;
  • Do not excessively repeat the name of a product or service. Doing so is story desecration and the feature loses print and broadcast opportunities;
  • Forget superlatives. Forget techno babble. Forget buzz words. Tell why consumers care instead;
  • Never say anything is first or the best, express an opinion or make claims unless you directly attribute it to someone. Editors avoid anything not pinned to someone;
  • Avoid the self-serving laundry list of products or services. A better way to introduce a product or service is to have a spokesperson discussing it as a trend or advising how to use it;
  • Know that putting the corporate name in all capital letters violates style and will be rejected by many as advertorial and unsightly. Also beware trademark repetition.
  • Do not use the corporate identity statement. Instead, use the information throughout the story so that it will be used. If you must use the boilerplate, put it in note to editor so it won’t interfere with text.

Storytelling is all the rage today in marketing circles.  Fred knew the power of stories, and taught scores of communicators the ins and outs of storytelling.

Our thoughts are with Fred’s family and friends, and he has our everlasting thanks for his sharing of his knowledge and enthusiasm with his cohorts, cronies, colleagues and clients.


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Copy Quality: New Imperatives for Communicators New copy quality guidelines from PR Newswire to help improve press release content quality.
New copy quality guidelines from PR Newswire
to help improve press release content quality.

How does one determine whether or not a piece of content is low-quality?

Since we added copy quality to the guidelines against which we assess press releases and other content prior to distribution, we’ve counseled a number of clients on steps they can take to improve thevalue of their content for their audiences.

Understanding how to build/create quality content is a mandate for all communicators creating digital content. Google started raising the bar on Web content quality in early 2011, when the first Panda algorithm update was deployed. Taking aim at link farms and websites created to propagate links and manipulate search rank but which offer little to no real use to human beings, the goal of the Panda update is to improve the relevance of the search results Google returned to Internet searchers.

The New Rules of Content Quality

Google has kept the pedal to the metal, rolling out changes and updates to its algorithms in an ongoing effort to improve the utility of its search engine by returning better and better results to users, and it’s safe to assume that this won’t change in the future. Communicators of all stripes publishing digital content and seeking visibility in search engines will have to play by the rules.

So let’s look at those rules. Click here to continue reading on PR Newswire's Beyond PR blog.

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Wed, 23 Jul 2014 10:03:11 -0500 http://www.profnetconnect.com/sarahskerik/blog/2014/07/23/copy_quality:_new_imperatives_for_communicators http://www.profnetconnect.com/sarahskerik/blog/2014/07/23/copy_quality:_new_imperatives_for_communicators New copy quality guidelines from PR Newswire to help improve press release content quality.
New copy quality guidelines from PR Newswire
to help improve press release content quality.

How does one determine whether or not a piece of content is low-quality?

Since we added copy quality to the guidelines against which we assess press releases and other content prior to distribution, we’ve counseled a number of clients on steps they can take to improve thevalue of their content for their audiences.

Understanding how to build/create quality content is a mandate for all communicators creating digital content. Google started raising the bar on Web content quality in early 2011, when the first Panda algorithm update was deployed. Taking aim at link farms and websites created to propagate links and manipulate search rank but which offer little to no real use to human beings, the goal of the Panda update is to improve the relevance of the search results Google returned to Internet searchers.

The New Rules of Content Quality

Google has kept the pedal to the metal, rolling out changes and updates to its algorithms in an ongoing effort to improve the utility of its search engine by returning better and better results to users, and it’s safe to assume that this won’t change in the future. Communicators of all stripes publishing digital content and seeking visibility in search engines will have to play by the rules.

So let’s look at those rules. Click here to continue reading on PR Newswire's Beyond PR blog.

0 Comments - Leave a Comment
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Safeguarding Brand Visibility on Social Networks brand hub

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are all public companies and, as such, their primary objectives are to return profits to their shareholders, not drive visibility for the brands that have developed presences on their platforms.

It’s no secret that social networks strive to make their sites useful and attractive to users, employing algorithms to serve up content that will engage their audiences and keep them on the site longer (thus exposing them to more advertising).

The recent news of Facebook’s experiment in manipulating user emotions by managing what they see in their newsfeeds is surprising to some, but the reality is this: The brands we represent are not in control of social presences, and while there’s no doubt social media is a powerful communications medium, communicators are at the mercy of the social network companies and their fiduciary duties to their respective shareholders.

Changes in organic reach of Facebook posts since September 2012. Via Moz.com

The social network companies can make (and have made) significant changes to their platforms, increasing and decreasing visibility for brands seemingly at the drop of a hat. As a result, except for brands willing to spend heavily on advertising, visibility via social networks can be unpredictable.

Continue reading this article on Beyond PR to see four ways brands can safeguard their online visibility and social network traction.

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Wed, 16 Jul 2014 14:53:46 -0500 http://www.profnetconnect.com/sarahskerik/blog/2014/07/16/safeguarding_brand_visibility_on_social_networks http://www.profnetconnect.com/sarahskerik/blog/2014/07/16/safeguarding_brand_visibility_on_social_networks brand hub

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are all public companies and, as such, their primary objectives are to return profits to their shareholders, not drive visibility for the brands that have developed presences on their platforms.

It’s no secret that social networks strive to make their sites useful and attractive to users, employing algorithms to serve up content that will engage their audiences and keep them on the site longer (thus exposing them to more advertising).

The recent news of Facebook’s experiment in manipulating user emotions by managing what they see in their newsfeeds is surprising to some, but the reality is this: The brands we represent are not in control of social presences, and while there’s no doubt social media is a powerful communications medium, communicators are at the mercy of the social network companies and their fiduciary duties to their respective shareholders.

Changes in organic reach of Facebook posts since September 2012. Via Moz.com

The social network companies can make (and have made) significant changes to their platforms, increasing and decreasing visibility for brands seemingly at the drop of a hat. As a result, except for brands willing to spend heavily on advertising, visibility via social networks can be unpredictable.

Continue reading this article on Beyond PR to see four ways brands can safeguard their online visibility and social network traction.

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The Key to Press Release Success: Multiple Visual Elements Press releases with multiple visual assets generate more views, a study by PR Newswire found.
Press releases with multiple visual assets generate more views,
a study by PR Newswire found.


How can you get better results with your press releases? The data is in, and the answer is clear: Visual illustration of your message is a key driver of success.

PR Newswire’s analytics team recently updated – and significantly expanded – our analysis of press release types, and the results each produces in terms of online views. For the most recent iteration of this ongoing analysis, we looked at every press release viewed on PRNewswire.com last year, regardless of when it was issued. Well over 1 million press releases were measured. 

For the analysis, we broke the release types into the following buckets:

  • Text only
  • Text + one visual asset, such as a single image or video
  • Text + multiple visuals
  • Fully loaded multimedia press releases and campaign microsites

The results are clear: visuals drive more content views, and adding multiple media assets to your content (press releases, and anything else you publish online, for that matter) generates even better results.

Why visuals improve results:  

One visual is good; more are better. Click here to read the full article on PR Newswire's Beyond PR blog and find out why.

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Wed, 09 Jul 2014 15:15:03 -0500 http://www.profnetconnect.com/sarahskerik/blog/2014/07/09/the_key_to_press_release_success:_multiple_visual_elements http://www.profnetconnect.com/sarahskerik/blog/2014/07/09/the_key_to_press_release_success:_multiple_visual_elements Press releases with multiple visual assets generate more views, a study by PR Newswire found.
Press releases with multiple visual assets generate more views,
a study by PR Newswire found.


How can you get better results with your press releases? The data is in, and the answer is clear: Visual illustration of your message is a key driver of success.

PR Newswire’s analytics team recently updated – and significantly expanded – our analysis of press release types, and the results each produces in terms of online views. For the most recent iteration of this ongoing analysis, we looked at every press release viewed on PRNewswire.com last year, regardless of when it was issued. Well over 1 million press releases were measured. 

For the analysis, we broke the release types into the following buckets:

  • Text only
  • Text + one visual asset, such as a single image or video
  • Text + multiple visuals
  • Fully loaded multimedia press releases and campaign microsites

The results are clear: visuals drive more content views, and adding multiple media assets to your content (press releases, and anything else you publish online, for that matter) generates even better results.

Why visuals improve results:  

One visual is good; more are better. Click here to read the full article on PR Newswire's Beyond PR blog and find out why.

0 Comments - Leave a Comment
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Google: How Earned Media Impacts Search & New KPIs for PR
Earned media and implied links, visualized by Brawn Media

In a patent for search engine ranking methods that was granted on March 25, Google codified the role earned media plays in search rank. The patent describes how the search engine values “implied links,” which it describes as a reference to a target resource (i.e., a website or Web page) such as a citation, but does not include an express link to the resource, as part of its process for determining the search rank of a Web page.

What are these implied links? In a nutshell, they are relevant earned mentions, and run the gamut from media pickup to references on blog posts to mentions in discussion groups.

“What does all this mean? It means that once a connection is made by someone typing in a brand name or other search query and then clicking on a site it creates a connection in Google’s eyes,” SEO expert Simon Penson explained in a Moz.com post about brand mentions. “The search engine can then store that info and use it in the context of unlinked mentions around the Web in order to help weight rankings of particular sites.”

The implications for public relations are significant. The mentions your PR campaigns create in turn generate audience activity, which Google watches in the aggregate and uses to inform search results. In an excellent blog post on this topic titled, “Google Validates that PR is SEO in Patent Filing,” Christopher Penn of Shift Communications concludes:

“Google is publicly acknowledging that every time your brand gets a mention in a story, that counts as an implied link that affects your SEO, that affects how many links there are to your website, which in turn affects how well your site shows up when someone is searching for your brand. In short, PR is SEO (or part of it). It singlehandedly validates all of the PR that you’ve generated for your brand, all of the mentions and citations that you’ve accrued through hard work, great products and reputation, and effective public relations, even if you didn’t necessarily get an explicit link in the coverage.”

Continue reading

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Mon, 05 May 2014 10:43:11 -0500 http://www.profnetconnect.com/sarahskerik/blog/2014/05/05/google:_how_earned_media_impacts_search__new_kpis_for_pr http://www.profnetconnect.com/sarahskerik/blog/2014/05/05/google:_how_earned_media_impacts_search__new_kpis_for_pr
Earned media and implied links, visualized by Brawn Media

In a patent for search engine ranking methods that was granted on March 25, Google codified the role earned media plays in search rank. The patent describes how the search engine values “implied links,” which it describes as a reference to a target resource (i.e., a website or Web page) such as a citation, but does not include an express link to the resource, as part of its process for determining the search rank of a Web page.

What are these implied links? In a nutshell, they are relevant earned mentions, and run the gamut from media pickup to references on blog posts to mentions in discussion groups.

“What does all this mean? It means that once a connection is made by someone typing in a brand name or other search query and then clicking on a site it creates a connection in Google’s eyes,” SEO expert Simon Penson explained in a Moz.com post about brand mentions. “The search engine can then store that info and use it in the context of unlinked mentions around the Web in order to help weight rankings of particular sites.”

The implications for public relations are significant. The mentions your PR campaigns create in turn generate audience activity, which Google watches in the aggregate and uses to inform search results. In an excellent blog post on this topic titled, “Google Validates that PR is SEO in Patent Filing,” Christopher Penn of Shift Communications concludes:

“Google is publicly acknowledging that every time your brand gets a mention in a story, that counts as an implied link that affects your SEO, that affects how many links there are to your website, which in turn affects how well your site shows up when someone is searching for your brand. In short, PR is SEO (or part of it). It singlehandedly validates all of the PR that you’ve generated for your brand, all of the mentions and citations that you’ve accrued through hard work, great products and reputation, and effective public relations, even if you didn’t necessarily get an explicit link in the coverage.”

Continue reading

0 Comments - Leave a Comment
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