Today's job market is brutal. Like many others, after a long career working in one industry, last year I was made redundant. For the first time in 25 years, I had to understand my transferable skills, update my CV, and most definitely adapt the style of how I write. I used to manage commercial radio stations, working with broadcasters, newsrooms and clients wishing to advertise. Today at Business West, I use my skills to engage businesses within our in-house events team.
When given the news, that you are being made redundant, the first thing you turn to is your old CV. How was it going to engage potential employers? The hobbies had to go, the CV was dated and was in desperate need of a revamp.
Covid dominates today's news cycle. Coverage is generally a wash of mixed messages and negative opinions delivering harsh realities, the balancing of health with the economy, and the doom and gloom of life, or worse when it is taken.
In March we flocked to the news channels, en-masse. Today, how many of us have stopped watching or clicked away? I believe we crave some positivity; where are the stories of success, innovation, and triumph? I've seen journalists live for big stories, however brutal, but I believe after eight months reporting unimaginable hardship, news producers need a change of mood, for both their consumer and their very own survival.
Witnessed first-hand, the local media landscape has seen significant change, first the closing of most local operations and today, the further reduction of staff due to the crippling lack of advertising income. Local press, tv, radio and many online publications are working with minimal resources; even the BBC face significant pressures to provide value for the taxpayer, they too are seeing major restructures in local and regional news broadcasting.
Now if you own a business, these stories of change may not seem too dissimilar. At Business West, we have seen many SME's shot out of a pinball machine, bouncing between cash flow, redundancy, and the fight not to disappear from the game. Despite this, so many businesses have innovated, transformed quickly and become super nimble, obtaining customers in never imagined ways.
Herein lies the opportunity, and why you should invest more of your time working on your PR and with the media - they need some feel-good stories and will welcome yours. If done right, positive PR can drive sales, inspire future employees or help you to deliver a powerful message. If you have a great compelling story, tell it and tell it well.
Effective communication is a skill, it can be learnt, but easily misunderstood. As I write the UK government language is mixed, Boris Johnson announcing coronavirus restrictions with all of England put into "medium", "high" and "very high" risk, along with a separately labelled tier system of 1, 2 or 3. Do they not mean the same, said two different ways? Great PR should be clear, well-targeted with a compelling message, and you can do this too.
You're probably thinking you have little time or resource working 24/7, you may have even lost your Marcom teams, that is if you ever had that luxury to start. PR is often side-lined, rushed or forgotten in times of crisis. In the West of England we have some very creative agencies who can help you hone your stories and drive business, but right now you may need a low-cost option, or the ability to do it yourself.
So how can receiving that well-written CV for a job seeker, be applied to winning over the media? Take stock, remember to sell your business success, write your press release as if you were applying for a job.
Get noticed and think like a job seeker, with five ways to land your story:
Connect with the right audience
A CV today would need to successfully make it through an automated key words reader and then HR before it lands on the recruiters' desk. Journalists also have hoops to jump through. Editors will discount any story that does not deliver for their target audience. The phrase "Grazia magazine does not have a sports section" was well used in the newsroom. If you can, produce different versions of your press release to suit the various publications. If you are unsure who to target, a quick Google of the sales team will bring up an audience demographic breakdown.
Short and relevant
Mark Twain's famous quote, "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead" is never more relevant. We all know CV's should be precise, and to the point. Press releases are no different, journalists receive 100's every week. They will quickly scan your page, and look for that engaging hook. Appeal to human nature, how can your story make the reader more prosperous, wiser, healthier or safer? As much as click bait headlines annoy when they do not deliver, there are many great examples online.
A compelling tale
No one takes home either a CV or a press release and reads through them for pleasure. A well-told story however connects with the heart, and not the mind. Engage quickly through storytelling, start with a hook, deliver the vivid details, and that surprise positive ending. Write with light, shade, drama and victory in mind. A well-crafted story will sound less commercial too. If your press release reads like an advert, you will most likely receive a phone call from the publication's sales department.
Like a first date, you don't just want to talk about yourself. Involve others and how you deliver solutions for them. Avoid spin; be authentic and genuinely tell your story. Use real customers or experts, not spokespeople. Secondly, your customers will tell it how it is; they will avoid jargon and help you deliver your context.
Using the CV analogy, excellent references are always from great past bosses who gush about you; they're not generic statements from HR.
Finally, news should be about the here and now, think how your story will fit into the day's agenda, how will your press release add to the local or national dialogue. Find that timely angle, connect with upcoming trade shows, national events or news agenda. JournoLink, for example, has a valuable forthcoming events section that can make planning your PR so much easier.
And on that final point, staying topical and relevant is valid for us all – business owner, job seeker or journalist, life does not always go to plan, but when it does be victoriou. Celebrate and create PR to help drive your next opportunity.
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Business West Chambers of Commerce has collaborated with JournoLink, an affordable online tool option that can help you craft a great press release and distribute your stories to over 10,000 journalists, bloggers and broadcasters. It also provides some great templates and tips to help you get your story told.
Journolink offers further inspiration and opportunity for you and your press releases, and if you don't have time to craft your story, then their writers can create your PR and set you up with 1000's of journalists, all eager to tell your story. The Business West Chambers of Commerce partnership includes a 10% discount on JournoLink advertised prices meaning that for less than £1.50 a day, you will have your personalised PR platform. Find out more about Chamber membership.