30 November 2020
Newspapers, magazines and broadcast outlets are no longer the only ways your public relations efforts reach people. But knowing how to write a press release remains a valuable skill for gaining the attention of websites and news outlets that can influence your customers, suppliers, partners and community. And while there’s no way to control if or how your press release will be used by news and trade media after you release it, the document itself provides a marketing asset that you can repurpose over and over on your website, in employee communications, with vendors and partners, and share with current and prospective customers. So, how do you write a press release that actually does its job? 1. First, write your press release for effect. You are telling a story and that story has a purpose: What do we need our audience to know? What should that knowledge help them understand or think about the brand, event or product you’re announcing? What do you want your audience to DO? 2. Give the press release a headline that briefly summarizes your story. This is a departure from what they teach in school, but the headline is the first—and sometimes only part of—your release that people will read. Make sure it expresses the point of your press release in as few words as possible. ABC Corp Launches Most Efficient Widget, for example. 3. Stick as closely as possible to journalistic voice. Your press release is telling your story to a sometimes-skeptical audience. It is not an advertisement, so avoid using emotional language or superlatives that are open to debate. ABC Corp may be the largest manufacturer in the market, but the body of your press release is not the place to claim it’s the best. 4. Consider an AP Stylebook for reference. Journalists and editors are not the only audience for your press release, but they generally are the first one. Like many professions, they have a specialized way of doing things that helps them distinguish the pros from the poseurs. Something as simple as using the wrong abbreviation in your dateline might tell them you’re not one of the initiated, giving them permission to take your press release less seriously. Every outlet has their own specific style, but the Associated Press offers a fairly standard version in handy paperback form through most booksellers. 5. Be direct. The first sentence of your press release (called a lede, in an alternate spelling of “lead” because, see #4) should briefly tell the reader exactly what you are announcing. Don’t bury the lede; it’s not a suspense novel. You need to get the point quickly. Compare and contrast: ABC Corp today announced a new widget that does widget things three times faster than other widgets on the market. A new innovation in widgets was announced today by ABC Corp, maker of the most awesome widgets in the world. Example b. does make people wonder what’s coming next. Unfortunately, what’s next for them is likely to be scrolling down to the next email. Go with option a. 6. Explain the relevance. The second sentence of your press release should explain why this announcement is important and to whom. ABC Corp Announced a New Widget may be true, accurate and exciting to you, but it has very little meaning to people who didn’t roll out of bed thinking about widgets. Explain the relevance as early in your press release as possible with a follow-up like: The increased efficiency of the new widget will save widget users more than $3 billion dollars over the next two years. See? Now there’s a reason to care about your press release. 7. Use quotes to advance your message. Include a quote in your press release from somebody in your organization. This is where you can add emotion to advance your story. It not only personalizes your company, it gives you a space to introduce opinion: “This is exactly what every widget user has been asking for,” said Jane Smith, ABC Corp president. “We’re excited to be the first company to make widgeting affordable to the average consumer.” And read those quotes out loud. Does it sound like somebody would actually say that? If not, consider a revision to make it sound more natural. Also, any quotes you use in your press release should be approved by the person you’re quoting. Even if you heard her say it out loud, make sure it’s how she wants to phrase it given careful consideration. 8. Give your writing some time. Take a break between drafts of your press release and reread it to make sure you’re telling the story in a way that directly addresses a business objective. For most brands, simply seeing your name in the news is not a business objective. It makes everybody feel good, but it doesn’t make the cash register ring. 9. Evaluate your draft press release against the same questions we began with: Does it tell your audience what you need them to know? Does the story help your customers or other members of the public think about, understand or know something that helps you achieve a business objective? Is it clear what your audience can do to act on the information and how (visit your store, call for an appointment, request a free quote, ask for your brand by name)? Planning and executing an effective public relations program for your brand involves many more challenges than how to write a press release. Still, a press release is one of the first and tangible introductions some audiences will have to your brand messaging. It’s worth the effort to get it right. For a brief list of the most common mistakes people make when learning how to write a press release, join our email list. (Sign up below.)
15 November 2020
As a designer, you know the phrase, “make it pretty,” all too well. You’re often asked to work your magic on a variety of projects—and it’s not always limited to websites or brochures. In fact, sometimes things are a bit more … shall we say … environmental. Take vehicle wraps, for example. These moving billboards are a creative way to get your advertisement in front of eyes you otherwise wouldn’t get if it was static. But developing an eye-catching wrap takes some Photoshop skills—lucky for you, we’re breaking down the steps to create your own, compliments of Cincinnati’s very own beloved hippo, Fiona. And, while you may not need a Fiona vehicle wrap necessarily, we’ve outlined the steps so you can practice in Photoshop and swap the images for your own needs. Let’s get started—and enjoy some Photoshop tips along the way! Step 1 Make a 37.5″x 16.5″ comp at 300 dpi (you can get those measurements going off of vehicle blueprint size). We can’t build to scale since our source assets aren’t large enough, but you want the aspect ratio to be similar to the car. It doesn’t have to be perfect—just close. Since you’ll ultimately be printing the wrap, make sure it’s in the CMYK color space. Step 2 Next, add water. It needs to be longer than the photo is. Let’s duplicate it and Edit > Flip Horizontally. Then, line them up. This should make the seam seamless. Trim the transparent pixels via Layer > Trim. Save your water out as a .PSD. Step 3 Find a hippo picture and cut it out with the pen tool. Once you close the path, go to the pen toolbar at the top and Make > Selection. Then, click on the layer mask button to “cut out” the hippo. Trim the transparent pixels via Layer > Trim. Save your hippo as a .PSD. Photoshop Tip: Use Layer Masks Layer masks allow you to show or not show parts of a layer using white or black luma mattes. Simple way to remember: black = don’t show; white = show. The key capability of layer mattes is to be able to work non-destructively (i.e. you can revert any part of composing your scene). Using the eraser tool for example is “destructive”; it can’t be targeted or reverted easily. You can use layer masks on practically any layer—smart objects, linked smart objects, folders and even raster layers. The functionality of adjustment layers and smart filters include a layer mask for you to dictate where you want an adjustment or filter to happen. Step 4 Bring your hippo .PSD in as a linked object (File > Place Linked). Put it where you think you want it in relation to the car and save. Photoshop Tip: Linked Smart Object A linked smart object lets Photoshop reference an externally-hosted asset. It’s great if you need to use an asset in multiple projects or multiple times in a project without having to try and recreate it over and over again. Do your art up and save it out. Then, in your master composition, select File > Place Linked. You can also make an existing smart object into a linked object by right-clicking on the smart object and selecting “Convert to Linked.” Step 5 Next, go to the car template and File > Place Linked your underwater scene with Fiona—now you can see where the image is landing in relation to the car. Double-click on the linked underwater Fiona layer to open it as a .PSD tab. Now, adjust the hippo. Save and repeat until Fiona is where you want her. Step 6 This part is important: We need to make it look like Fiona is underwater. To make the hippo’s head look like it is above water, create a new layer mask and then select it in the layers palette. Use an 1800-pixel feathered brush at 40% opacity to fully paint the Hippo’s body underwater. Then, use a brush with a hardness of 40% at 100% opacity and paint her head back in. Now for finishing touches … use that same brush at 90% opacity and paint the water edge back in around the neck. Step 7 The picture we chose is somewhat flat compared to the water. Let’s create a curves adjustment layer to crush the shadows and bring out the highlights (commonly referred to as an “S” curve). Photoshop Tip: Adjustment Layers When making color edits to your art like curves and levels, you want to use layer masks to do it non-destructively. Layer masks let you turn on/off, change in real-time and mask out many different changes to a layer(s) utilizing a built-in layer mask. Step 8 Ready to add some fishies? Cut fish out, save and place them into your underwater Fiona comp. Fish need some blue to match the water—so drop the opacity. To soften it up, add some Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Now duplicate the fish and change size and rotation for variation. Step 9 Place your logos as embedded smart objects so that you can resize easily without changing the quality. Photoshop Tip: Embedded Smart Objects Use an embedded smart object to scale and resize vector or raster art without changing quality. You can also work smarter by editing your assets inside the embedded smart object and then saving it—then it will update in your main composition: right click > convert to smart object. Smart objects will also allow you to apply Filters to layer(s). Step 10 Yay! We’ve all been there—you get stuck in a creative rut and don’t know how to dig out. Sometimes it just takes getting out of your comfort zone, trying something new and putting your skills to the test. Whether it’s trying out a Photoshop tip from the post above or diving deep into the vehicle wrap step-by-step, practicing your craft will only make you that much better … and allow for more creativity in the future. If you find yourself needing a hand with any kind of design work or your own vehicle wrap, St. Gregory is here to help. Reach out to us today to schedule a free consult.