This week in my kinda unofficial “business of blogging” series, I wanted to break down some common terms in public relations that we encounter as bloggers.
What’s a press release?
What does the term, “embargo” mean?
I’m not only sharing this info with you from a blogger perspective, but I write press releases for a living! I’m not doing it in the beauty industry, but PR is not unlike other industries – we have jargon and standards and although there are slightly different ways of doing things across industries and companies, there are things that have a core meaning, things we’re taught in PR classes in college and grad school. Things everyone does. LIke, “AP style.” I’ll point out some of the ways things can be different as I break things down in each subsection, too!
Interested?! Read on!
A press release is probably the most common term/material that you’ll encounter when dealing with public relations pros. Brands send out press releases to announce new collections/new products/new services. Above is what a press release looks like.
These are generally very templated; meaning, press releases are a standard way to announce news and they are generally set up the same way, if they’re being sent out by a communications pro. The first paragraph usually starts out with the city that it’s originating from (usually the headquarters of the company). It’s called a dateline:
Reporters and public relations professionals go by what’s called “Associated Press style,” or “AP style,” which means that there are specific approaches they take to writing things – like numbers (1-9 is spelled out, 10 and above is numbers…state abbreviations…etc etc). That includes cities. There are cities where you don’t need to include the state. Los Angeles is one of them, actually, although American International Industries (AII) included it in this release about the launch of Gelaze last year! A lot of times, the city is also all caps.
The dateline also includes the date of release. In the above example, it’s just the month and year, but a lot of times it’s a specific date. This is great for archiving purposes, and for reporters to know how fresh the news is.
The first paragraph itself is the most important information you need to know about the whatever the release is about. Like this:
In that first paragraph, or “lede,” AII is telling us the most important things we need to know:
- Who is launching the product (creators of China Glaze)
- What the product is (Gelaze)
- When they’re launching (the dateline)
- Where it’s coming from (the dateline again)
- Why they’re launching (it’s a revolutionary new gel polish system…)
This is called, “The 5 W’s.” – Who, what, when, where and why. That’s generally how reporters report the news, too. There’s usually a “how,” too!
In a press release, a company might include a quote from a company executive. You can use it word-for-word, just like anything else that’s in the press release. Because the executive didn’t say it to me directly (and I disclosed as a reporter for more than 10 years where quotes came from if it was outside of an actual conversation!), I still have the habit of writing “XX, head of XX brand, said in a press release” in blog posts!
Be careful when you’re publishing full press releases though, because Google could flag your content if it finds 4265784359842783 press releases word-for-word posted on the interwebs. And that’s not good for Page Rank. I generally don’t publish press releases, but when I do, and when I have in the past, I try to work the content into a post in my own words.
At the top of the release, or sometimes the bottom, the public relations pro or team will include their contact information for more information. In the first photo above, you’ll notice I blocked that information out; there are a couple reasons I did that, but one is that I didn’t get a chance to ask the brand if they’d be comfortable with me putting their contact information out there, and the other reason I’ll share in a post in the future, in this business of blogging series!
At the end of press releases, there’s usually standard information about the company that sent the release out. This is called a “boiler plate.” It’s the approved message about the company and it’s mission. Then, below that, are usually three hashtags, like this:
We hear the term, “embargo.” What does it mean, and why is it important? How can a blogger “break an embargo”?
Here’s an example of a typical news release:
At the top left of this release, the brand has made it clear that when this release crosses your desk or inbox, it’s “For immediate release,” meaning, you can do what you want with it the moment you get it. But sometimes, you get press materials that have “embargo dates” on them.
In other words, the company is trusting you with the information in advance. They want to share the news with you a head of time so you can prepare your posts or news about the product/launch/service to have it go live the day and time the embargo lifts. Here’s an example of press material I received with an embargo date next week. I received the materials almost a full month ahead of time. PLENTY of time to swatch the nail polish and prep a post!
Breaking an embargo is bad news, a company is trying to control when the news of their launch is announced, and although it’s not up to us to decide whether that’s right or wrong, and it’s not for us to know why, it’s their right. They are trusting us with the information and sometimes that’s really nice for advance editorial planning!
Breaking an embargo could mean the end of your relationship with the brand.
Bottom line: LOOK for the word “embargo” in your press release or launch emails from companies.
LOOK for “for immediate release,” and if you aren’t sure if a brand’s announcement that came across your desk or inbox is time-sensitive, ASK THEM.
Last week in my “Know Your Worth” post, I explained what a pitch was related to how it’s different from a paid opportunity. Today I want to explain how it’s different from a press release!
A pitch is generally softer news than what’s released in a press release. In a release, you’re trying to announce news. In a pitch, a PR pro is:
- Sharing story ideas based on their product/service (tutorial for a hairstyle, like an up do)
- Offering tips (top five tips for summer skin care)
- Sharing their products that might fit into a seasonal/holiday blog feature (great red lipsticks for Fourth of July)
- Offering an interview with a company expert, or third party expert related to the brand (like a dermatologist for a skin care company)
- Announcing that they have taken on XX brand as a new client, and that they can be contacted for any needs you have related to the newly represented brand
A pitch comes in handy around the holidays, for me, when I’m working on gift idea content, especially for my beauty column in the newspaper!
I’ve delved into press samples in prior post here, but as they relate to the terminology of PR and blogging, a press sample is a product or service that is provided for free to the blogger or editor for consideration of review/mention in the blogger’s/editor’s outlet. Sometimes, brands offer bloggers discounts on their products vs. free items, and that should be disclosed, too, just like free press samples.
How many times have you gone to XX blog and drooled over swatches of a new nail polish or nail polish collection, and promptly gone to the brand’s online shop or to your nearest Ulta/Sally’s/Target to purchase ALL THE THINGS?
A brand sends samples to bloggers that it feels reach its target audience, does something well (maybe they like the writing or the pictures), in the hopes that we will try it, and share honest thoughts about it with readers online, and send us all running to purchase it!
While PR is hoping those thoughts will be positive, good PR knows that it’s a gamble and they shouldn’t be asking a blogger for a specific TYPE of review. If a PR is looking for a glowing, positive review only…well that might be an opportunity to send your rate sheet!
An even better PR pro or brand takes constructive feedback as an opportunity to improve the formula on a product. I reviewed a brand’s eyeliner and it was not an easy formula; they told me they were taking that feedback and trying to work on making it better. We went back and forth on it a couple times. That’s amazing. That’s another level when it comes to bloggers reviewing samples – that’s relationship building.
Images with press releases
A lot of times, PR will send photos or offer images of its new products or collections to us to use on our blogs. I always prefer my own images, but these images come in handy if, for example, I’m only reviewing a part of a collection like I did here!
When you cover a trade show or event, sometimes you can apply for a “press pass,” or “press credentials” to cover the show. Generally, this means you are able to enter for free, but you are doing so because you’re working the show for content for your blog.
Some trade shows have requirements on blog stats to qualify for press credentials, and others do not. I believe NY Fashion Week charges reporters money to apply/or have press credentials, so credentials are not always free.
If you have a press pass to cover a show, it’s generally good etiquette to:
- Not ask brands for samples (different story if they are offered to you)
- Publish posts about the show or brands at the show
- Share those posts with the PR
- Follow the show’s rules for press pass holders
Thanks for sticking it out! I hope this was helpful.
Do you have any terms in blogging from the PR perspective that you would like de-mystified?! Please let me know in the comments below. I can add subsections in this post any time!
Thank you all for your interest in this series! Here are links to other posts in it: