Wednesday 26 November 2008

The Press Release - very faint voices shouting into hurricane force winds

The Press Release. Aghh! Sometimes light humour can help

Every PR campaign needs a press release. Writers spend days writing only a few hundred words. PR managers spend an equal amount of time rewriting these tomes of commerce. Days are spent crafting the ulitimate quote. Clients agonize over every last comma. Large profitable companies like Canada News Wire Group and PR Newswire Group have armies of young journalism grads working around the clock to email, text, post, fax and mail that release to working journalist around the world.
Yet for all that sweat and bother, the media rarely read a release. At best the headline of the release will be looked at ... for a nano second. Aside from Saturdays and Sundays, thousands of press releases are issued every hour in North America. There are just too many releases arriving at a news outlet computer for a reporter or editor to actually read. As a result, most press releases never end up being used by anyone!
One of the ways a press release can catch the attention of a jaded reporter's eye is by using gentle humour. Below is a release recently written for the state of New Hampshire. It uses rhyme to bring attention to events and places that normally would not make it into print.

For Immediate Release
March 26, 2008

On the first day of Christmas, New Hampshire gave to me
A Chop and Shop Weekend and a big free holiday fir tree
The Granite State gears up for holiday season with pizzazz and price conscious events

Toronto – Toronto – New Hampshire has so much on the go this winter that it would take more than just 12-days of Christmas to experience the best that the Granite State has to offer. And the State has it all –- which makes it really hard to pick just a dozen unique things that tourists can enjoy before December 25th. Consulting the Official 2008 In-State Visitors Handbook and using a dash of poetic licence, visitors should consider the following:

On the first day of Christmas, New Hampshire gave to me, a Chop and Shop Weekend and a free holiday fir tree! The Gale River Motel and Cottages in Franconia provide two nights accommodation, dinner for two at the Sugar Hill Inn, a 22-inch Balsam Fir Wreath and an 8 ft tall Christmas tree. The special is $290 US and the hotelier will help load the tree onto the roof of your car!

On the second day of Christmas, New Hampshire gave to me, amazing holiday shopping that is always tax-free. This is the best time to get one’s Christmas shopping done sans tax in the outlet stores of Settlers' Green Outlet Village and North Conway Village. For just $198 the Cranmore Mountain Lodge in North Conway has an affordable Shop Till You Drop package for visiting couples. Package includes a bag of samples and coupons and a standard room for two nights.

On the third day of Christmas, New Hampshire gave to me, an antique hunter’s map and a bottle of wine for thee. In December The Glynn House Inn in Ashland has an Antique Get Away For Two. Guests receive a delicious picnic lunch for two, including a bottle of wine, plus a special folder containing information about the best antique shops and auctions.

On the fourth day of Christmas, New Hampshire gave to me, ten-minutes of quality time up on Santa’s knee. The North Colony Motel & Cottages in Bartlett offers a Santa’s Village two-night package (starting at $212) for families which includes 2-nights lodging for 2 adults and 2 children and 4 Santa's Village tickets.

On the fifth day of Christmas, New Hampshire gave to me, turkey dinner and a huge Bingo win under B Three! Join the Lake Winnipesaukee Historical Society at the Funspot Bingo Hall every Tuesday in December . Doors open at 4:00 pm. The charity Bingo is catered by Hart's Turkey Farm Restaurant. Weirs Beach

On the sixth day of Christmas, New Hampshire gave to me, a mountain hike to photograph a moose behind a tree! Grab your camera and come see the views and maybe a moose, December 20th and 21st. Outdoor Escapes New Hampshire holds its popular 2-day Guided Nature Backpacking Tour, in the Great North Woods. The price for 2 days of guided hiking with a nature/history focus and 1 -night remote camping is $200 per person.

On the seventh day of Christmas New Hampshire gave to sis, a hayride in the snow you don’t want to miss! This December 13 th tourists are invited to the Farm Museum in Milton to celebrate Christmas on the Farm. Take a sleigh or hayride, make a gingerbread man and tour the beautifully decorated farmhouse.

On the eighth day of Christmas, New Hampshire gave to you, a walk in the park with the state’s solstice crew! The Margret and H.A.Rey Observatory in Waterville holds a very popular walk every winter solstice. The free annual winter solstice hike to the Solstice Stone on Dickey Mountain will be held on Saturday December 20th.

On the ninth day of Christmas New Hampshire gave to me, snowshoeing followed by eggnog for free! From December 19 to 29 children and adults of all ages will find winter merriment at Mount Washington Resort. Enjoy a festive celebration of sleigh rides, snowshoeing, skiing, stories with Santa and holiday refreshments. Snuggle in front of the fire before being tucked in by one of Santa's elves. Christmas Day invites a full day of skiing and outdoor adventure!
On the tenth day of Christmas, New Hampshire gave to dad, a guided snowmobile ride that is really really rad. Alpine Adventures have guided snowmobile tours through the White Mountain’s Franconia Notch during the holiday season.

On the eleventh day of Christmas New Hampshire gave to us, a magic light show worthy of a fuss. After a day on the slopes head to the White Mountain Holiday Magic Light Park in Campton where you can ride through a mile of animated light displays with thousands of enchanting lights. Take a family portrait with Santa, snuggle up on a free wagon ride, build a free craft with the kids, and sip hot cocoa by the bonfire.

On the twelfth day of Christmas New Hampshire gave to families, an invitation to ski on New Year’s Eve above the trees. Ring in 2009 at Cranmore Mountain’s Crantastic New Year's Party. Ski until midnight, and enjoy tubing, music, fireworks, party favours and more.

The 2008 Visitor’s Guide Book is supported by a sophisticated, user-friendly website ( ) which has comprehensive sections geared specifically to the Travel Trade. The site is updated daily and has the latest information on holiday season event listing throughout the state.

To find out more about New Hampshire or to receive the new free visitor’s guide, call 1-800-FUN-IN-NH (386-4664) or visit Canadian travel trade and media may call 1-888-423-3995, or email

Tuesday 4 November 2008

A Calvacade of New. Giving 2-bite brownies for dogs 20 seconds of fame.

cutline: John Scott on the set of Canada AM, showing new food products coming to a store near you this winter.

Three days of PR work (and some midnight veggie shopping) for a brief but fruitful food segment on the Canada AM news show

The media consumes New. New movies. New faces. New problems. New leaders. New messiahs. New ideas on old themes. New New New. And that was just last week's headlines.

Public Relations practitioners who represent clients that have New, will find a welcome reception from usually frosty television show bookers when pitching new. A broadcast favourite is a 5 minute segment that puts the spotlight on a procession of new products - be it clothing, cars, tools, gadgets or new foods. The biggest challenge for PR people is not finding a TV show interested in New, but, deciding which show to offer the Cavalcade of New to.

One of the best places to showcase freshly minted products is on CTV's nationally broadcast morning news/talk show Canada AM. Although its numbers have dropped, it is one of the few Toronto created shows that has a daily cross-Canada English audience. A show and tell with purveyors of New is a welcome break from stories of fires, murders and scandals.

Every so often I help Crane Communications (an Oakville PR firm) with the pitching and servicing of Cavalcade of New segments for Toronto television shows. Owner Linda Crane has a well respected expertise in placing new products on TV, be it on Canada AM or CITY TV's Breakfast TV, Global Television's morning show, Rogers Daytime and now and then the Weather Network. Crane has showcased everything from new boat products (bikini clad models with its bitsy life jackets), to home show cleaning products. Last month I assisted her with the Grocery Innovations Canada trade exhibition and the PR campaign which included bringing shopping carts filled with NEW food products onto Canada AM. Viewers got a chance to see new products that will be making their way onto store shelves this fall and coming winter.

Grocery Innovations Canada, is the country’s largest grocery trade show and conference. Staged for the owners of independently owned food stores, the conference was held on Sunday, October 26 and Monday, October 27 at Toronto Congress Centre.

John F.T. Scott, president, Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (pictured above on the set of Canada AM), was our presenter on a Thursday morning Canada AM broadcast. Along with host Seamus O'Regan, the pair managed to look over 50 new things that you will soon see in independent food stores. The show-and-tell ran the gambit from 2-bite brownies for dogs (people can eat them too), to squeeze bagged Ketchup sweetened with honey instead of sugar. Seamus O'Regan sampled new cream cheese spreads on new glutton-free crackers. He took a pass on peanut butter made with soya and only sniffed at 100% peanut free chocolate chip cookies but seemed to be fascinated by new East Indian sauces made in Saskatoon.

The whole process, like the medium itself, is fast, furious and not particularly in depth. Unless viewers have a pen and pencil beside their TV sets, it is unlikely that consumers will actually be able to remember the names of the products they saw flash across their screens. Despite the lack of specific brand recognition, the broadcasted food segment did reap rewards for the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers -- the producers of the trade-only exhibition where the new products were debuted to food store owners.

Scott's performance graphically showed consumers that small independent food stores continue to be an important part of the country's economy. A 2008 Kraft Canada/Canadian Grocer sponsored study reports that independent grocers (including franchises) comprise 40.2 % of Canada’s $76 billion grocery industry.

The independent stores continue to be strong even though their competition is huge -- think WalMart, Price Club, Metro, Soebys and the Loblaws Superstores. The Canada AM segment not so subtlety showed that the corner store is the place to shop to find cutting edge new products.

The under current messages? Independents are concerned about the health of its customers. Many of the product labels shown on TV that morning included the word organic in their names. Some of the new products answer the dietary concerns of a changing population. There were many new ethnic foods launched and the segment also showed that the independents have a desire to go with the 100-mile diet concept ... selling food that is processed within 100 miles of where their ingredients are grown.

5-minutes of television on the run doesn't come easy. Three people spent two 8-hour-days collecting product samples from producers and another 8-hr day to get even more samples (after it was determined that the line-up was a little light). Scripts and back-grounders had to be written, and one run through with John Scott was held via phone conference. Scott had to know everything about every project displayed on TV in anticipation of an out-of-left-field question from a sometimes wacky Seamus.

I personally scoured the market for ornamental gourds, dried Indian corn and orange squashes to decorate our show-and-tell TV set table. I bought veggies at midnight (to be fresh under the lights at 7-am the next morning) and drove an SUV filled with product to Canada AM's east-end Toronto studio at the crack of dawn. Two of us spent an hour dressing the table with the products prior to John Scott going on air.

After the show ended the producers of Canada AM came on set and congratulated the Grocery people for a job well done. We were asked to come back next year ... provided we had something Newer than this year's New to talk about.