Tag Archives: Stephanie Bennis

How Public Relations is different than Advertising

PR vs Advertising

So often lines are blurred when it comes to Public Relations and Advertising. While the two certainly overlap, there are distinct differences that determine how and when you should use them in your communications strategy.

A solid plan can and should have elements of both, but it’s important to understand their unique roles and seek out different professionals to represent each one to ensure you’re not using Advertising to solve a Public Relations problem or vice versa.  Take a look at our simple, but helpful overview of these two industries.

Public Relations is…


Public Relations is also referred to as earned media or earned placement. You don’t pay for the specific placement of content, but there are other costs associated with issuing media relations and content creation that often comes in the form of paying a PR professional to create and disseminate this for you. However, compared to true advertising costs for the same size placement, PR is often a much more cost-effective option.

Viewed as objective

The goal of Public Relations is to garner earned media such as a newspaper article or news segment based upon the information you share in your media advisory or press release. Ultimately, it’s the media outlet producing this content for you, with their byline. As a result, readers or viewers often see this content as more objective (as objective as media can be, right?) than paid advertising which gives it trust and credibility.

Not always in your control

And while free and credible content are both great aspects of Public Relations, it’s important to remember that on the flip side, you are not in full control what’s written about you. Issuing a press release doesn’t mean a reporter will choose to republish every last detail you include. A good PR professional will carefully monitor how the media interprets your story and quickly react if there’s anything inaccurate or undesirable.

Advertising is…


Most obviously, Advertising costs money. You buy placement when you want it and how you want it. Every media outlet has their own department of sales reps to accommodate this very industry. They are constantly putting together new and enticing ad packages to get businesses to “pay for play.”

Viewed as subjective

Your audience will almost always know that an advertisement is paid placement. In a magazine, articles are marked as “advertisement” or “sponsored content.” On TV, a commercial spot is obviously different from a real news segment. Regardless of how truthful your ad is, your audience will view it with a bit more skepticism because they know you paid for placement and can (generally) say whatever you want.

In your control

Because you pay for specific placement of specific content, Advertising is a lot more controlled than Public Relations. You know exactly when an ad or story will run and what it will look like or say. Although the price of placement can be steep, you fully control your message.

Do you work in either the PR or advertising industry? What other differences would you say are most important?

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Posted by on October 17, 2016 in Business & Success


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6 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Public Relations

6 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Public Relations

Public Relations can be a vast and confusing field – even to us professionals who work in this very industry each and every day. What is Public Relations, or more importantly, what isn’t? Rather than dig into the deep history, which you can Google online anyways, I thought I’d share six fun facts about things you likely didn’t know about Public Relations. In doing so, I hope you learn a little bit more about the industry and understand how communication is woven into quite literally everything we do.

The Public Relations industry is credited as being 100 years old, but public influence and communications management goes back as far as ancient civilizations.

Some of the most historical figures earned their success by being influential communicators. Really, even today’s current leaders – whether that be in government, business, nonprofit, entertainment or some other industry – have risen to the top through public influence. We are always using PR tactics to communicate with one another (and to essentially get what we want) in our daily lives, we just often don’t think about it that way.

There are 7,000 Public Relations firms in the United States alone.

I don’t know about you, but that number is a lot bigger than I expected. From PR powerhouses that occupy several floors in a skyscraper, to a sole proprietor working from home, Public Relations professionals are often right around your corner. This is all the more reason to seek out their expertise to make the most of your communication efforts!

Public Relations is not a 9-5 job; it’s 24/7.

Though we mostly try and set reasonable “office hours,” we really know that when a task needs done – even if that’s at 2am – we’re going to hop online and do the job. Especially when it comes to crisis management, certain things simply cannot wait until the next business day. The media never sleeps and neither do PR professionals (though we do nap, sometimes).

An estimated 275,200 are employed in PR, but 34% may retire in 4-7 years.

The Public Relations industry fuels a lot of jobs! Just as quickly as colleges and universities are pouring out fresh talent, older professionals are also looking to retire from the game. Furthermore, the growing importance of Public Relations in nearly everything we do, creates a growing need for even more qualified communicators. The bottom line is that PR can be a very rewarding (and lucrative) career to those with both passion and talent. Don’t be afraid to jump in!

Social media press releases didn’t exist until the early 2000’s.

The Public Relations industry has vastly changed as technology has evolved. Before there was Facebook (Was there ever such a time?!), there was no need for the social media press release. Before email, press releases were faxed and before fax machines, press releases were delivered by pony express (I’m kidding, but you get my point). With every new advancement of technology, us PR professionals have to keep close tabs on how this will impact our industry.

The FedEx logo has won 40 design awards and was ranked as one of the eight best logos in the last 35 years.

fedex logo

What this fun fact really tells us is that simplicity and consistency is the key to creating a successful brand. People make Public Relations (and marketing and advertising, for that matter) far more complicated and overwhelming than it needs to be. Stick with your gut reaction and go with what makes you feel good. After all, Public Relations is really about how you make your public feel.

Do you have some other fun facts to share about the Public Relations industry? Join in the conversation by commenting below!

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Posted by on October 10, 2016 in Business & Success


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A Guide to the Modern Press Release

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!

A Guide to the Modern Press Release

With so many newspapers scaling back or going digital, the value and effectiveness of the traditional press release has become a bit of a mystery to us all.  This has left many businesses even more confused as to how they should communicate with the media when they feel they have something important to say. Is the press release still relevant? From my conversations with print and online reporters and other PR professionals, the answer is absolutely yes! But we have to stay in tune to the changes and advancements to news sources that may alter the definition of “a great press release.” Overall, the core essentials have remained the same, yet are so often ignored – even by professionals in the field. In an effort to shed some light on the lost art of press release writing (and to adapt it to the modern art it has become) here is my general guide to writing a solid press release right now.

Modes of communication

Whether you own a fax machine or even know what one looks like, this is still one of the most common and important ways to disseminate your press release. When researching a reporter’s contact information, don’t assume the fax is an outdated system. Some reporters truly prefer receiving news this way, especially if their email inbox functions more like a black hole. The second big mode of communication is indeed email.  I’d suggest using both email and fax whenever possible, and re-sending the email after a day or two with a new subject line for a second (or third) shot at getting noticed.  Make the news relevant to each reporter (do they cover a specific interest?), their target readership and personalize the message whenever possible. Aim to build an ongoing relationship with reporters; don’t just spam them with press releases whenever you want their attention. One great way to do this is to provide them with consistently useful information in a neatly packaged press release. More on that now…

The title

Now that we covered how to get your message out there, we can dig deeper into strategically packaging your news, and of course the title will be the first thing reporters see – and judge. The title should be the most newsworthy element of your press release. While it may be tempting to stick your business’s name or your own name up there right away, this is not likely the information that will catch a reporter’s eye and make him think “my readers need to know this.” For example, Jack Smith’s Auto Shop Merges With Tasty Treats Ice Cream has no immediate relevance to a reporter. A better title might be Two Locally-Owned Businesses Combine Auto Parts, Ice Cream In Unusual Merger. Really? Yes, because the second title spells out why a reporter should care to cover this news– it’s local and it’s unusual. These are two newsworthy elements that always attract readers’ attention. The reporter will likely change the title any way for their story, so don’t worry about writing for the masses. You just need to get the attention of one person – the reporter. This is your three-second “elevator pitch” and it has to cut to the chase. You are trying to sell to the reporter; the reporter is trying to sell to the reader. Remember that.

The critical first paragraph

Once you make it past the title, there is still another part of the press release that is of paramount importance for determining whether it lands on a reporter’s desk or in a trash can. It’s the first paragraph. I was taught that the first paragraph of a press release should never exceed two sentences. These can be long sentences, but two sentences is the rule of thumb. I doubt any reporter would see three periods in a first paragraph and toss a press release out solely based on this, but sticking to this rule does get you to get to the point – fast. The first of these two sentences should be the quick attention-getter and the second should be the single sentence that summarizes the key points of the entire press release. Sound like that’s asking a lot? The first paragraph is never easy. It may be the most time you spend on putting together two sentences and it should be. This is a critical component that far too many people gloss over. You may have heard that a press release (and any news story) should be written like an upside down pyramid, with the most newsworthy information on top, working down to the least newsworthy. With this analogy, you want to be sure the biggest part of your pyramid, the first paragraph, is built rock solid.

What’s in it for…everyone else?

Once you’ve made it past the title and the first paragraph, you’re ready to dive into all the other details of your press release. But this doesn’t give you a free pass to ramble on about unrelated, non-newsworthy tidbits. Throughout all of your writing, you need to keep a single question in mind. “What’s in it for everyone else?” Write this on a sticky note, the top of your word document or your cat if you need to, but don’t lose sight of this direction! Every paragraph in your press release should have an easily identifiable WIFM (what’s in it for me?) element – with “me” being the reporter/reader. It’s easy to see what you’d be getting out of a press release that’s picked up for a news story…free press! Don’t spend too much time tooting your own horn in the content. Instead focus on why anyone else should care about what you have to say. How will they be personally affected by this news? How will they benefit having read this?

Formatting a reporter will appreciate

Reporters and journalists adhere to Associated Press (AP) Style when formatting their news stories. For Public Relations professionals, it’s an industry-best practice to write press releases in this same style to keep all formatting the same. It also adds to your credibility. Everything from when to abbreviate a city, how to format dates and time, when to capitalize professional titles and more and more and more can be found in the AP Style Book! It was a handbook I bought early on in college and still have to this day (dog-eared pages and all). Resources to help you with AP Style questions can be found all across the web. Here’s the main web page. If you think you’ll be referring to this often, I’d suggest buying a copy. It’s far too much information to ever fully commit to memory, so having a copy on hand makes life, and press release writing, a lot easier.

Common mistakes and missed opportunities

Keep it to one page – It would take a compelling news story or announcement to convince me that more than one page was absolutely needed to cover all the truly newsworthy elements. Reporters can contact you if they’re intrigued enough and want more information. That’s why you provide that information in the header. Two-page press releases seem just as obnoxious as two-page resumes. Save something for the interview!

Quotes – Quotes are a key way to say something you would otherwise just write into the press release, while calling out a specific person of importance and breaking up the content. Quotes coming from you or your client can be easily molded to say exactly what you want them to say. Just make sure you format them correctly according to AP Style!

Make use of the subtitle – This is the sentence that appears directly below the title (and before the first paragraph). It is a great opportunity to explain the title a bit further as well as include a link to your web site, if relevant. By utilizing this part of the press release, you’re less tempted to weigh your title down with too many words.

Include a boiler plate – The boiler plate is that final paragraph that appears right before the “###” which signals the end of the press release. It’s a paragraph which can stand all on its own and usually summarizes the business or organization. Instead of trying to shove this same information into the body of the press release where it may not belong, the boiler plate provides a separate and organized space to highlight the core facts about your business at the very end.

One final thought on adapting to technology…

Video news releases (VNRs) are changing the way many reporters view traditional words-only press releases. I’m not entirely convinced that VNRs will take over the market anytime soon and so I suggest sticking with the written press release, but adding in b-roll footage, video clips and photos whenever available. Especially for online news sources, the more photos and videos that accompany a story, the more enticing it is to feature it. As readers, when we surf the web we’re drawn to images. Stories that include images are that much more attractive to news sites. It’s all about the web hits and readership!

What I thought would be a quick glimpse into writing a great press release has become a lengthier guide than I anticipated. I still have so much more information I could include here, but will save that for another time. Until then, please share your own experiences and expertise on writing press releases. Is there something I missed? Something you disagree with? Or something you’ve found to be particularly effective? Please share by commenting below!


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5 Reasons Why Your Content is Turning Away Readers

5 Reasons Why Your Content is Turning Away Readers

Have you experienced this scenario? You write an article on a topic that should be exiting and relevant to your readers, but it doesn’t get the interactions you thought it would. The number of views are disappointing, there are little to no shares on social media and not a single person felt compelled enough to leave a comment.

The good (and the bad) news is that you are not alone. Especially if you are just beginning to grow your blog or e-newsletter, it can take time to build a loyal readership. However, this doesn’t give you a green light to sit back and wait for the fans to come to you. Part of the problem could be the quality of your content or how it is presented. Take a look at these 5 common problems and how to correct them to create better content.

The Title is Lame

The first thing that catches a reader’s eye, besides a great image, is the title. A great title should be two things: interesting and accurate. In the fewest words possible, you need to communicate just enough information to make someone want to read more. But be careful not to bait your readers with dramatic claims or questions that sound like something out of a tabloid. You’ll know your title isn’t doing its job if people aren’t clicking on the full article to read more or deleting the email before opening it.

Your Introduction Doesn’t Build Excitement

Let’s say you made it past the first hurdle of getting people to actually click on your blog or article to read more. You still have to prove to them that it’s worth their time to read from start to finish – and that opportunity comes in the first paragraph. Be sure to write an introduction that builds excitement and relevance. Preview the valuable information that is to come without giving away all the details.

You Lack Sub Headings to Organize the Content

Another tip for creating quality content that keeps people interested from start to finish is to use sub headings to organize your main points and make it easy for readers to digest the content in bite-size morsels.

It’s Way Too Long

Thanks to technology, we as a society feel like we always need to be multitasking. This means rarely do we give anything our full attention or more than a few minutes of our time before moving on to the next shiny object. Keep your content direct and to the point. When a reader sees he has to click through 22 slides of content or scroll down a never-ending page of words will quickly lose interest and move on to something that requires less of a time commitment.

It’s Not Mobile Friendly

Finally, you may be lacking readership because your content is not accessible where people view it most often – on their mobile device. Emails, blogs and websites should all be mobile friendly. There’s a big difference between reading an article that is formatted to fit on your phone’s screen and reading one that is not. Remember, you want to make it easy and convenient for your readers to stay and consume your content through the end. Remove every hurdle that you can!

Which one of these reasons makes you lose interest in reading an article or blog? Or is there another reason you’d like to share? Leave us a comment!

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Posted by on August 22, 2016 in Business & Success


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5 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Business Event (Guest Blog by Samantha Thayer)

The following post comes to us from guest blogger, Samantha Thayer. Samantha is an Education and Outreach Specialist at USANA Health Sciences. You can find her on their blog at What’s Up, USANA? or on Twitter @USANA_Samantha!

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Business Event

Chances are, at one point in your life, you’ve attended an event that you viewed as an opportunity to network. This could be a work-related event, charity event, community event, or an event catering to a niche that simply interests you.

If you’re new to attending such events, it may be a little overwhelming or hard to know where to begin and what’s acceptable. And even if you’re used to attending business events, these tips are a great reminder to take advantage of everything the event has to offer.

We’ve created an infographic that discusses five ways to get the most out of events and some basic etiquette to keep in mind.

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Business Event

  1. Connect with People

If you’re trying to build your network, it’s important to remember to connect with people and exchange information so you can easily follow-up after the event. Something I have found useful is to bring business cards with you to any and all events. Make sure they include your name, e-mail, company and a social platform available for people to find you after the event. If you don’t have a business card, make sure to ask someone else for theirs! Then, be sure and connect with people through social media such as Twitter or LinkedIn soon afterwards.

  1. Act on What You’ve Learned

Presenters at events typically will have actionable information for attendees. Pay close attention to the value those may add to your life and business. Find ways to personalize that information and how to best apply it, in order to improve your business or day to day life. Most importantly, apply it right now. Do it while the information (and inspiration) is fresh in your mind.

  1. Research the Event Beforehand

Research the event you’re planning on attending before you go. Some valuable information you’ll want to note is the keynote speakers, breakout session topics (and which ones you want to go to), available workshops and any additional fees there might be (food, parking, etc).  Find out the size of the event as well so you know how many business cards to bring!

  1. Set Achievable Goals

After listening to speakers at your event, it’s important to apply what you’ve learned to your life. A great way to do this is to set new goals for yourself or your business. Setting realistic, “SMART” goals is a great way to ensure you act on them. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive. Figure out who is going to do what, where, and by when while setting your goals, and it will be easier to achieve them as well as see what was effective and what wasn’t when looking back at results.

  1. Take Notes and Ask Questions

Finally, take notes on anything that is relevant or inspires you while listening to speakers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Be an active participant in discussions. It’s a great way to connect with other audience members as well as the speakers.

For more helpful networking advice, be sure to check out the infographic below!

Infographic courtesy of What’s Up, USANA?

Succeed At Your Next Business Event

13568838_10210251683992010_2184923627438616281_oThis article was contributed by Samantha Thayer, Education and Outreach Specialist at USANA Health Sciences. For more information, find her on their blog at What’s Up, USANA? or on Twitter @USANA_Samantha!


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How to Take Advantage of Working From Home in the Summer

Working from home in the summer

Taking full advantage of working from home in the summer by taking client work out on the back deck.

If you’ve ever had the experience of working from home, you know there can be some unique challenges. However, there are also some pretty cool benefits, particularly during the summer months when working from home can allow you to get outside and enjoy the season as much as possible.

Here’s our guide for taking full advantage of the perks of working from home in the summer.

Take your work outside

Make sure to take advantage of the nice weather in the summer! Taking your work outside with you for even just a small part of the day, like checking emails on the porch, reading from a park bench or taking a phone call from an outdoor café, helps to recharge your focus. Better yet, being present in nature can even offer you some great inspiration!

Do work earlier or later in the day to carve out free time during the best daytime hours

Working from home often gives you more freedom and flexibility with your time. During the summer months you can take advantage of hitting popular attractions like a waterpark or amusement park when they tend to be less crowded. The key to finding time for these mini “day-cations” is to get your work done earlier or later in the day so you have free time during the best daytime hours.

Multi-task by picking an outdoor meeting location or taking a call from the park

As we mentioned in a previous point, taking a business call outside can give you that extra time in the sunshine. Whether you’re a single adult working from home just looking to get out and enjoy the summer days, or a work-from-home mom trying to entertain your kids while taking care of work, getting outside is a great way to multi-task!

Work hard and efficiently to maximize your free time to enjoy summer activities

It’s always important to work hard and efficiently to make the most of your time and earn the respect of your clients and customers. However, the summer months offer an additional incentive for maximizing free time – you can spend it doing fun things outside. This means giving your work your complete focus until the tasks are complete, and then fully enjoying the time you get to unplug!

Do you work from home? How do you take advantage of summer weather and activities with your flexible work schedule?

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Posted by on August 8, 2016 in Business & Success, Life


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4 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer

This week’s blog is written by the newest member of Bennis Inc, Danielle Gouger. Click here to learn more about Danielle’s passion and expertise related to PR, photography and writing!

2016-05-24 20.19

4 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer

As the daughter of a talented writer, I believe I may have gotten the creative writing gene from the person I admire the most, my mother. Throughout my life I have always had a way with words and the ability to let them flow onto a page naturally, as I enjoyed journaling from a young age. English was always the subject I excelled in throughout my education, however it became clear to me later in life that If I was not passionate or excited about what I was writing, I would sometimes struggle more through the process.

This past year I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime. I was given a job/mentoring offer that would allow me to merge my creative side with writing, all while learning and navigating the fascinating world of Public Relations. Here is a look at some of the lessons I have learned throughout this process and would like to share these tips in hopes they can inspire someone else to also become a better writer.

Find Your Rhythm

Finding your rhythm in writing is not always about finding your voice. In fact, I believe that the most important components to being a better writer have a lot to do with your environment. For me, I need to have a peaceful and inspirational space to be able to thrive when writing. I can write to my full potential when I have little to almost no distractions and a specific time that I can set aside just for writing. This may not be the same for everyone, so explore different environments and note that ones that help to get your creative juices flowing.

Write, Write and Then Write Some More!

Consistently writing is probably one of the most important things I have learned this year in my new position as a Public Relations assistant. There is a lot more writing involved in my position than I originally predicted, but I am always up for a challenge! Just like with any other craft or skill, they say “practice makes perfect.” I have found this to be most definitely true with writing. When you can get going on a good writing streak, don’t stop! Keep writing regularly, daily if possible, and you’re far less likely to hit a writer’s block. But if you do…

Break Through That Writer’s Block

I have found that the biggest obstacle that a writer can face is the infamous “writers block.” There are many different ways to go about trying to overcome this hurdle in the daily life of a writer. What I have found to be most helpful, if I am stuck on where to begin or where to go with my writing, is to take a step back. You won’t break through your writer’s block by sitting there and pounding your head through it. Rather a little time and space from your writing will give you a fresh mind and renewed patience to approach the task from a different angle.

Find Your Confidence

I have always been told how articulate I am, but sometimes have had a hard time believing that in myself. The more I write; the more confidence I find not only in my writing, but in myself as a person. Putting your thoughts and feelings into words for countless others to read is enough to conjure up securities in anyone! I have gained confidence by writing like I was talking to a close friend. Rather than trying to write something that will please a huge audience, I write to relate to just one or two people I know. The end result is writing that is genuine, relatable and accurately reflects my inner voice. Who wouldn’t be confident in a finished product like that?

What other tips do you have for becoming a better writer? Share your insights by commenting below so we can all improve our writing skills!

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Posted by on July 18, 2016 in Business & Success, Life


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