When it comes to shareholder activism, books are judged by their covers.
Your potential to rally the support for your activist campaigns will be heavily dependent upon the look and feel of your communications. This includes issuing the professional, polished activism press releases.
Journalists, shareholders, analysts, and fellow shareholder activists will judge you, the messenger, based on the messages you disseminate. Therefore, TheShareholderActivist.com™ offers the following guidance to make you sound more like a responsible activist, and less like a shrill alarmist.
Think of the following fundamentals as tools to include in your investor activism communications toolkit:
Why Do I Need to Know This?
The press release is the cornerstone of any investor activism campaign. A press release (a.k.a. the news release, the media release, the press statement, or the video news release) is basically a written or digitally recorded communication intended for the news media announcing something newsworthy.
Consider the press release to be your public-facing record of statements of major events related to your shareholder activist campaign. As such, a press release is a more formal statement than other types of communications (i.e., tweets, blog entries, forum postings).
Who is My Audience?
As the name denotes, a press release is intended for the press, or the media. However, each release represents one in a series of milestones of major occurrences for your investor campaign or activist organization that will be a book of record for all audiences review, not just journalists.
Whereas a blog can be a bit more conversational and creative, the press release should convey quality over quirkiness. TheShareholderActivist.com™ can refer you to highly trained professionals to assist in your communications activities. Still, you should give it a try and be grounded in the basic blocking and tackling of campaign communications. Make sure and view other press releases to see how they are written.
Don’t Cry Wolf
With a press release, you are announcing a specific, timely occurrence that is worthy of coverage. Determine what that occurrence is and make sure it merits attention. Remember, not every occurrence in your shareholder activism warrants a press release. Your media contacts and audiences for your shareholder activism will get annoyed if they receive a stream of inconsequential releases.
Substantiate, don’t pontificate. Be responsible in your investor activism communications and stick to the facts. Journalists that cover shareholder activism (at least the credible ones), will need to attribute information to specific sources. If you make critical assertions, make sure to support them with facts. Supporting data will increase the likelihood of your shareholder activist campaign being taken seriously.
Journalists, analysts, even fellow activists have limited attention spans for even their preferred news sources, and therefore little tolerance for plowing through your multi-page announcements. Whenever possible, keep your press release to a single page and clearly explain the key points of your shareholder activism campaign. If you are running long on content, start by trimming the adjectives.
If your announcement absolutely, positively screams for extra content, develop a landing page on your activist site or blog (or take it to the next level and offer a shock-and-awe media kit) and allude to where the media can locate that additional material online.
Write a Clear Headline
In most instances, journalists receiving your blast or analysts scanning your site will likely not get beyond your headline, so make it count. That headline, in bold and centered at the top of your release above the dateline, should feature the most significant, dramatic element of your news. If your announcement has a secondary newsworthy element, consider a sub-headline, not in bold and italicized, as opposed to jamming everything into your headline.
Include a dateline preceded by “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” or “PRESS RELEASE,” followed by relevant contact information: name, title, address, phone number, and email address. (i.e.: NEW YORK CITY, Jan. 1, 2011).
Why Should They Care?
In your first paragraph, boil your information down the basic WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, and HOW and try to make sure much of that is represented, word-smithing the material so as not to overloading the reader with clumsy writing on your shareholder activist campaign.
In your first and second paragraph, you will need to convey why the journalist and, more importantly, his readership, should care about your announcement, from the reader’s perspective.
Feel free to customize a press release and send out different versions to different media outlets, making the connection between your causes and their reader base. One strong, customized press release can deliver more coverage than an ambiguous mass blast.
Why Should They Listen to You?
The second and/or third paragraph should include a quote from your organization and/or a reputable third-party with a stake in the situation. The third and normally final paragraph should sum up the news and provide the context of your organization/campaign, with a designated contact indicated.
People like to read about people, so it is a best practice to include a relevant quote in your press release that is a combination of facts and human interest, linking the reader to news through the lips of someone they can trust. The quote can also be a useful way of explaining why an issue is of interest in a larger debate, so make sure the quote adds something in terms of information. And, an opinion is much more palatable when it is quoted instead of stated.
Every press release should have an “About _____” boilerplate description of your investor activist campaign, located at the conclusion of every press release. This should be the same paragraph that you include in all of your communications and is featured on your web-site/blog.
Typeface & Paper
When developing your press release, select a consistent “house style” that you use for all of your communications, including letterhead with logo, headers, footers, typeface (Times New Roman or Ariel are standards, though you can select another, but it is advised you avoid the Broadways, Chillers, and Elephants of your font library), and double spacing. And, as per journalistic style, conclude with a “###” or “-30-“ beneath the final line to signify the end of your release.
Do the Legwork for the Reporter
Newsrooms are shrinking and journalists are being asked to expand their beats, at a time when there is increasing demand for mindshare and competition. Journalists are inundated with pitches, so the better you are at facilitating the actual reporting of your investor campaign, the more likely they will use your information to plug a news hole. Tease information that would help the reporter write a better story. Make sure and indicate there is much more to this story, such as interviews with key Subject Matters Experts, survey results, and data.
Don’t Skimp on Paper
All releases should be distributed on high-quality paper. If cost and volume are an issue, at least send the higher quality renderings to the media where you think you will have a better shot of garnering coverage.
Develop Your Template
You should not have to recreate the PR wheel with every press release about your shareholder activism. The press release should adhere to a regular format that is easily replicable. Do not deviate from the standard, as journalists review many releases each day and are trained to navigate through them.
Spellcheck, Spellcheck, Spellcheck
Journalists receive and review a large number of releases and will often simply discard the sloppy ones to whittle down the pile. Do a simple spell check and have several sets of eyes review your release before you submit it to journalists.
Know the Media You Stalk
Before submitting a release, make sure you have some sense of the media you are targeting and that your pitch is relevant to their coverage. Taking a few minutes to research individual reporters will make you much more effective. Tailor your press release to the readership of the publication or outlet. The better you can show how your news connects to the readership, the more likely you will receive coverage.
To contact Craig McGuire directly, please email Craig.Mcguire@TheShareholderActivist.com.