Improving mat releases, digital signage, and more

How do I write a mat release that newspapers will pick up?

Mat releases
How do I write a mat release that newspapers will pick up?

"The two most common mistakes we see are stories that are either too niche in focus or overly promotional," says Roger Maes of StatePoint Media, a feature placement service. "Perhaps nothing turns off a newspaper editor more than a mat release that resembles an advertorial."

Conversely, a good mat release pertains to most, if not all, readers, and delivers tangible, useful information to them.

In developing mat releases, you should always make sure to deliver "news readers can use," spotlighting clients as experts on the topic at hand. "Within this format, you can effectively promote companies and their key messages," adds Maes.

And the same applies to photos. It's best to forego a stand-alone product shot for an image that objectively enhances the story, even if it's a more subtle image of people interacting with your product, he suggests.

Digital signage
How can I use digital signage as an effective comms tool?

The digitalization of information has sped up the communication process, but the digital era also has a downside - the information overload, which is rapidly taking its toll.

"Any information not seen as highly relevant is trashed immediately, or even regarded as spam," says Frank Hoen of Netpresenter.

By publishing your message on digital screens, known as digital signage, you can ensure your audience sees your message again - in a less-intrusive and less-time-consuming way.

"Rather than keeping people from doing their job, it offers entertainment when they are waiting, eating, or simply passing by," he notes.

Using digital signage effectively, however, requires a whole new approach. Messages need to be highly visual, professional, targeted, and brief.

"Tell people only the necessities and where to find more information," he advises. "And don't stick to the beaten track when it comes to reaching your specific audience: even PC monitors can be a highly effective communication channel."

If used wisely, digital signage allows for fast and effective communication with any audience.

I'm hearing a lot about direct placement these days. What is it, how does it work, and why should I use it?

Direct-placement applications - otherwise known as paid or guaranteed - eliminate some of the uncertainty associated with pitching stories to the media. "While your client's story may indeed be newsworthy, there is no guarantee that it will make air," notes Lidj Lewis of Visceral Media.

Any number of factors, including breaking news, can interfere with the broadcast of your video or audio news release. "Even if it does air, chances are it will be edited in one form or another," he adds. "That might compromise the message you intended to convey in the first place."

On the other hand, direct placement ensures your message is delivered in its entirety because it airs within a TV or radio station's commercial rotation.

Does this constitute advertising? "No," says Lewis. "The content is still PR content, but it is distributed in a manner that takes advantage of advertising's reach, predictability, frequency, and ability to deliver to targeted audiences."

This same methodology can be applied to the Web and print publications. "Direct placement is the perfect complement to earned-media efforts," he concludes, "and it delivers an attractive return on investment."

Send your questions to . Please contact Irene Chang if you are interested in contributing to PR Toolbox or to suggest ideas for future columns. Toolbox is available online at

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