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Taking it on the road: 5 simple steps to re-purposing your client's story

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A traveling circus and an educational presentation that is duplicated at multiple locations over a concentrated period of time--pretty strange bedfellows.

Or are they? At first blush, these might seem to have nothing to do with another, but when it comes to marketing communications, both represent excellent opportunities for ongoing public relations. At the heart of such a strategy is creation of a general news release that is readily customized from one time-and-place event to the next.

In short, this re-purposing strategy means that you don't have to re-invent the wheel. That puts the onus on building one durable wheel that can travel for many miles.

Because most "roadshows" don't merit breathless, hard-news treatment, a "delayed lead" or feature approach to the release is the building block of this part of the process. Trust that your readers don't need to have the date, time, place and topic crammed in one self-important, run-on sentence.

Instead, focus on telling an engaging story. There's no one formula that is the end-all, be-all, but here is one path to consider:

1. Invite the reader in conversationally.

How can you ensure that you are adopting a conversational style? Read your copy aloud, and you will know instantly whether it's something that someone might actually say in conversation. If it is, then you might have a winner.

One angle to consider is asking a question that sets the stage for the topic to follow. Another is to take a cliche and shift it by a few degrees--or even turn it upside-down--to breathe some fresh air into what can be a stale approach.

If I were to write a news release about an event in Nevada's number-one city for conferences, for instance, I might have some fun with the "what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas" one-liner that so often pops up in popular culture:

For the thousands of Amway Independent Business Owners (IBOs) who turn out for World Wide Group's Spring Leadership conference in Las Vegas this coming weekend, the goal is quite contrary to the city's 'wink-wink' mantra.

In other words, these entrepreneurs' success will be measured by how much what they learn in Vegas does not merely stay there. Instead, their ability to share and spread what they learn to other IBOs will dictate how soon they are speaking alongside the likes of World Wide Group leaders Ron and Georgia Lee Puryear at future Leadership conferences.

2. Ease the reader into the topic with a big-picture illustration.

This approach might offer a statistic that places the issue in a broader context, enabling the reader to see how he or she fits into the national picture. The Wall Street Journal is a well-known practitioner of this macrocosm/microcosm tack.

3. Drive home the central point with those pertinent what-who-when-where details.

In a "hard news" story, this would be the lead--the information that you may be tempted to squeeze into the first sentence. Sure, you can place it there--there's nothing technically wrong with that. It's a "safe" decision.

But in so doing, realize that you won't be distinguishing your client from the zillions of other news releases that begin in the same, cookie-cutter manner.

4. Deliver the "why"--just what is it about this topic that makes it newsworthy?

Want to know what separates the public relations-and-marketing also-rans from those operating at a higher level? Much of it happens here, by donning the reporter's hat and taking the time to legitimize your story by explaining the relevance and importance of your subject matter. Skip this step and you will heighten the risk of having media outlets dismiss your release as puffery.

5. Having touched lightly on the speaker's background by now, close with more details and information about where the reader can find out more about the speaker.

This comes at the end, where it belongs--not so high in the release that it competes with the logistical aspects of your story. Inserting these details too soon can also serve as a turn-off to those in the media leery of thinly veiled ads trying to masquerade as news.

A current case in point of this five-step strategy is Inside Edge PR's media outreach for Jim Flanagan of Naperville-based Bentron Financial Group. Flanagan, whose many volunteer activities include leading the Celebrating Seniors Coalition in the Oak Park area, is presenting "Understanding Social Security: A Look at the Bigger Picture" to a variety of audiences throughout suburban Chicago.

For example, you can read about this upcoming session on April 16th at Westmont Public Library.

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