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PR Lingo: How to Tell a Boilerplate from a Positioning Statement

All industries have their own buzzwords. As public relations (PR) practitioners, our industry catchphrases are so intertwined in our everyday language that we often don’t realize we are speaking in a foreign language until we see the looks of confusion on a client’s face.

Some of our jargon is used across multiple industries; if we say we will keep a document high-level, it’s understood that only the key facts will be shared. We recognize that our more PR specific terms can be unfamiliar. Here, we de-code the most frequently used terminology.

Press Release Lingo

Many of our buzzwords center around press releases, the traditional meat and potatoes of PR. A press release is a one- to two-page written document sent to the news media by a company to share information about a service, product, project, or employee. It follows a widely accepted format and is composed of key elements, beginning with a headline and ending with contact information. Also referred to as a media advisory or simply a release, a press release communicates a story to the media with the hope that they share it publicly or include the information in an article, reaching a company’s stakeholders, current and potential clients, prospective employees, and even competitors.

One term that often causes confusion is positioning statement. Assumed to be the “About Us” section at the end of a release, the positioning statement is actually the first phrase in the lead sentence of a press release. It immediately tells readers the company’s place in the market and is followed by the “5 W’s” of who, what, when, where, and why of the news in the release. When writing a positioning statement, identify your brand and what makes you unique with a short and concise statement. Here is Rhino PR’s positioning statement:

SOUTH HAMILTON, Mass. – DATE – Rhino Public Relations (Rhino PR), a specialty public relations and marketing agency,

That “About Us” section has its own name, too: boilerplate. The boilerplate summarizes the core of the company in a strategically written single paragraph and is typically placed at the end of a press release. It describes the mission of the company and showcases its differentiators. The text should include relevant keywords and a link to your website and/or social media handles.

About Rhino Public Relations

Rhino PR is a full-service public relations and integrated marketing communications practice focused on meeting the unique needs of professional services firms. The agency’s customized, personal approach has delivered success for some of the most well-known and respected professional services firms in the Greater Boston area, which the firm is honored to count as longstanding and trusted clients. For more information, please visit www.rhinopr.com and follow @RhinoPRBoston.

Ed Cals and Ed Ops

Another term frequently used in PR is ed cal, otherwise known as an editorial calendar. As part of their media kits, publications (you might hear us call these pubs) create editorial calendars where they identify topics they will cover in each issue for a calendar year. PR practitioners monitor the ed cals of key publications to find opportunities that mesh with a client’s goals.

For each client, we identify a publication’s topics for the year and create a customized ed cal listing potential opportunities, known as ed ops, media ops, or speak ops. A media op or ed op is a chance to speak with the press as an industry expert or to secure an article to be published in a trade publication. A  speak op is a possibility to give a presentation as an industry expert at a conference or seminar.

When suitable ed cal items have been selected by a client, we then pitch them. This means we approach the editor with a story idea tailored to the interest of the publication’s readers. The pitch will hopefully prompt the editor to interview our client as a source for a staff-written piece or offer our client an opportunity to write a byline article. A byline article is simply a contributed article by a guest author that shares unique information and is educational but never promotional.

Earned Media

PR is considered earned media; through communications initiatives such as the distribution of press releases and the placement of byline articles, a company’s public image is enhanced and credibility is earned without the financial cost of paying a publication to appear in its pages. PR practitioners also talk about paid and owned media. Paid media can be any type of paid placement (advertising or sponsored articles) in industry publications, websites, or social media channels. Owned media is the content you create and share across your social media channels, blog and/or company website.

Misconceptions

Sometimes our lingo is misinterpreted. When we suggest offering an exclusive to an editor, it does not mean that only one editor at one publication will be allowed to cover this story. Instead, it means we offer the story to one publication but, once they have released it to their audience, we can then share the story with other media. This should be reserved only for offering significant breaking news and should be targeted to major media outlets with a lot of traction.

Other common PR phrases and terms that create confusion are:

  • Launch: to make a public announcement of a new product or service
  • Hits: media coverage of a press release or article that mentions your company
  • Traction: coverage or brand awareness gained through PR
  • Wire distribution: using a paid distribution service to issue press releases to a wider network in a short amount of time
  • Angle (or hook): the point we emphasize to create a story or press release
  • Circulation: the total number of copies of a print publication that is distributed to its audience, either through subscriptions or at newsstands
  • Content creation: generating material that showcases your skills to prove why you are the best choice to help clients with their projects. Content can include written text, infographics, captioned photos, etc.
  • Thought leader: establishment as an industry expert from the placement of content tailored to generate positive brand awareness; indicate vision and drive; and emphasize knowledge, intuition, and credibility.

We hope this helped you decipher prevalent PR phrases, so you too can talk like a PR pro.

Susan Shelby, FSMPS, CPSM

Author

Susan Shelby, FSMPS, CPSM is the president and CEO of Rhino Public Relations, a full-service PR and marketing agency focused on meeting the unique needs of professional services firms and offering customized services based on each individual client’s goals and budget. Susan received the 2016 SMPS Boston Marketing Professional of the Year Award, which honors marketing excellence in the A/E/C industry. Follow her @RhinoPRBoston or visit www.rhinopr.com for more information about how Rhino can help you take charge of your PR.

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