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Copy of Getting Past the News Release

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Seattle Police Public Affairs

on 27 August 2016

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Transcript of Copy of Getting Past the News Release

Getting Past the News Release Headline
Creating Content Your Audience Craves

What are press releases for?
The digital distribution that makes it easy talk directly to the public has begun to blur the lines:

Are press releases meant to be a written piece ready for finished publication?

Or is it just used to entice the media to cover a story?
This article has gotten 416,885 pageviews to date.
But in this we saw opportunity:
We realized a few things:
We can't control what the media covers.
We shouldn't try to control what the media covers.
News about crime IS the news.
We have the news before the media.
We can distribute the news directly to the public.
SPD Public Affairs Office
Headed by a Sergeant who is our Communications Director
Three sworn Detective Public Information Officers
One civilian crime writer (former reporter)
One civilian digital communications/web position (that's me!)
First, a little background
Media interest in SPD is very high . . .
Public perception of SPD is very low . . .
Anyway, we decided to stop issuing traditional "press releases"
Now for a quick aside on press releases . . .
This is our news site: spdblotter.seattle.gov
This is our news FEED @SeattlePD
Scenario #1
You find out an officer found a wandering goat and put it in the back of his patrol car!
BONUS! You have photos of said goat.
Does the public have the right to know? You bet they do!
Scenario #2
The voters have spoken! Marijuana use has been legalized!
As the largest police agency in the state, people will be looking to you for answers on enforcement.
Can you give the public some answers?
You bet you can!
Scenario #3
It's May Day! This means a potential demonstration that might get out of hand.
Live tweet the entire event, and just report the straight up facts...

#1 - Make posts readily consumable
Tell a complete story, don't leave off details.
Take the extra step to include a relevant photo.
If you have a colorful character on staff who can tell your story for you, take the time to interview them and use quotes.
#3 - Write 'Clickable' Headlines
Spend time really thinking about your headlines. It pays off - what is the point of spending time on your article if nobody clicks on it to read it?
#2 - Avoid Jargon
Avoid department acronyms.
Use very plain, conversational language.
You can be more casual with Wordpress/Twitter
#5 - Use humor
When? Whenever you can get away with it.
Don't try too hard, that's the worst!
Don't imitate anyone - find your own style.
Humor humanizes - it helps people connect with the real people behind government.
Scenario #4
Someone is spreading rumors and falsehoods about your agency!
But you are the GOVERNMENT. Do you have any recourse?
YES! But pick your battles wisely!
#4 - Find the hidden stories
The story of the 'day-to-day' work often goes untold - yet it's often the most interesting.
Despite what you've been led to believe, the work of government IS interesting, you just have to find what is interesting to the external audience.
Think visually.
Cop Talk vs. Actual Talk
Subsequently = Then
Located = Found
Attempted = Tried
Subject = Man/Woman
Fight disturbance = Just fight or argument.
Viewed/Observed = Watched/Saw
In the area of = Near
Placed under arrest = Arrested
Our guiding principles...
So let's consider some real scenarios...
So has this all worked?
Some special considerations...
We have to give a slow clap to this exchange...
Of course nothing replaces one on one customer service...
So...when if the last time you wrote a press release YOU were really excited to read?
Full transcript