Create a Powerful PR 'Fact Sheet' in Just Four Steps
The right time to create a fact sheet is any time you need to spoon-feed a reporter on a complex subject.
Reporters don't mind thinking, they just don't want to think too hard. They simply don't have the time. They are writing history in a hurry. The accent is on "hurry."
PR Rainmakers recognize this and use it to their advantage.
Creating a fact sheet gives you more control over the story that you will have without it. A reporter in a hurry is very likely to take your fact sheet and covert at least part of it into a section of the story.
The fact sheet offers the reporter a short-cut that few can refuse. So offer it.
There are four steps to creating a powerful fact sheet. They are:
Step 1: Gather content.
Bring together every recent document your company has produced on the subject you want the reporter to cover. Consider widening your net to include documents produced by related associations, colleges, think tanks and even competitors.
Talk to the folks in your company who really know the subject. Focus not only on the executives, but also on the grunts who truly produce the work and thus know it inside out. Take careful notes.
Think like a reporter. What would a journalist need to know? But also look for the surprising, the interesting or the unusual: things the reporter might not expect. Include these ideas as well.
Step 2: Organize and outline
Sort your information by subject. Some PR Rainmakers use binders or folders. Others use computer software. Go with whatever works best for you.
Let's say you represent a drug manufacturer who is issuing a new pill that instantly cures hives caused by consumption of MSG. Your content might include the pill's formula, the team that created the pill, the size of the company's investment, the potential market for the pill, the active ingredients, the chemical reaction to MSG in allergic humans, and on and on.
You want to take each bit of useful information and put it with related information. Give each "box" of information a name: "team," "market," "ingredients," and so on.
Your goal is sort out your content until it makes sense to you.
Next, on a sheet of paper or on a computer screen, you want to write a master list of the names of each "box."
This will provide the basic outline for your fact sheet. Rearrange the outline until the structure makes sense.
Step 3: Prune, combine and simplify.
The goal is, in few pages as possible, to produce a fact sheet that hits the topics you want to see in the reporter's story.
Rule of thumb: At least five boxes, and no more than 10. Prune away until you reach a number between those two.
Look for opportunities to combine boxes. For example, if you have some content sorted as "executive team" and another as "research team," consider combining these into one box labeled "team."
Also, you need to find ways to simplify complex ideas. Search for comparisons and analogies that will express complicated processes. Transform jargon into English. Focus on benefits, not features.
Trim, trim and trim some more. (When I started this article, there were eight steps. Now there are just four. That's where you want to go with this part of the process.)
If the subject is just too complex to reduce to a single page, consider creating more than one fact sheet. Just make certain each fact sheet focuses on a single aspect of the overall topic.
Step 4: Format and produce
There are as many ways to design fact sheets as there are topics. You will need to use your experience, creativity and common sense to choose the one that best organized your material.
Try to keep the fact sheet to one page. Certainly no more than three.
Use a readable typeface, such as Arial, in a 10 to 12 point typeface. Double spacing isn't necessary, but use a blank line between paragraphs.
The page should begin with the word "Fact Sheet," followed by a very brief headline that explains the subject of the page.
From that point on, work with your outline. Use a small header to introduce each "box." Consider using a bullet to open each paragraph.
Insert only the most interesting, most vital or most relevant information you have to offer. Remember: Your job is to make it easy for the reporter to write the story.
Finally: Don't be afraid to steal a format you find attractive. If you want to study the designs of 10 fact sheets that might work for you, visit http://www.prrainmaker.com/factsheets.html.
Copyright 2003 by W.O. Cawley Jr.
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