A Press Release is Still a Relevant and Effective Promotions Tactic

For Immediate Release

Did you know the first press release was written by Ivy Lee in 1906? It was written in response to a Pennsylvania Railroad train crash that killed more than 50 people, and Mr. Lee had the company issue a statement about the tragedy, giving the company control of the story. This was seen as a revolutionary step in the way organizations communicated their stories to the public.

One-hundred-ten years later, the press release is still an effective tactic for companies to communicate to their publics, allowing them to control the stories that affect the brand.

Some would argue that in the age of digital and social media, the traditional press release has become irrelevant – that companies can release the same information through various social media channels and maintain control of the message by not having to put it into the hands of journalists. This is a very shortsighted view on the power of the press release. Used strategically, it is still a powerful part of an overall public relations/marketing campaign.

The Purpose of a Press Release
A press release is a tried-and-true tactic for getting a company’s news out to the public. Organizations use press releases to tell their brand stories in their own words. Issuing a press release allows you some control over the message by setting the tone and content, reducing the chances of erroneous reporting.

A release should be written to instantly grab a reporter’s attention, and entice him to follow up for more information with which to write the news article. A media outlet will only publish stories that are considered newsworthy. There are some common considerations the media use when deciding on covering a story:

  • Timing. A story must be current to be considered newsworthy.
  • Uniqueness. The more unusual or interesting the story, the more newsworthy.
  • Significance. A significant story is a newsworthy story.
  • Proximity. The closer a story is to home, the more impact it has and the more newsworthy it is.
  • Personal impact. Stories about people that evoke strong emotions are considered newsworthy.

One thing a press release should NEVER be is a sales pitch. Do not try to sell anything, and avoid marketing jargon and fluff. Telling a story with a positive tone is not the same as making a sales pitch. Focus on the story and what makes it unique.

The Distribution Channels for a Press Release
For a press release to be effective, it has to reach the intended audience. The advent of digital and social media has given organizations direct access to a larger audience, increasing the reach that stories can receive without going through the media. This reach has led some to believe that disseminating a release to traditional news media organizations, individual journalists or over wire services is no longer effective. This is flawed logic.

The proliferation of the self-publishing movement through social media is simply another distribution channel for the press release. While it is true that companies have a greater reach than ever before, a well-written press release that is covered by trusted media will extend the reach of the story to audiences the organization does not have access to. This reach is the underlying reason press releases are still very effective.

Traditional and modern distribution channels can, and should, be used in conjunction with each other to get the best reach for a story. To be successful through any channel, the release has to be picked up by the right audience. When sending to the media, direct the release to the individual reporter whose interests or beat align with the story. If sent to the wrong contact, the story is less likely to get picked up. Apply similar targeting tactics for social media channels – be sure to use the platform that best fits the purpose of the story, and has the audience that will have a direct interest.

Details of a Successful Press Release
The success of a press release hinges on the details. Most journalists will use a press release as a starting point for their own research for a story. However, some will publish a release as is, so it needs to be written like it is going to be published.

The beginning of the press release is the most important information of the story. It needs to hook the reader with a strong headline and encourage him to continue reading or follow up for more details to create a news article. Journalists look for well-organized releases that immediately cover the five Ws – who, what, when, where, why. Use this section to convince the reporter that he wants to run the story. When writing the release, keep in mind that if it is published as is, but must be shortened, the editor will most likely cut from the bottom.

Important to a press release’s success is the writing style. All releases to the media must be written in The Associated Press (AP) Style. It is a very specific style of writing used by media, and there is a regularly updated stylebook that serves as a guide for anyone writing for the news.

Equally important to the writing style is the cleanliness of the copy. Successful press releases are free of any grammar, spelling or punctuation mistakes. Proofreading the release is the most important step in the development process, because if the release has errors of any kind, it risks rejection by reporters.

Visual and interactive elements accompanying a press release offer more engagement opportunities for readers, leading them to additional information beyond the release. Make the release more visual by including videos, infographics or interactive content when possible. Be sure to include links back to your website or social media accounts to encourage readers to learn more about the story or the company.

Adhering to a standard press release format improves clarity. Every release should have the same basic elements:

  • Contact information for the person within the organization to contact for more details.
  • A strong headline/title that succinctly expresses why the story is important.
  • The dateline that includes date, city and state.
  • The body of the press release with the story details.
  • The closing “###,” which signals to journalists the end of the story.
  • A brief description of the organization releasing the story, called the boilerplate.

An Opportunity to Tell a Story
A press release offers the perfect opportunity for you to tell a story or disseminate a message in your own words. Whether as a single announcement or as part of an overall marketing campaign, a well-written press release distributed to the right audience can have a strong impact. The evolution of digital media has added to the effectiveness of a press release by increasing the size of the potential audience. Taking both the traditional route through the media and the modern route directly to audiences through social media, organizations can maximize the reach of their story.

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Prejean Creative Tells You Why – Responsive Design

One Size Doesn’t Fit All…
Gone are the days of designing websites only for a desktop computer. Mobile devices, such as tablets and smart phones, have surpassed desktops as the preferred internet access point globally. Therefore, websites now have to be responsive to various screen sizes.

To illustrate, if viewing this page on a desktop, either adjust the window size or view this page on a mobile device. If you are viewing from a mobile device, view this page on a desktop. Keep an eye on the image. The difference is night and day.

…And Search Engines Have Responded
You may be thinking, “That’s neat and all, but my site analytics are good and conversions are still high. The user experience must not be too bad.” While this may be the case, search engines will recognize your site’s lack of responsive design. Since the recent widespread emergence of the mobile web, most major search engines have developed technologies to determine if a site is designed responsively. If it is determined unresponsive, its placement on major SERPs (search engine results pages) could be negatively affected.

Give Them What They Want
And by “them” we mean users and search engines. Users need a seamless experience no matter which type of device they are using, and search engines are seeking to deliver that experience. Make sure your website’s placement on major SERPs isn’t affected – invest in a mobile-friendly website. Developers and design teams can create a responsive site without changing the essential elements of your current website.


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The Art of Creating The Annual Report


The end of the year is a busy time for most organizations. While still focused on meeting customer needs, they also have to meet year-end obligations for the business, which may include producing an annual report. The annual report presents financial information about the performance of an organization, and is mandatory for any publicly traded company, though many private companies and nonprofits also produce them. The annual report is meant to be used as a performance assessment, but it can be more than just a regulatory compliance document. It presents the perfect opportunity for you to tell the story beyond the numbers, giving readers an inside look at your operation.

annual report

“We speak in every currency of the world” communicated the message of global growth for this annual report we designed for Western Union.

The annual report hasn’t always been seen as a marketing piece. Historically, it was simply a rather large, very dry document that touted the yearly financial performance of an organization. Over the years, it has transformed into something greater that connects to readers, and invites them into the story.

As the use of the annual report has evolved, so have the elements and trends for creating it. There is no single template for creating an annual report – each should be tailored to fit the needs of its own business or industry. But, there are some trends in the packaging and presentation of an annual report that will continue to shift the way it is received.

The Annual Report as a Work of Art
Take the time and make the investment to create an annual report that is both engaging and interesting to read. Make it a document that remains relevant beyond the publication date by injecting it with great storytelling that also speaks to the success of your organization.


In this Center for Nonprofit Management annual report, we developed vivid imagery in the WPA poster style to frame the concept of working together for the good of all.

As art director Gary LoBue Jr. says, “The annual report allows a rare opportunity for a company to truly expand on their narrative. Every entity has an interesting story to tell, and that story is not always about the numbers. Give the readership some insight. Give them a story that will engage them.”

An annual report is the perfect place to have the company narrative marry its financial success story. A key part of storytelling is the concept, design and visuals that frame the words and numbers. Keep the door open for the use of an overarching concept that captures the tenor of your message, as well as color, graphics, images and any other design elements that will help transform your annual report to a work of art worth keeping and displaying.

Design for “Turners” and “Scrollers”
Annual report production is shifting towards electronic reports, in addition to traditional hard copy reports. The trend towards digital annual reports is strong, with 67 percent of public companies producing both a printed and electronic annual report. Plan for the future, but don’t abandon a print version if it still holds relevance for your audience.

This shift to digital reports pairs perfectly with the idea of the annual report as a creative marketing piece. One of the key advantages of the electronic format is the allowance for movement in the report. In general, digital content is better received when it includes video, images, infographics, animation – anything that is visually appealing.

Some companies choose to integrate digital assets into their hard copy annual report, bringing an added dimension of interactivity to the print version. In the UL Lafayette Foundation report, below, we included QR codes to direct readers to bonus content. In addition to (or instead of) merely reading the donor’s story, the viewer could see and hear the donor sharing his or her passion for the university, via video. Other QR codes linked readers directly to department or program pages where they could make a donation.



With digital design also comes responsive design. Mobile devices have surpassed desktop machines as the preferred Internet access point worldwide – 51.3 percent to 48.7 percent. As more consumers use mobile devices, content has to be responsive to different size screens. A single-page responsive design is a common solution for the structure of an electronic report, as there is no flipping between pages. Users can simply scroll all the way through or use anchor text links to locate the information they are seeking.

The need for hard copy versus electronic, or both, varies significantly, depending on factors such as regulation and compliance, company size, industry, target audiences and many others. The decision to do one or both rests on your organization’s needs and your audience’s tolerance for change.


We have used conceptual storytelling in a number of annual reports for the UL Lafayette Foundation over the years.

Key Elements of an Annual Report
Regardless of which presentation format you choose, there is an established standard for the type of information usually included:

  1. Successes – The end goal of an annual report is to tout the yearly accomplishments of a company. This can be done through both the financial review and the narrative. The successes should also include a “thank you” to those who made the achievements possible.
  2. Narrative – Tell your story. Invite the reader in with narrative that gives an inside look at what your organization really stands for.
  3. Executive Message – Most reports include a message from the CEO, or the highest ranking official within the organization. A company’s publics look to the leaders to provide a pathway to the future, as well as an analysis of the year’s performance.
  4. Financials – No annual report is complete without a look at the numbers. These can range from simple, engaging summary charts to comprehensive financial statements or a Form 10-K, depending on your organization.
  5. Call to Action – What should readers do with the information presented to them? Share it with others? Make an investment? Visit a website? While many will simply appreciate the yearly review, it’s a good idea to give the reader something more to do with the information.

While these elements are the backbone of the report, the only way to stand out in the crowd of annual reports is to use it as a platform that tells a story, and to give it a unique design that brings the information to life.

It’s All in the Details
Don’t resent or lament the task of creating your annual report. Instead, let it inspire you to put your best foot forward. Company leadership should take advantage of the annual report’s potential size and scope. Make it a trophy piece for marketing, highlighting your organization’s short- and long-term goals. This is a chance to build on the past year’s achievements, or to look past any challenges while focusing on the future.

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Prejean Creative Tells You Why – The Interaction of Color


Magical tricks with color. Amaze your friends.
You have a room to paint. You go to the paint store and pick an array of color options. Go home and tape them to the wall. You pick your favorite, buy the bucket o’ paint and apply it to the walls. You step back and have that “what the heck” (paraphrasing) moment. Something is off. The drapes look different, and so do the furnishings. It’s happened to most of us.

So, what went wrong? While there are many factors, one contributing factor to the dilemma is an effect called simultaneous contrast. It involves the way colors interact with each other when side by side. Simultaneous contrast can cause some amazing visual tricks with color.

How does this occur, you ask? When our eyes take in light, the retina processes it and an image is sent to the brain. Our eyes tend to seek a neutral balance in brightness, contrast and color. When it comes to colors, a neutral gray makes our eyes (and brain) the most comfortable. Our eyes are scanning, processing and manipulating light and colors to discern the imagery while striving to achieve this comfort zone. This results in interesting optical illusions.

A favorite art design class I took at UL is based on color theory and a book by Josef Albers called Interaction of Color. A semester was spent studying and creating color optical illusions with color papers. I still have the box of Colormatch papers from school, pictured above. I was excited to learn that Mr. Albers’ book was converted into an interactive app in 2013. If you think you may enjoy experimenting with colors, I highly recommend it. Below are four examples from Albers that are the result of simultaneous contrast.

Now, good luck with picking those paint colors next go-round.

Making one-in-the-same color look like two different colors.
The two small squares look very different when juxtaposed with different colors. (hover or tap to pause animation)

Making two different colors look alike.
The two small squares look similar when, in fact, they are very different. (hover or tap to pause animation)

Special thanks to Michael Culpepper for the animation sequences.

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Dances with Frogs


While helping a neighbor demo their home after the extensive flooding here in Louisiana, it struck me just how much damage was done to the lawn, shrubs and smaller trees throughout their landscape.

It’s been (ahem) quite a few years since I took the Certified Nursery & Landscape Professional (CNLP) exam, but I’d like to share some basic knowledge and tips regarding the rejuvenation, or renovation, of your greenspace.

I know it’s difficult if you have suffered a loss; your landscape is probably the least of your worries at this point, but after all, your yard is also an important part of your property.

First, the bad news.
staugustoThe first step should be a no-brainer, but I have to say it – wait until the water has completely subsided before any work begins. You’re not going to accomplish much and there is an inherent danger involved if the water hasn’t receded.

Some bad news – chances are extremely high that if you still have standing water in the grassy surface areas – it’s dead. Unfortunately, a re-sod or re-seeding of your lawn will have to take place.

But, some good news – most native or established trees, shrubs, bulbs and ornamentals are surprisingly hardy in the face of adverse conditions. Historically, this is a wet state.

My dumpster is bigger than your dumpster.
Remove all debris from your landscape – the sheetrock, base molding, studs, appliances, furniture, wiring, nails, glass, insulation – everything. Debris will retard the growth process and there’s the issue of chemicals leaching into the soil. Did I mention the potential issue with vermin? We hate vermin.

Got mulch?
Any mulch that wasn’t washed away needs to be removed. Assuming the mulch hasn’t been tainted or stewing in sewerage, this organic material can be placed into your compost pile or bin. Do not replace the mulch. Moisture and root protection is not an issue. Allow the base and roots of your plants to dry.

Mostly dead.
Pull or dig up any plants that are dead – they’re compost pile candidates now.

A cautionary note before pulling up or cutting down any plant-life: If you’re a fan of theimassge2 movie, The Princess Bride, then you know there’s all dead and there’s mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.

Some plants can be like that. Take rose bushes for instance. I’ve picked up zombie-looking rose bushes off the side of a highway before and those are now some of the most vigorous plants in my yard.

So, if you’re in doubt whether a plant is “all” dead, simply wait until spring or its primary growing season.

If you have medium-size or larger trees that are dead or damaged, please call a licensed arborist or tree specialist to do the work. Do not be tempted to DIY. Danger, bubba. Big, water-logged trees are not to be trifled with.

Lawn aerobics.
Aerate – just like you, your lawn and its topsoil need to breathe.

Aeration or oxygenation is a huge part of rejuvenating the grassy surface areas. To say these areas have been oversaturated is an understatement. Chances are also high that most of these areas are now extremely compacted due to debris overlying the surface or by foot xgranttraffic. You need to get air circulating throughout your topsoil to promote future plant growth.

Jabbing your lawn with the tines of a pitchfork is one way to go about aerating your lawn, although that is time-consuming and you’ll probably get some odd looks from the neighbors. Walking around the yard wearing a pair of old-school, metal-spiked golf shoes is a trick I used to use. These days, I use the original garden weasel tool. These methods are all good, but for the larger scale cultivation that you’re facing, a gas-powered, core aerator will be needed. No need to buy – these can easily be rented.

We’re gonna need a bigger boat.
Plan and replace. I guess if you’re looking for a silver lining behind the flood-producing clouds, this could be it. While we’re lucky to live in an area like southwest Louisiana where “if it’s green it will grow,” there’s not much you can do in the face of a 1,000-year flood event, Noah. It’s heartbreaking to lose personal and family possessions (plants and trees included), but try to look at this event as an opportunity to improve or enhance.

The rainbows and unicorns part of the story.
We’ve been blessed with a very robust ecosystem here. Just take a look at our St. Augustine, live oaks, cypress, azaleas and camellias. You can take advantage of our climate by utilizing our native or southern heritage plants. Keyword: native. There’s a scientific reason those centuries-old live oaks are still standing!

Make it fun for the family and make your landscape work for you once the home rebuilding gets squared away. Or, contact a local certified nursery & landscape professional, arborist or a licensed landscape horticulturist. They’ll be more than happy to work out a plan with you and within a budget to make some magic happen.

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