Public Relations/Canadian Copywriter

Of all the writing professions, public relations is often the most misunderstood. In many companies, it's not unusual to see PR people performing tasks which wouldn't normally fall within their job description. The reason why is because very few people understand exactly what public relations people are supposed to do. As a result, the public relations person is often pressed to perform duties which aren't within his or her bailliwicke. In an attempt to clear up the confusion, The First Assembly of Public Relations Associations created the "definitive" definition of public relations at a world conference in 1987.

They termed public relations as "the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organization leaders and implementing programs of action which serve the interests of both the organization and the public." Since we're a group that doesn't pull punches, we'll just boil this down to a person who "makes sure that no-one gets annoyed with the company" The PR person's daunting task is to ensure that there is adequate goodwill from the public, the government and the private sector. To achieve this, the PR person is responsible for:

Reinforcing a company's image
Directly promoting a product or service

The secret to good public relations is to head off a crisis before it begins. To do this, a company must be pro-active with an excellent Corporate Responsibility program in place. Corporate responsibility means always striving to do what is right, which means instituting good relations with the general public, a company's customers, suppliers and all governing bodies. A company must consider its customers first, offering them a product that enhances their life. A company must also institute a responsible purchasing policy, being fair to its suppliers.

Of course, even with the most well-intentioned program in place, every organization will run into trying times. When this happens, the company's critics will be quick to attack, criticizing the organization as a large soulless entity whose only reason for existence is to marginalize human needs for profit. In a few very rare exceptions, this may be true but it's also true that capitalism requires free enterprise to make a profit-- and profits are as necessary to companies as sunshine is to the leaves on trees.

In other words, if a company can't turn a profit, it can't grow, it can't pay its employees and it can't fund research to improve its product line. However, some companies, either in their quest for profits or perhaps unknowingly, will run into social responsibility issues and this is when bad publicity happens.

At this point, the PR professional is saddled with the task of "damage control" and is required (as a professional): TO TELL THE COMPLETE AND HONEST TRUTH! Yes, we know this sounds obvious, but sometimes companies attempt to cover up their failings -- usually with minimal success (does anybody out there remember Enron?). If the press or public has a company dead to rights, it's the PR person who must stand up and admit that certain wrongs were perpetrated and that the company is addressing these matters as adroitly as possible. If people have been hurt physically or emotionally, the PR pro will spring into action and address these wrongs, ensuring that they are corrected and that the victims are properly compensated.

A PR professional is a company's official outlet to the public and/or employees. He or she is the person who disseminates information about a company (usually through the press or internal publications). This information can be soft news (such as an employee of the month award or the promotion of an event) or hard news (such as the company's quarterly performance). Other duties of the public relations officer include a "reinforcement" of the company's image or, in some cases, directly promoting a product or service.

The Perils of Being Employed by Tim Horton

In the late Spring of 08, a single mother of four children who worked at a Tim Horton's Donut shop was caught doing some evil things by the company's security cameras. She was actually caught trying to calm a customer's 18-month old baby by giving the child a Tim Horton's timbit (for those who don't know, a Tim Bit is made from the dough that was extracted from the donut to make the "hole" -- and retails for about 18 cents -- the cost would probably come in around the .000000001 cent mark). Oh, did we forget to mention that the woman forgot to charge the child for the TimBit. She gave the Tim Bit to the child for FREEEEEEEEE! Well, my gosh, when the brilliant managers at the Tim Horton's branch watched the video and saw what this wanton, lawbreaking woman had done, they immediately called this single mother of four onto the carpet! These brilliant minds fired her on the spot, accusing her of theft. Well, thankfully when the Head Office caught wind of this situation, they contacted the woman immediately, re-hired her at another location and offered to pay her back wages. If this situation had spun out of control -- and the woman had sued for wrongful dismissal, Tim Horton's would have had a major public relations nightmare on their hands -- and the loss of a Tim Bit (remember-- that's a big eighteen cents contributed toward Tim Horton's corporate coffers would have cost them a Hell of a lot more in lost sales. This was an excellent example of good Crisis Control. We congratulate the Tim Horton's public relations people. And we really wonder about the people they hire at their stores!

The Story Of Brandon Crisp

It was on Canada's Thanksgiving Day, in 2008, when Brandon Crisp, a 15-year old boy, was engaged in a typical teen-aged boy's argument with his parents. The boy was a video game fanatic (hey, what teenaged kid isn't???), but his parents were alarmed when they suspected that he was becoming addicted to the game "Call Of Duty" on the X-Box and they decided to restrict his access to the game. Brandon took exception to the limitation and "ran away from home".

At this point, we ask you "How many teenaged boys have done exactly the same thing? How many of us, at the tender age of fifteen, have decided to take off and "live our own lives", finally free from the "shackles" of our "over-restrictive parents"? The answer is 99% of us! And, how many fathers have been placed in the same difficult position as Brandon's father? He told Brandon that he could leave if he wants, gambling on the fact (and it was a good gamble, Mr. Crisp) that the youth would return a few hours later. Well, Brandon stomped out the door -- and he was never seen or heard from again.

Three weeks later, a group of hunters found Brandon's body on a remote country trail, at the bottom of a tree -- a tree that he had fallen from. Investigators believed that Brandon, in his attempt to run away as far from home as possible, got lost and he had climbed a tree to orient himself, perhaps to see some lights in the fading November darkness-- but Brandon slipped and fell from his perch, crushing his chest and succumbing to his injuries in the frosted grass (God, if only we were there to help!). The story is enormously sad -- and we cannot begin to understand the family's grief, especially the father who truly believed he was doing the right thing (and Mr. Crisp, you have our complete assurance that you did do the right thing. How could anyone have ever predicted this kind of tragic outcome?).

But here's where the public relations part comes in. After Brandon's death, the family investigated his situation. They went through his computer files. It turns out that the boy was very talented in the game and was ready to turn professional and, perhaps, even earn some money.

The Canadian President of Microsoft read about the story and, in the midst of the search for Brandon, the company put up a $50,000.00 reward for information leading to the whereabouts of Brandon Crisp. This too, was the "right thing to do" -- but it has opened a "can of worms". Is a company really responsible for people who have become addicted to their product? In a black and white world, the answer would be "no", a company is not responsible for people who become addicted to their product". Microsoft's games have provided non-toxic, healthy, educational and entertaining games for millions of people throughout the world. However, in the world of public relations, the answer is "yes", the company should be engaged in some type of program that stems "any abuse" of their product. In the case of Microsoft's X-Box Games, statistics tell us that about 5% of the population is addicted to video games -- so much so that they become dysfunctional. Our guess is that there are thousands of teenage boys throughout North America who are "butting their heads" with their parents in exactly the same kind of scenario as The Crisp Family. Will this case provide "notice" to Microsoft? Should the company be devoting more of its resources to the "rehabilitation and cure" of those people who have gone beyond the "norm"? We'll leave the decision in your hands. Let's see what Microsoft does. Maybe, if God drops everything else, Microsoft might do the right thing.

This is also an area where the PR professional will get involved. Usually, this task falls within the context of "paid advertising" but from time to time a PR person will do it. A public relations person will perform this duty by garnering "free publicity" for the product. This free publicity is usually through the ubiquitous "press release" or a published article and this is where a PR person's writing skills are invaluable. A press release or published article will save a great deal of money for a company since the free "publicity" means the money doesn't have to be spent on advertising. But -- and this is a very important BUT -- the press release must be well written. Newspaper people (particularly in small town publications) are in the business of news but they're also often in the business of filling space -- and if your press release helps them fill the space with information that interests their readers, they will print it.

Often, the press release is part of a bigger package called a "Press Kit". The "Press Kit" includes items such as: a cover letter detailing the contents of the kit, perhaps a sample of the product itself, a press release, perhaps a backgrounder with interesting facts a reporter can use and perhaps a free gimmick. This gimmick is usually something the reporter can use personally, a reward of sorts for publishing the press release. Try not to be too generous with your gimmick however. There's a fine line between good PR and bribery.

The "press release" is the PR person's most effective tool...and it can be very effective when properly used -- but it can also be deadly if used improperly.

The "press release" is usually sent to editors of newspapers and magazines. When you write your press release, remember these two important elements. First, your press release must be timely (in other words it must meet the newspaper's deadlines) and secondly, it must contain newsworthy information. If the release doesn't contain hard news it's usually pitched in the wastebasket. That's why it's essential that every press release contains news that an editor can use. If a "press release" is poorly written it will end up in the "round file".

It might also be worth mentioning here that news reporters and editors will cast a fairly jaundiced eye on a company's press release. Too many press releases have crossed their desk that casts companies in too positive a light. Although it's the PR person's job to gather favour for a company, misleading press releases or press releases that avoid certain critical issues aren't the way to do it. (News people are very quick to spot a phoney!

Although it's not unusual for an editor to have a "press release" rewritten, he or she will totally give up on the release if it's so unintelligble that few people can grasp its meaning. Also, when a PR officer writes a press release, it should work as an inverse pyramid with the most newsy items at the top flowing through to the least newsy items at the bottom. It follows the old journalistic axiom of the "5 W's" -- answering the questions who, what, where, when and why.

When writing a press release it should look like this."News Release" (or Press Release) is always at the top left hand side of the page. Directly under this, put the name of the contact person the media can get in touch with if there are any questions or an interview is required (and his or her phone number). At the top right hand corner, put the words "For immediate release". This is used in most cases, but if a release is to be used on a specific date, write the date in, for example: "For release: September 2, 2005". In the middle of the page, about 1 1/2 inches from the top, write your heading. The heading, of course, must be a sizzler of a heading -- which catches the media's attention. At the end of the release, type the # sign inside a circle or a simple "30". These are old editor's marks that indicate the press release is finished and the editor will know that pages of the release weren't lost or separated.

We have included two samples press releases, one prepared by one of our own writers and another from Kimberley Clark.

For release: immediately. Writer: Norm Barnett

Star Navigation awarded $9 million contract to install safety monitoring
systems on Spice Jet’s new fleet of Boeing jets.

TORONTO, ONTARIO –(CCN Mathews – March 21, 2005). Star Navigation is pleased to announce that Royal Airlines of India has ordered the company’s in-flight monitoring system for its expanded fleet of twenty Boeing Next Generation 737-800 jets. The jets, flying under the Spice Jet name, will also be outfitted with Star’s new wireless telephone system for all passengers and the world’s First Wi-Fi system.

The In-flight monitoring system (ISMS TM), the first real-time, decentralized system ever to be used globally, will keep track of all the jets’ safety systems, immediately reporting any spikes or malfunctions via the internet to crews both on the ground and in the air. The Wi-Fi system is also a ‘first’, certified by both the FAA and Transport Canada, which gives commercial airlines a unique ability to communicate with corporate LANs by sending and receiving high-speed downloads/uploads.

A recent decision by India’s Director General of Civil Aviation cleared the way for the system’s implementation. The Director stated that the Star Navigation's In-flight Safety Monitoring System achieves and exceeds the current mandatory regulations for aircraft data monitoring and analysis, and approved it for installation in the Indian aviation environment. Mr. Roger Page, the executive vice president of Spice Jet concurred with the decision’s progressive thinking.

The purchase, which will be completed over a ten year period, confirms Star Navigation’s position as a leading provider of flight safety and fleet management systems and has prompted Star Navigation to enter into discussions with all of India’s airline operators, emphasizing the system’s ability to improve fleet resource management, thereby dramatically minimizing flight operating costs – which is crucial in an industry constantly under pressure to minimize operating costs and improve profitability
    The first three units of the IFMS Monitoring System will be delivered to Spice Jet in April 2005 and installed at the Gulf Aircraft Maintenance Company (GAMCO), the largest air maintenance facility in the Middle East and an exclusive partner in the region with Star Navigation.

Note: An independent valuation in January 2002 placed the value of Star Navigation’s technology in excess of $50 million. Certain statements contained in this News Release constitute forward-looking statements. When used in this document, the words "may", "would", "could", "will" and similar expressions, as they relate to Star or its management are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Such statements reflect Star's current views with respect to future events and are subject to certain risks, uncertainties and assumptions. Many factors could cause Star's actual performance or achievements to vary from those described herein. Should one or more of these factors or uncertainties materialize, or should assumptions underlying forward-looking statements prove incorrect, actual results may vary materially from those described herein as intended, planned, anticipated, believed, estimated or expected. Star does not assume any obligation to update these forward-looking statements 40,842,889 shares outstanding (pre - closing of the above said transaction) Contact: Star Navigation Systems Group Ltd. Hilary Vieira, President Phone: (416) 252-2889 x32Hilary.Vieira@star-navigation.comorBlueback Capital Corp.Richard BuzbuzianAdvisorPhone: (416) 366-0010 ext 264rbuzbuzian@star-navigation.comThe TSX Venture Exchange has not reviewed and does not accept responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this press release.

For release: immediately.
Writer: Peter Windward

First Major Toilet Paper Innovation in Over 100 Years
Breakthrough Product Will Fuel Growth of Toilet Paper Category

DALLAS, Jan. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Kimberly-Clark Corporation (NYSE: KMB) today announced the launch of Cottonelle Fresh(TM) Rollwipes -- America's first and only dispersible, pre-moistened wipe on a roll. This breakthrough product delivers the cleaning and freshening of pre-moistened wipes with the convenience and disposability of toilet paper. It is the most significant category innovation since toilet paper first appeared in roll form in 1890.

In its first 12 months, retail sales of Cottonelle Fresh Rollwipes are estimated to reach $150 million. Over the next six years, retail sales of this category could exceed $500 million and, because usage of the product is almost entirely incremental to dry toilet paper, it should result in a significant increase in the $4.8 billion U.S. toilet paper market.

Research conducted by Kimberly-Clark shows that consumers agree that moist methods clean and freshen better than dry toilet paper alone. The results of a recent Kimberly-Clark survey showed that 63% of respondents have used a moist cleansing method after toileting and one out of four use a moist cleansing method on a daily basis. Wayne R. Sanders, chairman and chief executive officer of Kimberly-Clark, said, "Kimberly-Clark is bringing a new dimension to the toilet paper category through consumer-driven innovation and proprietary technology. Cottonelle Fresh Rollwipes are another example of the company's ability to create significant new business opportunities that deliver top-line growth and offer incremental revenue to retailers. This advancement in moist cleaning, combined with the company's growing Cottonelle and Scott dry toilet paper brands, positions us to capture a greater share of a larger market."

Cottonelle Fresh Rollwipes will initially be available in early Summer 2001 to consumers in northeastern and southeastern states, representing approximately half of the U.S. population. The anticipated retail price of the Cottonelle Fresh Rollwipes starter pack (dispenser along with four rolls) will be $8.99, and a refill pack of four rolls will be $3.99.

Cottonelle Fresh Rollwipes' proprietary dispenser offers consumers the choice of pre-moistened Rollwipes and dry toilet paper, as the dispenser neatly holds rolls of both products. The pre-moistened product is dispensed from a sealed unit at the top of the dispenser. Dry toilet paper is dispensed from a conventional spindle at the bottom of the dispenser. The dispenser is easily installed in a bathroom -- no tools are required and it fits most toilet paper holders.

Cottonelle Fresh Rollwipes are fully dispersible. This patent-pending technology causes the product to break up in water like dry toilet tissue, making it safe for sewer and septic systems. (For a look at Cottonelle Fresh Rollwipes, please visit

Kimberly-Clark invested more than $100 million in research, development and manufacturing to bring the product to market. The product and dispenser are expected to be covered by more than 30 patents that will lay the foundation for a global patent estate.

Consumers tell us that using Cottonelle Fresh Rollwipes as a complement to dry toilet paper is easy and convenient, with the added benefits of superior cleaning and freshness," said Linda Bartelt, president of the Wet Wipes sector for Kimberly-Clark. "Rollwipes add significant value to our strong product portfolio by solidifying Kimberly-Clark's leadership role in the toilet paper category and by building on the equity of the Cottonelle brand. For consumers, this brand stands for the very best in cleaning and freshening."

Comprehensive marketing programs totaling over $40 million in 2001 will support the introduction of Cottonelle Fresh Rollwipes, making it one of the most significant launches in the company's history. Broadcast, print and Internet campaigns featuring Cottonelle Fresh Rollwipes will break in early summer.

Despite this incremental marketing expense and additional startup costs, Mr. Sanders said the company expects to achieve its target of double-digit growth in earnings per share from operations in 2001.

Separately, the company announced a significant improvement to its super premium Cottonelle dry toilet paper, a product based on the company's proprietary uncreped through-air dried (UCTAD) tissue technology. Cottonelle toilet paper with aloe and vitamin E will be launched nationally in the second quarter, replacing the company's Cottonelle UltraSoft product.

Kimberly-Clark Corporation is a leading consumer products company. Its global tissue, personal care and health care brands include Huggies, Pull-Ups, Kotex, Depend, Kleenex, Cottonelle, Scott, Kimberly-Clark, Safeskin, Tecnol, Kimwipes and WypAll. Other brands well known outside the U.S. include Andrex, Scottex, Page, Popee and Kimbies. Kimberly-Clark also is a major producer of premium business, correspondence and technical papers. The company has manufacturing operations in 40 countries and sells its products in more than 150 countries.

It's essential that a PR person be an excellent writer. He or she must use words to persuade -- not be overbearing or ponderous. Big words may be impressive, but if no one knows what they mean, any attempt at communication will be ineffective. A PR pro must use lively, action-oriented words that cajole, entertain and convince.

When writing a press release it's important to write
    What happened.
    Where it happened
    Who was involved.
    When it happened
    Why it happened

The goal for every public relations practitioner is to get free air time on a television or radio station or free space in a newspaper or magazine. The media is most amenable to announcements which perform a public service. Therefore, the public relations professional is always looking for a slant on their particular message which appeals to the common good. For example, sending a press release that extolls the virtue of a shampoo might not cut it while a report on a study of the efficacy of its shampoo (performed by a reliable source) might do the trick. The results may be significant to dermatologists. On a broader scale, the results may be of interest to the general public if, perhaps, the results help fight dandruff or hair loss.

And since we're on the subject of the public good, you will have a lot going for you if you use this simple concept. You can get a lot of people interested in your work -- including celebrities -- many of whom will do your bidding for you free of charge if they believe the cause is truly worthy. Consider WORLDVISION Canada. For those of you who are from other countries, WORLDVISION is dedicated to helping abandoned children in other countries. You wouldn't believe the breaks they get from suppliers and the free sponsorship and appearances they get from well-known celebrities.

Some public relations Cases

1. The Lysteriosis Outbreak in Canada. A Canadian meat processing company by the name of Maple Leaf Foods had a sudden problem with its product in the summer of 2008. It was determined that their products were carrying a bacteria called "lysteriosis". This bacteria was harmful to humans -- and resulted in the deaths of 15 people across Canada (the lysteriosis bacterium was particularly effective against weakened immune systems and most of the people who succumbed to the bacteria were elderly)

Pick up this book "The Practice of Public Relations" for a good insight into the art of public relations. There are plenty of other places where you can go to find out more about the art of public relations. Here are some websites.

The public relations Museum   
The public relations Society of America   
The Online PR Website

Good Grammar makes Good Reading