Have you ever watched a story on the local news and then, magically, 45 seconds go by and you have no idea what the story was about? Yep… it happens all the time, even to me, and I’m a former journalist who pays extra attention to news. The reason? It’s not relatable, and it’s easy to tune out. That’s why I’d like to offer you my top five strategies for a sharing memorable public information.
In my time as a broadcast journalist, I read a lot of press releases. When I say a lot, I mean at least dozens a day for more than a decade. Some are unique, exciting and offer a lot of community interest. Others offer little pizazz but have important information that people should know. But what good does public information dissemination do if no one really listens to it? The press releases that include both pizzazz and important information, have the best chance of getting attention, which ultimately helps your campaign. You can use these tools for sharing public information in all aspects of your public information project with your news partners, on social media and public interactions.
1. Capture Urgency
One of my former newsrooms used the urgency model of “new, now, next.” This implies that consumers want to know what is new, what’s happening right now, and what will happen next. The model is somewhat innate in our human makeup and engrained in our culture. Think about when you go to the doctor for a cold. You go in because you have new symptoms, the doctor will assess your present symptoms and then the doctor will prescribe what you should do next to treat your sickness.
The “new, now, next” model implies urgency, spurs action, and catches attention.
In an example of a road construction project, timelines are extremely useful. You can use these at various points of the process including in preparation of a project, when the project starts, through the process with updates, and when it’s wrapping up. When possible, give specific dates. Just like when you download something on a computer, it’s nice to see the progress and estimated completion time. Timelines allow people to know what to expect and when it will happen. This knowledge also empowers the public to help them make informed decisions.
2. Make It Relevant
As a news consumer and even as a former journalist, my attention span quickly diminishes when I hear a random address that means nothing to me. For example, you’ve probably heard a news anchor say something like, “The construction project will take place from the 1400 block to 1800 block of 21st Street North.” Unless you’re an Uber driver or have a GPS loaded in your brain, that address is basically gibberish.
Reference points and maps in addition to an address can be extremely beneficial, especially for your news partners and social media following.
3. Give Easy to Digest and Specific Information
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the term “infrastructure update” in a press release. What does it really mean, and can you give more context to the situation so people will care more? Saying a road is being reconstructed is a little more relatable, but let’s take it one step further. Share details that crumbling curbs, uneven roads and potholes will be fixed.
Giving specific information can influence people to see the benefits of a situation and promote positive perceptions.
4. Highlight Impacts and Benefits
We all know public information campaigns, especially construction projects, can bring hassles. There’s no getting around it. Even though we don’t want to dwell on the negatives, it’s important that we are transparent about the impacts while using a positive tone and focusing on the benefits. When addressing the negatives, turn that into your pitch for why the improvement is necessary. Follow up the undesirable aspects with optimistic outcomes. No more spilled coffee in the car while driving over potholes? Yes, please.
Is there a way you can be light-hearted and relatable to your public to convey a message while still being professional? You betcha. It’s all about knowing your audience.
5. Make It Visual
An orange cone is an orange cone is an orange cone. Once you’ve seen one construction project, to the average person, it’s like you’ve seen them all. They all include orange cones, reduced speed, delays, backed up traffic and, often, white knuckles. If knowledge is power, then visual elements can make the public feel like a body builder when it comes to understanding improvement projects.
Harkening back to the “Make It Relevant” section, can you create a map of the affected area with noted reference points? Can you share a before and after rendering to help people understand what the project will do and give them something to anticipate? A simple bullet point graphic with details can go a long way. And speaking of going a long way, sharing a timeline and completion meter, as mentioned in the “Capture Urgency” section, can help people better understand the progress. These all can be valuable tools for the public, social media accounts and your media partners.