A Running Glossary of PR Terms
By Melissa A Vitale
Like any industry expert, I find myself constantly in need of a glossary of some of the most-used terms of media relations. I’ve started a running glossary of PR terms that I anticipate to be updated as more come to mind.
Public Relations: The dictionary defines this one as “the professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person.” Which doesn’t totally answer what exactly is public relations. Many PR firms have grown to include advertising, digital and social media marketing, but more focused public relations focus on press and public events. Most public relations agencies focus on garnering earned press coverage. Read on for what that means!
Press: Coming from the term Printing Press, the press embodies any type of regular publication or news outlet. Examples are most often reporters, news channels, broadcast and radio news and talk shows, magazines, newspapers, industry publications and journals, regional magazine networks, magazine publishing houses, and even new media types like social media outlets, podcasts and blogs.
Coverage: Short for media coverage, these are the results of PR campaigns often in the forms of digital or print articles in major-name news publications. See below for types of coverage.
Earned / Organic Media: At its most basic definition, this is coverage that is secured without additional costs outside the publicist’s retainer. Some mentions of brands in stories or listicles are only included because the brand paid the publisher top dollar. Outlet of traditional print and web banner adds, advertising departments target ad-adverse consumers with advertorials – advertisements that look like articles. Basically, there are a lot of ways for a brand to end up on a magazine’s website or in the pages, but not all of it goes through the editorial department. Therefore, publicists specify the work we do as earned media or because we work with editors and writers to include our clients without paying advertising fees.
Media Relations: How do publicists get that earned media you ask? Through media relations! If you’ve ever seen a show about a publicist, you know their network is everything. Our job is to maintain relationships with press and act as a reliable source. It’s a two-way street here journalists seek out publicists for reliable sources and latest products, while publicists benefit from the inclusion of their clients.
Secured coverage: Coverage doesn’t just come overnight! Often times, publicists know about pending coverage in advance. When an article is confirmed but not published yet, it’s under secured coverage.
PR Campaign: The course of a PR engagement. Publicists refer to this as a campaign because of the months-long and season-intersecting strategy that needs to go into play. When you publicize and represent a brand, you rep then for a length of time that may have multiple seasons that the brand is relevant. For a CBD lubricant brand, this brand could be popular for April’s 4/20 and May’s Masturbation Month so the publicist needs to plan pitches as early as January for 4/20 and February for Masturbation month and pitch them both up until the respective news cycle has passed. PR Campaigns can also be launched for individual launches or announcements.
Retainer: The amount of money you pay a publicist per month. PR is like lawyers where you pay a retainer upfront; there is no Net 30 in PR. The retainer includes pitching, media relations and representation along with traditional services like media training which result in media coverage
Minimum retainer: The minimum amount a publicist or agency will onboard a client. For freelancers this could be as low as $500 while agencies can start at $3-5K and go up to $25K as a minimum retainer
Representation: Once you pay a publicists retainer, you are under their representation. Publicist often have meetings with top tier journalists and editors. Once you pay their retainer, your brand is going into those meetings through the publicist. You may have just started your PR campaign, but your publicist has a monthly breakfast with TODAY’s associate producer; your brand is in the eyes of the TODAY show the first week. That’s representation.
Placement: Another word for coverage, the result of the PR campaign
Pitch: Verb and Noun. You can pitch a journalist and you can send a journalist a pitch. This is what gets sent or spoken to a journalist to entice them to include a brand. Sometimes it’s an interesting fact like sales increases with unique causations, a seasonal inclusion (like gift guides) in stories they’re already writing, or other times it’s standalone trend stories that the brand best portrays, like a brand’s rebrand symbolizing the legitimization of a vice industry. The act of sending a pitch is the verb pitching. Pitching can also be done in person (these are some of the best ways to secure pitches IMHO)
Inbound: Referred to a story opportunity that came from a journalist asking a publicist for sources that fit the topic. Publicists with multiple strong relationships often have inbound opportunities regularly so clients can see opportunities arrive even before a publicist as sent a pitch.
Outbound: Referred to a story pitching that came as a result of a publicist's pitch or story idea.
Exclusive: An exclusive is a story, interview or announcement that a journalist and their publication get to publish before anyone other publication
Press Release: A brand approved writeup distributed to press or a newswire regarding a newsworthy company move (product release, rebrand, executive hire, partnership or event)
Boiler Plate: The official general company "about" paragraph that goes at the end of every release. Typically 3-8 sentences long with links to social media for digital companies
Media Contact: The name of the publicist or CMO for further queries on a press release or to set up an interview
Newswire: A source of press releases that many regional and industry publications turn to for the most recent relevant news. Using a PR wire can often get a brand’s release on Yahoo, Market Watch or Business Insider
Media Alert: Like a press release, but these don’t get published, they just get sent to a journalist around the time the press release hits the wire or the exclusive is published They often include a press release if there is one available but press releases are not necessary for a media alert. These can turn into published stories but can be valuable in keeping interested editors up to date about brand developments
One-sheet: A one-page document with all the necessary at-a-glance info needed for coverage. Can be made for executive teams, companies, products or collections
Outlet: News outlet, blog, newspaper, magazine, digital publication, broadcast or radio show
Embargo: An agreement not to publish or release information before a specified announcement date
Source: Someone who provides expert information, access or other valuable insight to journalists. Publicists are sources with their network but their clients are often considered sources.
Firsthand witness: When given a tip, reporters try to find a witness to the tip.
Double Confirmation: Journalists cannot just report on tips or everyone would be sending slander about celebs and politicians they hate. For scoops that press are interested, they need two confirmations or sources to cite to solidify their reporting
Scoop/Tip: Sometimes I feel like media is a 1940s noir film with some of our newspaper lingo; scoop is one of them. A tip or a scoop is often advance notice of something before it's reached the general newscycle. MeToo started with a scoop about Harvey Weinstein than Ronan Farrow investigated and reporting.
Media Assets: Digital and physical materials needed for a publicist to execute the campaign; headshots, product shots, lifestyle images, product descriptions, retail info, founder bios etc
Editorial Guidelines: The rules that dictate what an outlet will and won’t publish. Sometimes outlets won’t include links to adult sites or brands; a certain outlet won’t feature publicly traded companies. Women’s outlets prioritize Womxn and non-binary voices over cis-male etc
Editorial Calendar: A pre-decided calendar of what an outlet will focus their editorial content on each month. Can be for print and digital publications
Greenlight: When the editor/producer has agreed to the commission on a pitch from a journalist.
Lead-time: This is lead as in leader, not lead-balloon. This is the amount of time before a story gets published. Can vary from a few hours to six months away
Long Lead: Outlets that publish in advance. Print is long lead with a typical 2-5 month lead-time of stories
Short Lead: Outlets that publish with more immediate deadline. Morning news shows, digital outlets and blogs are short lead
Breaking News: A national or global news story that takes over headlines and is universally covered. Celebrity deaths, marriages or births, political scandals, national or natural disasters, pandemics, social movements, and elections can all be breaking newscycles.
Newscycle: The length of time a particular topic remains pressing in the news
Editorial Lag, Delay, Hold: News outlets have to cover both evergreen and breaking news content. Sometimes, the breaking news overwhelms feature writers and all coverage turns to picking up the extra workload. This can put a hold on stories that were slated to publish on a certain date. These can also arise from internal disruptions like restructuring, unexpected staff departures or general shift in direction of editorial priorities.
Product Request: When a company’s product is requested for consideration for a particular story that a writer is working on
For consideration: If journalists and editors published stories about every product they get sent, publicists and outlets alike would be out of a job. Consumers want to see more than product recommendations and want to see a range of products. Writers are often puzzle piecing product recommendations based on a having a complimentary range of products. Therefore all product samples sent to press are always for consideration, as in its not guaranteed they’ll be included. Often times, interviews on a trend topic are often for consideration and are only used where it adds value to an article and carry the same potential to be excluded in the published article.
Missed opportunity: Sometimes journalists have tight deadlines for their stories and if a brand doesn’t answer their request in time, the opportunity, while available, was missed
Editorial Error: Editors are humans too. Articles get passed from writer to sometimes up to 3 editors before it gets published. Things get lost in translation – often thanks to spellcheck. In accurate information editors can usually adjust with a quick request
Correction request: A submission to an editor or journalist to change information that is inaccurate in an article.
On-the-record: Information available to be published
Off-the-record: Information not available to be published. I’ve personally have never seen a journalist violate an off-the-record and have only heard about it in tales
Recorded phone interviews: To avoid taking notes and distracting from an interview, journalists will record the conversation for their record. It will never be published in its entirety unless its previously agreed to be used for a podcast.
Media Training: Interviews often have a time limit. Phone interviews can be capped at 30 minutes while broadcast can be as short as 90 seconds. That’s a short time to tell a brand story. Media training helps prep a client to be concise, to the point and ready for any questions that gets thrown at them. For those new to interviews, media training can be extensive day-long workshops.
On-air Guest: The guest on a broadcast show; when in relation to PR, the client or brand rep is typically the on-air guest.
On-air Talent: Typically the host or anchor but sometimes an on-air contributor
Call Time: The time an on-air guest needs to be ready for an on-air broadcast
Hit Time: The time an on-air guest will be on-air
B-roll: The video and images about a brand or event that are showed during an extended video or broadcast interview to break up the visuals.
Lower-Thirds: The bottom of the screen that rolls the title of the person speaking on a broadcast segment.
Press Sampling: The best way to get a brand in front of an editor is to get the product in their hands; publicists do this thought sampling
Mailer / Sendout: An often-themed way to present a new product or brand to press through sampling. For events like Pride and 4/20 these can be themed. While not guaranteed, these often have high overall success rates for inclusion
Press Samples: Samples of a product that are designated to give to press. Unless the product costs more than $1,000 per unit, you can anticipate that these are for consideration and will not be returned
Press Access: Press often chooses to cover one company over a competitor based on access. If cannabis farm A will give them a consumer tour but cannabis farm B will let them fly drones and take photos of the entire property, it's cannabis farm B that gets covered. Same with events where press have unfiltered access to CEOs, brand experts etc.
Press Event: An event with the purpose to showcase something about the brand to the press
ROS: Run of show, a who, what, when, where, why of an event
News conference: an event where news is announced; can be planned or spontaneous
Press List: The list of press confirmed or anticipated to arrive at an event
Press Invite/Access Pass: For events, press should have separate invitations and access passes that grant them entry and deem them special access.
Ad Value: Typically estimated unless PR firms have ad teams who know the actual numbers, this is the main method of evaluating the value of press coverage. Many clients want to discern an article’s success by the sales, but publicists aren’t sales associates. Instead, we look at how much money the client saved by working with us instead of trying to buy their placements through advertising options. Often times, one article in an outlet like Marie Claire or Rolling stone can be valued at more than the monthly retainer. This is why public relations is so popular for brands without extensive advertising budgets.
UVMP / VMP: Unique visitors per month or just visitors per month. A method of gauging the reach of a press article.
Media Kit: A 2-12 page PDF that includes images, brief written information answering the Who What When Where Why of a band for interested press. This can be sent once a journalist has interest in a brand to answer initial questions they have about the brand.
Speaker Engagement: An opportunity for a client representative to speak – often in person but more recently virtual as well. Can be at an event, tradeshow, on or moderating a panel, etc.
Photo Credit: Who a photo in a published article is credited too. Sometimes there are limitations on these.
SEO: SEO has emerged as a dictator of headlines in recent years. Media houses have had to get creative to drive traffic to their websites to appease advertisers, keeping the lights on another day. They’re taking advantage of all of those late-night google searches that usually lead readers down a rabbit hole. “Why does my breath smell bad,” “How to regrow my hair,” “What do I do if I’m attracted to someone other than my wife”. Many media outlets have SEO teams that run reports on the most searched questions. They hand those reports over to editors who assign writers to answer those questions with an article. Instead of those millions of searches going to forums and blogs, reputable news outlets are sweeping up that traffic. Once users end up on a website, they can stay for hours on the suggested articles of the site.
Media buy / sponsored content: Another form of advertising that sometimes gets crossed with PR
Affiliate links: Affiliate links are more and more driving which products get mentioned in coverage or not. As subscriber rates dwindle, outlets need additional income streams to pay their staff. Affiliate links allow them to make commission on the traffic they bring to products.
Types of Coverage
There are three basic types of media coverage:
All three of the above can also be classified under one of the following:
For vice brands looking to explore cost effective public relations packages, learn more about MAVPR via: melissaavitale.com/services.html
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