Print journalism comprises two categories: trade and consumer.A trade publication is intended for a specific profession or industry.
For example, Modern Baking is a trade publication for the foodbusiness, Firehouse Magazine is a trade publication for firefighters, Variety is a trade newspaper for the entertainment industry, and Women’s Wear Daily is a trade publication for the fashion field.
Consumer press is designed for general readers. Like Women’s Wear Daily, Vogue magazine is devoted primarily to fashion, but it is a consumer magazine. Its market is readers with a general interest in fashion, not fashion professionals. Newsweek, Time, and People are also consumer publications.
Local newspapers such as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Chicago Tribune, and the Fort Worth-Star Telegram are all consumer publications.
Most TV and radio programs, including news, magazine, talk, and information shows, are for consumer audiences—people of varied ages and backgrounds, with different hobbies and jobs.
Cable television, however, has introduced niche channels targeting specific demographics or audiences with special interests. MTV, for example, is targeted to younger music lovers, while Home & Garden TV and the Food Network appeal to more mature audiences.
Corporations may want their business stories to appear on CNBC or Bloomberg, the cable channels that target
investors. Daily talk shows such as The Oprah Winfrey Show reach a mass audience of consumers, mostly women.
Regardless of the client you represent and the industry you work in, you yourself are also a consumer, a representative of the lay audience. When judging a story for its value to the trade and consumer press, use yourself as a yardstick to measure consumer interest in the story.
As a nonindustry member, do you care about it? Does it affect your life or that of your neighbors and friends outside your business? Does the information stand out from the ordinary to you? When you can answer yes to these questions, you may have a release for the consumer press.
Adjusting Your Style: Consumer Versus Trade
A news release to consumer media should be clear enough that a general reader can easily understand it. A trade release can use technical terms that are in common use in a particular profession or trade but that a general audience might not be familiar with. In public relations, you must constantly analyze your own stories and decide if they are appropriate for the trade press, the consumer press, or both. Rarely, if ever, will you have a story only for the consumer press, but you may often have releases that will interest only the trades.
Before You Write
Ask yourself the following questions before you prepare a release:
• Is this story truly newsworthy, and will it interest the intended audience?
• Does this story answer all the questions it is likely to raise?
• Will this story, if covered, advance my client’s objectives?
• Are all the facts and figures in the story accurate? Has every name, date, and piece of information been double checked with a reliable source?
When the answer is yes to every question on this list, you are ready to write the first draft of a press release.
The first step in preparing a news release, as with all other effective public relations writing, is to research the story. Learn as much as you can about the subject of the release. For example, If you’re writing about a product, study its development, and use the product yourself. If you’re writing about a television program, watch it, and learn about
its background and production. If you’re writing about a survey or a book, read it carefully, and perhaps talk to the surveyor or author. If you’re announcing an event, familiarize yourself with all available details—even those you will not include in the release.
Some of this research is done by talking to the people involved, informally interviewing them to gather background information, gain insight, and focus perspective. You should also determine who in the company will be your main source of information and who will be quoted. You will probably be getting your information from the quotable source or from a direct report of the quotable source, for example, from a division president if the quotation will be attributed to the chief executive officer. The direct report will make suggestions for what your draft quotation should say. Before release, of course, the quotation must be approved by the person to whom it is attributed.
Your research for writing a news release should also include checking the files to see how similar releases were covered bythe media and where they were distributed. This research will alert you to particular journalists or publications that may have ongoing coverage of an issue. It will also keep you from annoying journalists by sending them a story that has already been covered and is therefore not news, unless your release offers substantial new information.
As a public relations writer, you are likely to be privy to all or most of the information and background on the subject you are representing, but some of that information may not be for immediate or even eventual disclosure. You are ethically bound to keep your client’s or company’s information confidential and not to use it for your own or others’ financial gain. For example, trading a stock on the basis of confidential knowledge ahead of a news release is insider trading, a criminal offense. If you are ever uncertain, make sure to ask what information is for release and what is not. If you own stock in a company affected by your confidential knowledge, you may trade your stock only after that
information is released to the general public.
Tagged: Consumer Versus Trade