Thursday, May 15, 2014

How to write a tip sheet

Guest post by Sandra Beckwith

A tip sheet is a news release that offers advice or tips in a bulleted or numbered format. It’s one of the hardest working and most useful tactics available for generating publicity. Use a tip sheet to generate short column notes in a newspaper or magazine or to interest a reporter, editor or producer in a feature article or talk show interview on the tip sheet topic.

Here’s how to create an effective tip sheet:
  1. Use a press release format. The biggest difference between a tip sheet and a traditional press release is that the body of the tip sheet will include your tips or advice in a numbered or bulleted format.
  2. Start with a headline that mimics those on magazine covers – “5 ways to lose weight before June” or “Top 7 mistakes shoppers make.” Here’s an example from a tip sheet promoting a women’s health and nutrition book to newspaper living sections:
    Expert offers 10 nutrition tips for New Year’s resolutions
  3. Write your first paragraph so it explains why the tips are necessary. The first paragraph and introductory text for the nutrition tip sheet was:

    As any health club owner knows, “taking better care of myself” tops New Year’s resolution lists each year. Yet, many people – particularly women – don’t know exactly what it means to take better care of themselves.
  4. Present a quotation in the second paragraph. This should provide more detail about why the tip sheet is necessary and establish the subject’s credentials. Here’s the second paragraph in the New Year’s resolution tip sheet:

    “Traditionally, women have been caretakers of others in their lives – friends, family, neighbors, coworkers,” explains Susan Calvert Finn, PhD, RD, FADA, the architect of the American Dietetic Association’s Nutrition & Healthy Campaign for Women. “More and more busy women are realizing, however, that before they can adequately care for others, they must first care for themselves. It is clear that they must take charge of their own health. Nobody is going to do it for them.”
  5. Set up your tips with a sentence – “Here are Smith’s tips for saving money at the supermarket” – or a short paragraph, as we have here:

    Dr. Finn’s new book, The American Dietetic Association Guide to Women’s Nutrition for Healthy Living, provides women of all ages with nutrition information they can use immediately to eat right, maintain their health and prevent disease. Here are her top 10 suggestions from the book for women who need a healthier lifestyle this year:
  6. Then list your tips with bullets or numbers. When tips are listed this way, rather than in traditional paragraphs, editors can quickly scan them to see if they would be useful to readers – or not. Make sure you write your tips in an active voice with strong verbs. And make sure they provide advice, not reasons to do something or product features. Here are a few of the tips in Finn’s release so you can get a sense of how this works:

    Make an appointment with a registered dietitian (RD) for a nutritional checkup. Call the American Dietetic Association at 800-366-1655 to locate an RD near you.

    Switch your thinking from “ideal” weight to “healthy” weight. Remember, you are unique. Your healthy weight may differ from your neighbor’s – even if she is your height and age – because of other variables such as genetics, fitness level and overall health.

    Look for “aerobic opportunities” every day. Park farther out in the lot at the mall. Take a brief walk at lunch or dinner. Think of the stairs as your friend.
  7. Finally, add the concluding boilerplate paragraph that you put on most press releases. Here’s the paragraph for the nutrition book:

    The American Dietetic Association Guide to Women’s Nutrition for Healthy Living, published by Perigee Books, is available in bookstores nationwide for $14. Book proceeds benefit nutrition research by the ADA, a national organization of 70,000 nutrition professionals, 98 percent of whom are women.

    Look for ways to include tip sheets in your publicity plan; you’ll soon see how easily they generate results.

Sandra Beckwith, the author of Streetwise Complete Publicity Plans: How to Create Publicity That Will Spark Media Exposure and Excitement, teaches the online “Book Buzz” class for Freelance Success. Learn more at

Monday, May 5, 2014

Public relations case study: Nestle infant formula


Infant formula is one of the products that helped create food conglomerate Nestlé when, in 1867, Swiss pharmacist Henri Nestlé mixed together a liquid food from cow's milk, wheat flour, and sugar for a neighbor's baby who wouldn't nurse.

nestle baby formula controversy
Infant formula also is the reason for a boycott against the company, launched in Minneapolis in 1977.

The roots of the boycott started in 1974, when the British organization War on Want published a booklet called "The Baby Killer." The booklet was widely distributed and translated into several languages. As a result, many church-related groups joined against Nestlé.

Nestlé responded by suing the publisher of the German-language translation, Third World Action Group, for libel. While Nestlé won the two-year trial, the defendants were fined only $400 and the judge told Nestlé that it "must modify its publicity methods fundamentally."

The topic of analyzing the marketing of breast milk substitutes in developing countries continued to gain traction with a U.S. Senate public hearing as well as WHO and UNICEF hosting an international meeting.

In 1981, The New York Times published a lengthy article on infant formula use in developing countries.

Problems when mothers of infants in developing countries switch to formula include: disease because of contaminated water; lack of means to sterilize water; and diluting formula to make it last longer.

Around the same time as the 1981 article, research demonstrated that breastfeeding is healthier for babies.

Nestlé met with boycott coordinators in 1984, and the boycott was suspended when the company agreed to adhere to the World Health Assembly's International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. However, the boycott resumed in 1989 when the International Baby Food Action Network alleged that formula companies were providing free and low-cost supplies to hospitals in developing countries.

Even though Nestlé issued guidelines for mothers on how and when to give babies formula as well as revamping its marketing materials, the boycott still exists today and even has expanded. 

For a collection of more public relations tips, insights and reflections, buy the book "19 Tips for Successful Public Relations: Insights on Media Relations and Reputation Management" from!
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