The what, when, where, who, and why are still the fundamentals of a good communications message. The press release format follows the same traditional patterns: a catchy headline, a brief summary, a detailed body, and some quotes if necessary (note that quotes from CEOs and other corporate representatives are not mandatory to make a press release credible). To these “standards,” the online press release can also include embedded video and images, other rich media files, relevant links, and so on.
“Improving the narrative, formula and format for press releases is obligatory regardless of supporting mechanisms and technologies. The inclusion of social media elements within the release also fortify stronger cornerstones for improving personal connections and engagement to the release, but also enabling the discoverability and sharing of the content. Having the ability to include videos, pictures, audio, all served from different social networks into one centralized story dashboard, forces us to rethink how and what we share within the story. It introduces a storyboard element that begins well before we write the first word of the release,” Brian Solis – “Reviving the Traditional Press Release”
A press release doesn’t need to be cold and aloof, at least not anymore. Since it will reach customers directly, via search engines or social media channels, you might as well consider personalizing it. Write a story that takes your reader on a journey and that reader will invite others to join.
Whatever the format, there is one rule for writing value-focused releases that reach to the heart of the media: become the audience and speak to them as if they were key influencers, because they are! Any reader could turn into a message carrier; and any reader could grab the release and forward it to other interested parties. Remember that the media is user-driven. Consumers become whatever they choose to be: journalists, reviewers, or critics. So don’t try to deceive them. Stay away from marketing hype, sensationalism, and by all means stay away from word-baloney like:
- Leader, leading (and all their derivates)
- Award winning
- Cutting edge technology
- Seamlessly integrates
- Feature-rich UI (and other commodities)
- Strategic partnership
- Best, largest, etc (hot-air words, needless bravado)
Instead of writing a self-serving announcement for the sake of releasing something to the media, identify what is unique and engaging to customers. If your value is providing a recommendations engine powered by people to help them share and discover the best of the web (like StumbleUpon), then keep your release about this and capitalize on it. Make sure that all elements of your business exude this foundation. Every time you announce something new, remember that your customers expect the news to revolve around the core. They expect improved value, functionality, and credibility. If you forget your value, you lose, you struggle, and you become middle class at best. You will be forced to compete on non-values like price and numbers without significance.
Identifying what makes a product unique is the greatest challenge a marketer has to face. Sometimes, in the absence of a real core value, marketers “invent” a value and fail. The customers cannot be deceived. TMG Strategies attempted to sell GM’s 2010 Chevrolet Equinox as a “green” car and they pitched an environmentalist with the following bid:
Because you are a green parent I thought you might be interested in an opportunity to experience one of General Motors’ green and family friendly vehicles, the Chevrolet Equinox.
Needless to say, the reaction was merciless. The blogger knew that he was pitched because he ran a popular environment-related publication, but more importantly, he also knew that there is no such thing as a “green” car – “greener” perhaps but not “green.”
Authenticity and consistency are not just noise words – these are mandatory traits of corporate communications that should reflect in all the narrative that reaches the media and the consumers. They make a story believable and enable positive reactions from the readers, establishing a path for constructive interactions between the business and the consumers in the marketplace.
- Communicate to inform, state the facts clearly and don’t lose the essence in clutter.
- Speak to the audience: craft a personalized message, go beyond the technical jargon, and make your story exciting, enticing and coherent.
- Aim for a strong personal reaction; write a story that enables the audience to connect with the message.
- Try to engage your audience through every news announcement that leaves your house. There will be people agreeing, people disagreeing, and there will also be people who aren’t listening.
- Engage the pros and cons; show the people who get involved that they matter, that you are listening, no matter whether you agree or not – you can only learn from the discussion, you can adjust the message and reach even more audiences.