Today I, an exceptional maternal unit to a dual masculine birth, announce that in order to mesh proactive deliverables and evolve interactive channels we provided best-in-class value-added Mexican style sustenance for integrated cross-family enterprise nutritional infrastructure prior to iterating scalable solutions in the nocturnal timeframe via Jurassic terrestrial vertebrates lizard literature.
This is the type of mouthful found in most corporate press releases.
Are press releases really necessary in the 21st century 24/7 spider-webbed information culture? Or are they a remnant of our past that PR people are afraid to let go? I’m betting the latter.
The expectation of getting a journalist to write a story about your news based on a typical press release is about as realistic as an owl arriving at my window with my acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. (Hey, it could happen – right?) Journalists are bombarded with so many emails, phone calls and pitches that they typically don’t have the time or interest to follow up on story ideas presented by press releases. Especially ones they’d have to translate first.
In the days of the dinosaur, perhaps I would have been employed at the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Advertising Agency (what do you mean you haven’t seen Mad Men). After several cigarettes and martini liquid lunches, we would have landed on the perfect pitch for our new product. After perfecting the clever copy, the ad agency would call Ed Bernays (the father of PR). Bernays would listen to the concept and write a skeleton structure of how the ideal news article would appear in tomorrow’s New York Times. It would then literally cross the wires onto ticker feeds in subscribing newsrooms.
The company held the news. There were a limited number of outlets – the morning paper and the evening news perhaps. And most of it was of a relatively local nature.
The way we communicate has evolved. This past weekend I attended a wedding where the bride read her vows off an iPad. The groom updated his Facebook status between the ceremony and reception. And the best man delivered his speech from notes on an Android. “Going viral” is a common phrase as the information hungry can turn to the Internet where data from around the globe is available in a hyper-local format at any time of every day.
Newspapers are going online. Stories are updated in real-time. Breaking news is tweeted as it happens. Anyone can create a platform for their voice and opinions (like a blog on raising twins born prematurely). Bloggers may not be professional journalists operating under a strict code of ethics, morals and objectivity. Everyone seems to be on the hunt for the next big scoop.
And most everyone in the news dissemination business now sees the highly structured press release format as spam. Delete. Delete. Delete.
But those in the news biz are likely just as hurried and harried as those of us trying to share new stories. Newspapers are hacking away at their staffs (personal experience sharing that the copy editors were obviously the first to go) and writers are covering a wider berth of beats. So why isn’t the presentation of a story angle helpful?
It is. Big. Huge! But here’s the catch. Those aforementioned stressors – time, money, expertise – mean that even the most amazing news announcement may get passed over if nobody takes the time to translate the marketing jargon to a common language.
So how am I supposed to get the info out if I’ve just trashed the press release? Using the tools easily available around me, I recommend a blog. Social media sites such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter are now in a place that the World Wide Web was a mere decade ago (at the turn of the century). Corporations see the need to have them, but may not necessarily be sure what exactly to DO with them.
Content! Write a blog about your news. Include the angle that makes it different and important. Provide some background. Sprinkle in some opinions from high-ranking industry experts that your company employs (and likely spent a lot of time actually making the product newsworthy in the first place). Then do your homework. Research who will actually care. (Yes, this takes a lot more time and legwork. But the results will be better. And the people you targeted will feel special and maybe even take your call next time.)
I do not deny that there is a time and place for a news release. Earnings for a publicly traded company, for example. The release is required by Sarbanes Oxley regulations. Major product announcements (like, actually major – such as a newfangled contraption like the introduction of the original iPod) may warrant a document that can be mass distributed.
But write it in English. Make people care. My personal favorite is the recent release announcing the Spotify launch – it strayed from traditional form. And it made me want to use Spotify. (Ok fine, I may also like it because it could easily be a blog post too.)
There is no reason to repeatedly issue press releases simply because that’s what’s been done so many times before. Try something new. Don’t so many releases claim to announce something “innovative”? Why not be innovative in how you communicate?
And that introductory paragraph? The muppets had a burrito for dinner before going to bed with a dinosaur book. (Now isn’t that so much more clear and simple.)
Kisses! (Keep it simple stupid)
We now return you to your regularly scheduled muppet-tational adventure anecdotes…