Tag: objectives


Tell readers, immediately, why they should care

Though one of the core reasons I started pressDOOH was to write press releases and related material for client, it’s actually developed into only a small part of my company’s activity. But when I do produce press material, I operate with one key objective – drawing people into the story.

And this IS storytelling.

If your company is just putting out a release because it’s some sort of legal requirement or ego-stroke, then fine, stop reading advice pieces and do whatever you want.

But if you actually want people to read what you have to say, write you press releases in a way that makes people want to keep on reading.

The biggest thing you need to do, in writing effective releases, is reinforce just about immediately why people should care. If your leading paragraph is a word salad of conjoined phrases about new and leading and game-changing and taking something to the next level (by the way, YUCK!), your readers are already mentally checking out.

Your leading paragraph should be about how this product or service will lower costs, make things easier, do something better, or be available to see for the first time somewhere. Tell readers why they should care, and give them a reason to keep on reading. The goal is to pull them through the entire release, and if readers are bored halfway through the first paragraph, seeing them get to the end is just wishful thinking.

You also need to put your message and pitch in context whenever that’s possible.

It is one thing to throw some technical jargon at people about gear that does a particular thing better. That’s a start. But it is SO much more powerful to tell readers that for the work that they do, this will reduce costs in half and triple the delivery speed. Don’t make people figure that out themselves. Tell them!



Event week is the wrong week for PR

I was just at my industry’s biggest event last week, and I was run off my feet the whole time. I go in part as a consultant to see what’s up and meet clients, but also as a quasi-journalist who “covers” the event.

I knew this already, but it was really enforced last week how issuing PR on the day of a big trade show is a great way to ensure the potential readership will drop like a rock.

Think about it. The people you most want to read about your newest set of pots and pans, or latest conquest, are at the show. They have breakfast meetings, lunch meetings, dinner meetings and late night drinks. They are on the trade show floor all day. The most reading they do is urgent emails on their smart phones.

They don’t, as a result, have any time to read press releases or press coverage. The same goes, to some degree, for what passes for working press at these shows. They are swarmed and only have time to cover the biggest news.

If you want to time news releases to your big trade show, time them for the week ahead of it. That makes people aware that you have something they want to see, should they be going. They are also still at their usual desks and will typically have more time to read that day or in the evening, and in a perfect world, they may even contact your company to schedule a booth visit.

Put it out the day of the show and your prime targets may never know you have what they need, as they walk on by the booth, oblivious.

The same goes for trade media and bloggers. On a busy week, you have to scrap for attention. The week before the show, your shot at getting the coverage you are after is much higher.


DS PR 101: Don’t invite people people to drop by, and then lock the marketing door

On Twitter this morning, a European software company breathlessly hyped how something big was coming, and then two hours later released the exciting news that a “preview” version of its Website was now live!!!

So please come by and please pass the excitement along …

Dutifully, I clicked through because I had not heard of this company before, and was therefore curious. Website has nice, simple layout. Good. Vague value statements and silly statements like “Simplified by geniuses.” Not so good. Links from main page briefs to “Learn More” that go to a contact form. Dumb. And annoying.

Two things here:

1 – When companies finish their Websites they tend to be far more excited about that than the people who visit the sites. Announcing a sneak preview of a corporate Website is just nutty. Turn your new Website on when it is really ready to be seen and provides value. Even Apple, in its preview of the iPad, has extensive information about the coming product on its preview pages. You don’t get to do teaser campaigns when there are roughly 300 companies who have the same product you think people will be excited about.

2 – The old saying about only having one chance to make a good first impression applies here. Asking people to come visit your company’s Website, and then giving them nothing but a handful of empty marketing phrases and a frustrating call to action to fill out a form, is a fabulous way to ensure those people won’t return.

Don’t ask people over, and then lock the door, turn off the lights and sit in the kitchen oblivious to the irritated people who are ringing the doorbell.


DS PR 101: This is a visual medium, kids. Provide visuals!

I have seen multiple references today to what sounds like a very expensive, well-executed landmark installation in New York involving projection systems, 3D and a very famous building.

As much as I would like to get on the subway to get over and see it first-hand, I don’t live in Manhattan, nor do countless people who would like to understand what’s really involved with this installation.

If only the PR company had put together simple visuals. It is soooooo easy to take still photos these days and sooooo easy to shoot and post video on Vimeo or YouTube or whatever.

But there’s nothing. The release I am looking at right now is promoting the Olympics, involves four companies, and is running on PR Newswire. And the most a reader can do is download the logo from one of the companies.

It is astonishing to see so many companies waste opportunities and use press and media relations techniques straight out of 1991. A press release IS content, not just a trigger to hopefully get media organizations to produce content relating to the release.

Dumb beyond words. And expensive dumb.


It’s digital signage trade show season: Time for a Message Tune-Up?

This is a press release issued today:

Marketing communications firm pressDOOH has developed a special program intended to help industry firms “tune up” their communications in advance of the many digital signage trade shows and related events scheduled over the next few weeks and months.

The “Message Tune-Up” program is aimed squarely at vendors, service companies and network operators looking to gain some marketing notice before and during such events as ISE, Digital Signage Expo, GlobalShop, NAB, Kioskcom/The Digital Signage Show and ScreenMedia Expo. The program offers quick reviews, recommendations and updates on marketing and press materials for companies heading into the show season, as well as fast turnarounds on newly crafted material.

“I have been going to these events for years, and know at least a couple of things will happen,” said pressDOOH founder Dave Haynes. “Some companies will remember at pretty much the last moment that they need to get out a release or update their hand-outs or mail-outs. So they’ll do it themselves and it will look like it. Others will hire a PR firm and get something cranked out that is polished but utterly pointless, because the PR writer had no idea about the industry or what the audience was actually interested in.”

pressDOOH is temporarily relaxing its minimum engagement policy for clients as a way to help a wider range of clients who don’t need a full communications program for the  shows, but do need two or three hours to get their material reviewed, tweaked and polished up by a fresh, experienced set of eyes. The most effective material for distribution is work that is clear, concise and relevant to the targeted readership.

“I think it would be refreshing change for everybody in the business if the big blitz of press releases and marketing materials that’s about to start was characterized by substance, effective messaging and far less hype,” said Haynes. “This industry is now at a level of maturity that the target audiences are knowledgeable and a little jaded. Their tolerance for BS gets lower every year.”

pressDOOH is a copywriting and marketing strategy firm working specifically in the digital signage and digital out of home sectors. The company was founded in 2009 by industry veteran Dave Haynes, a seasoned print journalist who has spent the past decade doing everything from running pioneering DOOH networks to selling top industry software.  pressDOOH produces press material, white papers, case studies, sales and marketing sheets and Website copy, as well as does overall marketing strategy, for companies in all aspects of the industry, on three continents … and counting.

The company markets itself on the value of having copy developed by a subject matter expert – usually faster and at substantially less cost than mainstream PR firms with high overheads and limited or no in-house expertise in this sector.

The firm was recently cited by heavily-read industry portal DailyDOOH as one of its Best of 2009 companies, products and people.  “ … there is one place that we do throw work and that’s in Burlington, just outside Toronto,” noted DailyDOOH. “That’s the home/work office of David Haynes, who has made writing a press release an art form.  When pressDOOH has written or massaged a press release, the job of journalist is made so much easier. If only more people used his services.”

The Message Tune-Up program – which drops pressDOOH’s normal minimum hours engagement policy – will be available through April, and subject to available time. Company and contact information can be found at www.pressdooh.com


The importance of (good) white papers

San Fran-based content strategist Eccolo Media has released a survey of US businesses that suggests white papers are the most important and influential pieces of collateral used in technology buying decisions.

The B2B Technology Collateral Survey of American businesses was done with more than 500 technology-purchasing decision makers and it confirmed, Marketing Charts reports, “that sales materials of any kind – white papers, case studies/sale sheets, podcasts, videos, product brochures and data sheets – are most frequently consumed at the beginning of the sales cycle – before a company ever invites vendors to participate in an RFP.

Collateral subsequently is used less frequently as sales relationships evolve, the survey found.

Additional survey findings:

– 77% of respondents say they’d read at least one white paper in the last six months, with 84% of them rating white papers as moderately to extremely influential when making technology-purchasing decisions.
– Nearly half (49%) of respondents say they had watched a vendor’s video while considering a technology purchase, up from 20% in 2008.
– Collateral is more viral than ever: 89% of respondents say they share white papers with others, while 85% share case studies, 81% share brochures or data sheets; 80% share podcasts; and 79% share video.
– People prefer to consume collateral from their desktop: Only 1 in 4 surveyed even print out an online document.
– Data sheets and brochures are considered least influential written collateral but were also the most consumed type, indicating they are still valuable “table stakes” in helping solidify a brand’s product messages with potential buyers.
– Podcasts are, when compared with other types of collateral, among the least influential; Case studies – preferably thoses that are written – are gaining in influence.”

The report also indicated that good writing really matters.

“Some 86% of respondents felt that high-quality writing was at least moderately influential and 51% ranked good writing as either very or extremely influential. By contrast, poor quality writing was the most frequent reason respondents gave for decreasing the influence of a white paper.”

This is, of course, all quite lovely to read, given that I do things like white papers and case studies for clients. BUT, as you might expect, a white paper or case study will not be valued just because it has that label in the heading. It still has to be good, and make sense.

There are many ghastly white papers circulating in this industry that are nothing more than pitch pieces for their clients, the equivalent of recipes that suggest the only way to make desserts is with a certain brand of flour or peanut butter.

Good white papers that people appreciate,save and circulate are ones that really do educate and guide. The writer/vendor gets the benefit of making it clear they know their stuff, and helping prospective clients NOT make some stupid rookie mistakes.

Good white papers also take good writing. It absolutely doesn’t take a degree or career in journalism to qualify as a good writer. I used to be an editor in charge of some “journalists” who, to my mind, were damn near functionally illiterate. On the flip side, I have read stuff by people with no background in the craft who write beautifully.

If you have the skills and the time to write about what you do and what you know, you are the best person to do it. If you know you will never get to it, or your output will be in Martian, get somebody who CAN do the work and who, ideally, understands what on Earth you are up to.

As the research is showing, clients place a lot of value in this material and in relative terms, it is very low-cost, low maintenance marketing.


Sub-optimized PR: Don’t just tell them, show them

I have a self-imposed rule that I don’t include the names of companies on this blog if I am slapping them around for being stupid or mindless in their approach.

Here’s a case of PR that is pretty well executed, albeit in a highly conventional way, but misses the opportunity at hand.

PlayNetwork is a Seattle-area company in the business of blending audio and video to create an overall experience in a retail environment – something that I believe is a huge growth part of this digital signage sector. Many chains have audio entertainment and messaging. Not that many, yet, have video. Very few have the two working seamlessly together. The guys who do that well, and reduce the overall offer down to one vendor, one bill, one throat to choke, are on to something good.

So we have Play announcing this week it’s people have deployed PlayNetwork’s Serenade Service to deliver music and messaging content in all of the Dickey’s Barbecue Pits around the US.

The original Dickey’s opened in Dallas in 1941, with a simple goal – “Serve barbecue so good people will crave it.” By harnessing the power of Serenade’s user-friendly and secure web-based interface, Dickey’s embeds that timeless mission into the music and promotional messages that play in all sites. These promotions, narrated by Roland Dickey himself, bring the heritage of Dickey’s to each individual location. Dickey’s also uses the Serenade tool to control their messaging on-hold content, extending its brand experience beyond the lease line to fans placing phone orders.

The release says the deal enables Dickey’s to serve up a uniquely Texan taste, smell, feel and sound.

To complement the popular Texas barbecue menu, PlayNetwork designed a music concept deeply rooted in Americana, mixed with a hefty dose of classic Southern rock, blues, and boogie-woogie, a Texas-style Western swing. There is no mistaking the Texas roots of Dickey’s Barbecue after listening to this home-grown collection of songs. The sounds reverberating through the restaurants are as distinctive as the taste and smell of Dickey’s Signature Beef Brisket – it’s down-home Texas barbecue.

Great. Sounds very cool.

And as a blogger who might even write about this – one of the objectives of PR – I scroll down the release looking for images, and ideally some video.


There is nothing inherently wrong in this release. The “global leader” thing makes me and other journalists/bloggers immediately yawn, but Play actually IS a global leader in this narrow part of the sector.

However, a company that is expressly in the business of teasing the eyes and ears of consumers really, really should at minimum have PR that offers images, and with the capabilities and cost of teeny camcorders and the ease of YouTube and other video channels, doing a basic video should be fundamental.

You’ve done some good, interesting work. Don’t just tell them, show them.


DS PR 101: Don’t go overboard with the information

I was reading what I thought was a quite well-executed news release from a company, but started laughing about half-way through when the marketing person who probably put it together appeared to run out of things to write, so started using what the ops guy fed him or her.

These digital signs are designated as ART1, ART2, LUXE and ICON, respectively.  In addition, the four <vendor> units are connected to an AMX distribution system which allows <client> to selectively distribute the artwork to all the televisions in the lounge/bar areas via strategically located touchpanels.

Image display in BMP, JPEG and PNG formats enables the network to handle the variety of formats supplied by contributing artists. <Vendor> models can also play MPEG-2 and -4 High-Definition videos at up to 1080p resolution, via component or HDMI outputs. High-definition still-image modes provide versatility and reliability, making <vendor> the ideal solution to show artists’ works at their best.

It goes on like that for several paragraphs.

It’s OK to just say what you did and include an image or even video link. Going into deep detail about what names were designated for the players and what media formats are supported is way more than you need for PR work. The target readership has no cause to care. The only people who need to know that stuff work in the operations department. Celebrate and highlight the good stuff and the shut the release down.


Quotes from the boss should be useful, not just blabber

It is probably rare in companies of any real size that the quotes in a press release, that involve the president or CEO, have actually been uttered by that person.

It is probably almost as rare that the release gets distributed with the quoted person actually having seen what he or she has supposedly said. So these quotes are often innocuous and irrelevant, and therefore not going to get anyone in trouble.

The problem is that these sorts of quotes are just about useless and can actually, in their useless glory,  cast the boss in a bad light. Consider quotes you see all the time that read something like this:

“We’re really excited to be working with Acme DooDads on this project,” says  Brand X CEO Bob Jones.

That sort of thing is suggesting to me that Bob has only the most fleeting awareness of the project, particularly since the  most insightful thing he can come up with is that he’s getting goosebumps.

When you are cooking up a quote from your boss, first of all make it sound like a quote. But more to the point, make it relevant, and something that advances the story. For example: “We know Acme DooDads weighed a lot of options before selecting Brand X,” says Bob Jones, the CEO of Brand X,  “and we’ll be working closely with Acme to ensure we’re helping them hit the business goals we all identified.”

That’s actually making a statement that Brand X came out ahead of a lot of competing companies, and the Brand X is less a vendor and more a partner.

Innocuous nothing quotes, on the other hand, are big red Stop signs that tell a reader, “OK, we’re done with the interesting stuff and we’re into the Blah Blah Blah. Time to move on.”


Fine-tuning your message so that prospective customers notice, and care

This post was also recently posted on the Website of the Digital Signage Association ...

How digital signage and digital out of home companies craft their communications on their Websites, handouts and in press releases is critical to their success.

So why is so much of it so bad?

The industry executives I speak with almost uniformly admit they know they could and should do better, but don’t have the time or resources. Coming from technology, ad sales and retail backgrounds, they also haven’t the insight or experience to recognize the good from the bad.

In the interest of helping better shape the message, here are a few tips:

Figure out what makes your company unique, and go hard with it

For whatever reason this is a “me, too” business, with most vendors marketing themselves on the same general range of features and capabilities that their competitors are also trumpeting. It’s hard to stand out from the pack if all you have to half-heartedly report is the written equivalent of, “Yeah, ummm, we do that stuff, too.”

There will be something your firm has developed, or work your team has done with a client, that is at least uncommon and worthy of a little marketing noise. Maybe your company had to figure out a solution that involved GPS and mass transit? That experience and capability is far more intriguing than telling the world your platform does all that stuff everybody else does, too.

Get to the point

Anyone who has been involved in this sector for a while knows how important it is to have good programming that quickly captures the attention of viewers. The same thing applies with a company’s written communications. Between emails, RSS feeds, tweets and texts, people are carpet-bombed all day with marketing messages. That means your message better make its point quickly, or it will be passed by.

Empty phrases that clutter the opening lines of announcements need to be dropped. The point of your communication can’t be buried somewhere in the third paragraph of your e-mailer. You can’t write something that people need to read twice just to figure out, because they won’t .

Put your key messages in context

When you are banging out your key features and benefits messages, and announcements about new gadgets and gizmos, make sure you do the extra work to explain what that means for your prospective customers.

When your company celebrates the release of a new energy efficient combination of PC and display panel in an all-in-one package, don’t stop there. It’s better described as a technology combination capable of dropping energy consumption for a signage deployment by as much as 25%.

Adding 250 more screens and locations doesn’t mean your ad network is now in 600 locations in five states. The message for prospective advertisers, the ones you’re after, is that the addition of 250 sites means your highly-targeted digital out of home media network is now reaching 200,000 affluent consumers every week.

Think through the whole communications chain

How many times have you read a press release, or the news story that spilled out of it, that was effective enough to send you to the company Website to find out more, only to find there was no “more” to be found?

Marketing and media communications have to be carried through the whole chain. If there’s an announcement, it needs to already be up on the Website and easy to find. The sales people need to be briefed on what it is about so that they can respond knowledgeably and not feel like doofuses. They also need material, ready to go, they can send out as follow-ups to calls, and it shouldn’t be just the same thing the prospects just read.

Meanwhile, existing clients need and expect to get early word of new goodies from their vendor, and to first learn of it on some blog.

Choose your words with care

There are powerful phrases, and there are empty phrases. Good writers choose their words carefully, and think about things like the rhythm and emotion of the message. Most of the people writing copy for Websites, email updates and press releases are doing so not because they like writing, but because they have to … so even if takes forever to prepare, those people spend little time actually thinking about the message.

That’s how the industry has ended up with a vast sea of empty phrases and buzzwords about leading, turnkey solutions and revolutionary, state of the art development. If someone only has to write copy every now and then, there’s a natural tendency to look around and borrow on what other companies are doing. They read three press releases starting off with “leading provider” and figure they better get that in there, too. They see Websites that talk “turnkey” and figure that needs to get in there. The result, every day and everywhere, is yet more of the same blabber.

Whether it’s Website copy, email blasts or press releases, whoever gets charged with doing the writing should ignore what else is out there, forget they ever read phrases like “best of breed” and “taken to the next level”, and think through the messages that would actually resonate with prospective customers and partners.

It’s an after-thought for a lot of companies, but developing the right message that helps drive product awareness, build credibility and boost sales needs the same attention to detail as product and market development. You can have a kickass product, a fabulous network footprint, or do amazing creative, but if you do a bad job of getting the word out, few people will know.