Tag: PR


Infographic: Everyone’s A Leading Global Provider, And No One Cares



Soi, so, so true of this industry. How many press releases and website About Us pages start with Leading Global Provider?

Answer – Most, which is loopy.

What’s missing from this terrific infographic by Shift Communications are the word cloud counts for manufactured quotes, which invariably include how pleased/delighted/thrilled the people in charge are about the deal or announcement.

Simply put, when your press release looks like every other press release out there, you’ve done a terrific job of ensuring few people will read it.

Tell a story. Grab people and make them read by putting the news up top. No one cares that you have declared yourself a leading global provider.


Get Your Timing Down

A pair of companies sent me communications on the weekend – one a press release, the other a, umm, well, actually I’m not sure what it was.

The point here is that sending press out on a weekend doesn’t make a bunch of sense. The timing is all wrong.

A lot of people – probably most – have devices that allow really quick access to email, so they check multiple times on a Saturday and Sunday. But if you think about your own habits, how often do you sit down, read and respond to weekend emails. You glance at them.

So the idea that sending on a weekend means the press announcement will be fresh and new in the Inbox come Monday morning is flawed. It’s either been glanced at and quite possibly forgotten, or it’s in among a pile of emails that people need to get through quickly to get on with the week ahead.

The same holds for Fridays. Bad time to send a release. People are mentally checking out and there is a chance the release will be ignored or deferred for review until the following week.

You also want to think about time of day and the optimal time to send things. There is no idea time or wonder hour for sending out, but you should pay attention to how and when your target blogs and trade publications send material out, and the patterns of your competitors. If in your sector a lot of stuff moves the first thing in the morning, maybe think about midday so your news is not lost in the gush of announcements at breakfast.

Timing matters, and while weekends represent great times, they reflect bad timing in PR.



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.


Taking it to the next level

I did an interview recently with a person I consider pretty smart, but I found myself starting to cringe as I kept hearing the dreaded phrase,”Take it to the next level.”

I’ve no idea where this phrase comes from, but it has this slightly uncomfortable pick-up line feel to it that I’ve had little luck getting past. In biz-speak, it seems to be used whenever someone is referencing improvements or enhancements.

“We plan to take this product to the next level,” people say, and far too often.

The real problem with this phrase is it lacks any substance. When even slightly jaded people hear about something going to the next level, they start thinking the plans are vague or non-existent.

In marketing a product, you’ll get far more mileage from avoiding empty phrases and just flat saying, “Our next version will add 25% more capabilities, and be twice as fast.”

THAT “next level” has substance.


Burying the lede hides the good stuff

In newspaper parlance, burying the lede is an oft-used phrase describing stories that start with inconsequential and uninteresting stuff and then, well into the narrative, finally get around to the interesting bits.

The home automation systems giant AMX is, a little surprisingly, in the digital signage business – having acquired a UK company a few years ago. It sent out a yawn-inducing press release recently that went on at considerable length about “futuristic” capabilities that just about all its competitors also offer.

The release was actually from June, but a UK AV pub just did something with it.

AMX®, the leading provider of solutions that simplify the implementation, maintenance, and use of technology to create effective environments, today announced Inspired XPert, a cutting-edge digital signage solution with capabilities of a futuristic movie. Inspired XPert delivers amazing 1080p image quality with processing power to simultaneously display HD video, images, text, and internet feeds. As part of the Inspired Signage line from AMX Inspired XPert is designed for ease of use and is subscription free. AMX is demonstrating Inspired XPert in booth C4417 at InfoComm 2010, being held June 9 – 11 in Las Vegas.

Inspired XPert is ideal for delivering HD multimedia content across a building, a campus or around the world as users have the ability to edit and schedule content from a centralized location. With its ready-made templates users can easily create layered, custom layouts consisting of video, images, online content, newsfeeds and advertisements. The templates allow users to place the video, text and images, independently, anywhere on the screen. For those who are too busy, AMX offers an experienced team of graphics designers who will work directly with customers to develop a set of templates engineered to effectively communicate a brand message.

There’s a hint at the end of third paragraph of the interesting stuff, and finally, for those few still reading the release, in paragraph five:

“A capability that truly sets Inspired XPert apart from other digital signage solutions is sensory control, which enables users to incorporate basic human senses like sights, sounds, and even touch and smell to some degree, to communication a message that breaks through the clutter and really crystallizes with audiences,” said David Gentile, Systems Engineer for AMX. “With Inspired XPert, digital signage can automatically change, based on outside temperatures, or be set off by motion sensors and other triggered events. Imagine a consumer picking up an item from a shelf triggering instant on-screen product information and product comparisons – Inspired XPert can do this.”

Well if it truly sets the offer apart from the competition, what the heck is it doing buried towards the end of the release? That part really is quite interesting, but most readers will miss it.

As it stands, it is a release from a very well-resourced giant saying, “You know that digital signage stuff that some 400 other companies have? We do that, too.”

That’ll get the phones ringing.

Simply put, in a release or any written material, the interesting stuff goes up top. The overly formulaic approach to this release means few readers will get beyond the first line.


Remember the basics when writing releases

I noticed a piece recently on ReadWriteWeb about media relationships, a guest post by the marketing guy for an e-commerce startup  specializing in co-created custom dress shirts.

Very different space, but what he has to say about getting media and general reader attention translates really well to justa bout any industry, and certainly an emerging one like digital signage.

He writes about starting with the basics, which is preparing something that is actually interesting and clearly understood by readers.

Don’t be an exact copycat to stories that have already been published. In other words, if say Apple is using biodegradable materials for its hardware that reduces its carbon footprint by 20%, you shouldn’t pitch that you are using similar materials for your gadgets and that you are saving 20% off your carbon footprint too.

What would be compelling is you saying that you are using XYZ new materials for your hardware and how you have reduced your carbon footprint by 75%. (Hopefully there is already buzz about how awesome those materials are, but if not, this could be an opportunity to pitch your company as a case study.)

Is your content easy to digest?

This might sound overly simplistic, but use bullets if you can. Journalists dread long emails. They absolutely dread it. So make your pitch short, sweet and simple – and what’s simpler than some nice bullet points? Don’t be too vague for the sake of brevity. You don’t want to compromise the quality of your pitch by leaving out the meat, the important details. Numbers are useful and eye-catching too.

Does it make sense?

Can anyone other than you understand it? Is there too much industry jargon? Too much language only you and your team understand? Similar to the last point, make sure your content is readable. Put your Master’s degree and ego away. You want to make your message very easy to read and very clear, so simplify the language of the pitch.

Split up long paragraphs for a quicker read. Five, three-sentence paragraphs are easier to digest than one fifteen-sentence paragraph. One of the worst things you can do is confuse a journalist. Overwhelming the journalist with technical information could elicit enough interest that they respond to your pitch. But it’s most likely they will just trash the email.

Does it really sound compelling?

Did you fool yourself into thinking that your story has legs? What’s the benefit for the writer’s audience? You have to be giving in your pitch, not self-serving. What I mean is that you have to give the writer a story he or she can’t refuse because their audience will love it.

You can’t look at media coverage as simply a means for promotion. Media’s purpose is to provide quality content to readers who are waiting to gobble up important and relevant information, so heavily consider the journalist’s and their audience’s needs when crafting a newsworthy pitch.

Some additional tips on how to be newsworthy include getting a few objective eyes to check out your pitch and provide feedback. It would be ideal to have the eyes of readers of the publications you are pitching, too. After rewriting your pitch, test it out on a few journalists and see how they react! Not receiving a response at all is definitely considered a reaction, although it doesn’t necessarily mean your pitch is bad, it’s just bad for them. After receiving their reactions, you may have to iterate on your pitch to provide them with a story that they would be compelled to write about.

Nothing groundbreaking here, but as someone who reads press releases every day I can assure you many, many companies blithely ignore these basics. I had a release come to me the other day from a company I’ve started to get to know, and was interested in a new service they have developed.

The release was so filled with corporate chest-beating and jargon, it was hard  to figure out what the service was that was supposed to be new and worth the attention of readers. I got an unprompted email from a business friend – smart guy, a CEO – asking if I could figure out what the service was all about. He too struggled with the release.

Today’s news releases cannot, should not be prepared as they were 10 years ago, or even five years ago. The Internet has changed all that and most of the people who read the release will not see it as converted from PR Martian to English by an editor. They will read it unfiltered.

And if they are going to need to endure a bunch of crap about how great the company is, and then find a decoder ring to figure out what the release is all about, that’s a completely wasted effort and opportunity.

Remember the basics.


DS PR 101: All but squealing with delight at the news

First a mea culpa: I believe I have been guilty of this, because it was what the client wanted and it was too much work to talk them out of it.

Press release after press release has giddy quotes from VPs and CEOs saying they are pleased, excited, delighted – everything short of “we wet our pants!” or “our nipples exploded!” – with mundane arrangements like partnerships and agreements.

You can stroke each other’s egos on your own time, but for the purpose of PR, it adds nothing to the story and is therefore silly and counter-productive. Editors who do more than copy and paste releases are rolling their eyes when they read such lines. They are also  nimbly hacking those quotes out of the piece or skipping right on by the release.

They’re happy that you’re happy … kinda, sorta. But mostly they could care less.

If you want to achieve something more than headline awareness that some deal was done, make your quotes real and contextual.

Instead of “We’re just delighted to be working with such fine fellows …” – and I am not really jesting here with that line – try something more like, “This agreement is critical to our company, because we’ll be adding new capability for our customers, and getting a clear competitive advantage.”

From that, all the readers will make the great leap in logic that you are happy about it.


The faces of the staff have been obscured to protect them from something, I guess

The photo is a slice of a larger one that graces the first page of a case study/news piece from an unnamed software company about the work they are doing with a partner for a retail furniture chain.

The piece itself is fine. Looks very polished. Has good information. But it all goes kablooey because there was obviously some issue with permissions for showing the faces of the two women that were part of the photo. Either they refused. The store refused. Or the work to get the permission wasn’t worth the bother.

My only other conclusions are that the two are in a witness protection program, or are really terrible at applying makeup.

My point – that little bit of Photoshop work to “hide” the identities completely kills the polish of the piece, and sets the wrong tone. Instead of wondering what this piece is all about, you’re left wondering what’s going on here???

You either use the photo as planned, or get another. This was a bad compromise.


The Dreaded Grip and Grin Photo

grip and grin

Not enough companies include visuals when they send out press releases and other material. This is a visual medium, and a great shot or two really adds some context and helps people get their heads around what’s being announced.

But not all photos are good. Every now and then I get what are known as grip and grin shots – two people or more staring at the camera with fixed grins, shaking hands. Or holding a check.

Resist all temptation. Tell your bosses, if they insist, that they will look goofy if someone actually runs the shot. I’d run it on my Sixteen:Nine blog, but for all the wrong reasons.

Stick to visuals that add to the story.