My good friend, colleague, pseudo-competitor, fellow blogger, and much better photographer Brian Solis put a guest post up on TechCrunch today entitled the Evolution of the Press Release. If you are in marketing, I’d call it a must-read. I’m pretty sure his inspiration for the post is what Elliott refered to as “PitchMeme“, the minor brouhaha which occurred around Gina Trapani’s controversial “bad PR people’s wiki“. I call it controversial because I don’t like the “lumping in” of all PR folks into one big batch – the same way bloggers don’t like to all be looked at the same way (think about it!). The topic’s been pretty well covered already, and my thoughts on how bloggers should address things were in my blog post Friday.
I thought it would be prudent to put up a note on how we recommend our clients write and structure press releases (UPDATED: DON’T FORGET TO NOTICE THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT (FROM THE ORIGINAL POST) – for when they are necessary, that is). Some of this is very traditional, some of it’s a bit “two-oh-ish”, and it’s an evolving, living process. When dealing with marketing strategy and outreach in today’s high tech world, it’s important not to get fixated on what worked yesterday as it may no longer be relevant. UPDATED: IF YOU THINK I AM SAYING “DO THIS ALL THE TIME”, PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING SENTENCE (YES, IT TOO WAS IN THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE): Further, there’s no true “one size fits all” approach, you must tweak your strategies to meet your clients’ specific needs. That said, here’s our rough template:
Title – should communicate in a “non-tricky/clever” manner the message. No need to be cute here, just summarize your news in one sentence (which is why I’m so bullish on the importance of positioning).
Subtitle – optional, use if a 2nd sentence helps fill out the details.
Opening paragraph – 2 or 3 sentences that quickly get the info out. Assume your audience won’t read any further than this, so if you can’t figure out how to be interesting this briefly, odds are pretty good you either have (1) too much story, or (2) not enough story. Both are bad, consider either making multiple releases or not doing it at all, respectively.
Okay, this is your time to give some background, help flush out the rest of the story. Stats, market size, demographics, details details details all belong here. I recommend being to the point, again, keeping away from the “cute” factor. 4 sentences max, and if you have a lot of details, consider making a bulleted list instead of a paragraph.
The simplest reason to have a quote is this: it will inevitably get copied-and-pasted into an article somewhere, and it saves the journalist from having to email you for a quote for their article. Your quote should sound like a human being said it, and not be jargony robot-English. Also, there’s no reason to deviate from the “standard quote” format of:
“I said something cool,” said FIRSTNAME LASTNAME, the TITLE of COMPANY. “I’m excited about that cool thing I said especially because it’s so cool.”
Focus on the business implications, and/or partnership details
This is a good time to explain why the story matters SOOO much. Either there’s a huge opportunity for the company to expand, or possibly a big deal with a big partner/customer is being announced (if so, make sure you’ve referenced this earlier!). Think about the business/industry implications of your announcement, and make them clearly comprehensible.
[optional] partner/3rd party Quote
IF you are working with a partner, give them their quote here. If not, but you have a *very well known* fan of the company, they can make a quote. It’s absolutely not necessary otherwise, and should fit very naturally – if not, don’t include something just to fill in space (shorter press releases are always better than longer ones).
This is a good place to wrap it up, either by including some broad background info on the company (such as a boiler plate) or some content you generically use to describe the company/service/product/market. It’s okay to reuse this content, it’s helping out those who may be new to hearing about you.
In “social media PR” style, we’ve begun including a bulleted list of relevant links. These links could include a company home page, blog, product details/specs/pictures, partner home page, useful resource, Twitter URL, RSS feeds, or anything else. In my opinion this section should have every link a journalist would want to be able to find other details that complement your release.
Phone number and email is a must-include, and I’m generally recommending having IM information here as well. If you use Twitter or other means of near-real-time communication, you should have this included as well.
That’s it for the Stage Two-styled New-Meets-Old-Media Press Release (as of May 11, 2008 – who knows what this will look like a month from now!). Hope this is helpful, and I welcome/encourage feedback via comments.
UPDATED: I’ve added two very large callouts in the beginning of this blog post. This is because I want to make sure that anyone who is just ’scanning’ the post instead of reading it fully notices that I am not advocating a strategy of “always write press releases, and always make them the exact same.” Sorry about the big, bold text, it felt necessary.