If You MUST Write A Press Release, Do It Better

At Schwartz Communications’ breakfast roundtable on content marketing last week, attendees were asked to rank which channels they used to get the news out about their company. Plenty of people use “blogs,” “Twitter,” “Facebook,” or “LinkedIn” but “press release” barely registered.

That led one attendee to ask why. Her employer, a B2B electronics manufacturer, regularly uses press releases that have been optimized for search engines. They get decent readership, she said, as well as some media mentions. From the tone of her voice, she was wondering if she was crazy for still issuing press releases or everyone else was crazy for avoiding them.

I thought I had killed off the press release earlier this year with my post pointing out there’s fewer and fewer official “press” folks to distribute news to, and that they’re more and more likely to hear your news over the Web before you “release” it. No “press,” no “release” means no need for a “press release,” right?

OK, maybe not for everyone. You’ll always have important news to share with the world and if you want to call it a “press release,” go for it. Just remember the aim is to share news with the world, not just “release” it to the “press.”  So what should you do differently?

Don’t just do a press release and share it over the syndication services. Reuse the content in the form of Tweets, blog posts, videos, podcasts, etc

 Do search-engine optimize both the press release and the spin-off content, based on an analysis of the keywords your target audience searches for.

 Don’t write about what you think is exciting. Write instead about what’s in it for the reader (whether that’s a reporter, customer, industry analyst, or investor.) Include a benefit statement for that target reader in the first paragraph of every press release.  For example:

Backing up its promise to aggressively comply with new financial regulations, Goliath Universal Bank today announced it has already met 2014 requirements established by this summer’s financial regulatory overhaul…

Bringing iSCSI capabilities to the small business network-attached storage market for the first time, PackRat Storage today announced…

Adding HP products to the existing IBM and HP offerings it can provide customers, Joe’s Regional Geek Services today announced it has become an HP Silver Solutions Partner…

And drop the useless quotes. “We are very pleased to have Amalgamated Stores choose us as their exclusive supplier of paper towels for their five trillion retail outlets worldwide.” Of course you’re pleased, the quote says nothing and will drive readers away lest you follow up with something equally dull.

Whether you call your news a “press release,” a “blog post” “mutterings from around the water cooler” or just “content” is less important than how you write it. Focus on what the reader wants to know, rather than what’s  exciting to you from inside the organizational glass bubble. Then reuse it, share it, repeat it and search-optimize the heck out of it.  

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Companies have been hiring ex-journalists for years as PR people because they knew how to tell a story and how to work with their fellow ink-stained wretches. (For those old enough to remember ink.)

Marketing automation vendor Eloqua has gone a step further and hired Jesse Noyes, formerly a business reporter for the Boston Herald, as a “corporate reporter.” His goal, he says, is “to drill down within the company and the industry to find the stories that too often go untold. I will profile brands and the people that work for them. And I will attempt to explain game-changing trends as they happen.”

Good for Eloqua for recognizing that “old school” journalistic qualities such as fairness, thoroughness, and clarity are more important than ever, and can be found in professional reporters. And good for Jesse for riding the wave that has made every vendor a publisher who needs to tell their own story.

However, as someone who does his own share of “corporate reporting” for IT vendors, here are three tough moments I predict Jesse – or any corporate reporter — will face. When they come up, how should Eloqua respond? How would you respond?

  1. I found a really, really smart customer doing some leading-edge marketing automation –       but with a competitor’s product. Can I write the story?
  2.  I need the CEO or CTO to respond honestly and thoughtfully to a big announcement, but they’re busy talking to customers. Who will shake them loose so they can talk to me, and when? 
  3. Marketing complains my last story focused too much on the problems customers are facing, and want me to “take a more positive tone.” I’m reporting what I’m seeing in the marketplace. Exactly how brutally honest do you want me to be in my writing?

There are no easy answers to questions like these, but having even rough guidelines will be critical to making your “corporate reporter” successful. I (of course!) have ideas on my own, but am curious to hear yours first…

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Finding the Mythical C-Level Exec

Like the unicorn, whose horn was said to cure illnesses and neutralize poison, the C-level executive is a mythical creature, though long hunted by IT sales rep looking for a cure to their late-quarter sales slump. But, as Forrester Research points out in a recent report, “…no such role as a C-level executive exists."  There are chief executive officers, chief financial officers, chief operating officers, chief technology officers, chief security officers, etc., but no generic “C-level executive.”

Yet I shudder to think how many times I’ve blindly nodded and said “yes” when a client asked for a white paper for the “C-level” executive, meaning it was supposed to focus more on business than on technology. In today’s attention-short world, we as consumers – and C-level execs as busy people – don’t have the time to listen to generic pitches that don’t speak to their specific needs. That’s one reason only 15% of executives find sales calls useful and up to their expectations.

Tailoring the sales pitch, and your marketing content, to the different flavors of C-level prospects takes time and effort. You need to understand the problems they face, the buzzwords and acronyms they use, their measures for success, and then translate your marketing jargon into terms they can understand. This customization is worth it if, having gone to the trouble and expense of getting their attention, you want to keep it and make your pitch.

But how about if you’re selling to a smaller organization where everyone wears many hats, or in which titles are meaningless, like “chief satisfaction officer?) Turn the process around and write your collateral in one or several versions that will attract the eyes you want. Hoping to find the CFO? Talk about capital and operational expenses and return on investment. Looking for the CSO? Talk more about compliance, audits, separation of duties and whatever alphabet soup of regulations they must meet.

Then – and this is the important step – track which folks on your email list or which visitors to your site read which versions of your material. Following up with other messaging focused on their needs will confirm their identity to you, and even give you insights into their specific wants, needs and purchase timetables.

Does this take time and money? Yes. But not as much as you’re wasting sending the same tired message – or the same tired salesperson – into the lair of the mythical C-level exec.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.