Thursday, August 18, 2005

Press Releases Suck

In preparation for a new client meeting, I printed the last 5-or-so releases from their website. All of them were well-written and contained genuine bits of news.

Yet I still felt a pit of disdain yawn open in my gut. Disdain not for the client or for the releases I was reading, but rather for the way in which - as an industry - we've seemingly just given up on innovating our basic tools. All of these darned press releases are set up in pretty much the same format, and crikey! - it is boring!

Paragraph 1: "(Company), a leader in (whatever), today announced (some news)"
Paragraph 2: "Quote from company exec"
Paragraph 3: "Quote from customer or analyst"
Paragraph 4: "Blurb about product differentiation"
Paragraph 5: "Summary quote from company exec"
Paragraph 6: "Boilerplate"

From the largest Goliath-sized company to the smallest, most aggressive start-up, this is the basic formula for disseminating a message via press release.

While there is something to be said for the comforts of standardization, all around us innovation is taking hold. In consumer tech (iPods), enterprise tech (companies overturning the status quo, like Netezza), on the Web (Flikr, LinkedIn), and in other categories like architecture and the environment and industrial design, innovators are re-thinking everything.

Maybe it is time that PR practitioners began to re-think the Press Release.

  • Maybe we should limit the amount of text to what fits on a postcard. Maybe we should send the press release out ON a postcard.
  • Maybe we should send out (links to) 30-second video clips that show the product in action and allow for a little blurb-time from the company spokesman and customer.
  • Maybe we should only disseminate news via official corporate blogs, in which the client CEO can explain in more casual, laymen's terms what the news is and what it really means.
  • Maybe a press release should include an honest SWOT analysis on the caliber of the news, provided by an independent 3rd party. After all, even good reporters are often too bogged down to do their own research and when they do, they call the industry analysts; what if every single press release provided at least one genuine SWOT opinion, to minimize journalists' burdens?

These are just a few ideas off the top of my head, and I ain't no innovator. I guess I'd like to see us push ourselves a bit harder to add more value and innovation to the tradecraft. It might make our jobs (and those of our media contacts) a bit more fun, to boot.


Blogger Malcolm Z said...

It's a good idea to check the press releases produced by the really big companies, they have the time and money to (usually) do good jobs. For instance, in UK retail you would want to do a SWOT analysis of Tesco press releases.

May 27, 2006  

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