5 Elements of an Effective Press Release

press_release_writing“The shorter and the plainer the better.” –Beatrix Potter

“Brevity is the soul of wit.” – Shakespeare

Minute by minute, a dizzying amount of data is created in this content-driven world. (Don’t believe me? Check out this infographic from DOMO )

And as PR folks, we’re under the gun to get the message across – clearly, thoroughly and correctly on behalf of our clients.

More often than not, this takes the form of a press release, the worth and future of which has become an annual debate. (But that’s another blog post entirely… For our purposes here, rather than dispute its inherent value, let’s focus on a few ways in which we can improve upon the content of future announcements we’re putting out into the ether).

I found a great article by Bill Stoller, The Ten Commandments of a Press Release, where he outlines his top ten “shalts” and “shalt nots.” In it, he argues that “when the recipient of a release focuses only on its content — and not on its creation — the writer has succeeded.”

Stoller’s point is an important one: Good writing allows the reader to focus on the message versus the medium. Although we’re taught to write one way growing up, I tend to think that the most effective press releases today follow these five guidelines:

  1. K.I.S.S. “Simple” works, but “short” is even more impactful in our content-crazed world.
  2. Sell the story, not your company. Yes, we know who is paying for the release, but that doesn’t mean anything if no one wants to cover it, correct? Take the time to create context.
  3. Remember your audience. Resist the urge to use marketing speak or pepper in industry acronyms. B2B or B2C, it’s doesn’t matter; keep it straightforward and interesting.
  4. Do the legwork. Again, know your targets and how they like to receive content. Social media savvy? Try tweeting a link to the release. Very visual? Scrap the words and make an infographic with your information. Make it easy for journalists to do their job, and they may just reciprocate.
  5. See number one. We’re following our own rules here.

Do you have any other principles for better press releases that you’d like to see added to the list? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Social Media Lessons from Bieber Fever

Justin BieberUnless you’re living under a rock, you’ve likely heard of Justin Bieber, the latest singing sensation that has teens and preteens around the world screaming and sobbing just for a quick, but memorable, glimpse of his dashing smile and famous hair. Last Sunday afternoon, I took my seven (going on 17)-year old daughter to see the new Justin Bieber movie “Never Say Never,” which came in second place at the box office.  As I sat there watching this surprisingly inspiring movie, I noticed my little girl get a twinkle in her eye and I began to understand the intriguing phenomenon known as “Bieber Fever.”

Later that evening, I tuned into the Grammy Awards and watched this young talent share the stage with well-known singer Usher and new-comer Jaden Smith. Though he didn’t win, he did get an amazing outpouring of support on Twitter – leading to his name being a trending topic, yet again.  Some of us love him, while others are tired of his constant media attention. Two things we can all agree on is that he’s captured the mind share of teens and tweens everywhere, and he could certainly teach us all a thing or two about the power of social marketing.

For anyone outside of his core demographic, it may be tough to understand just how this young boy has gained such popularity in a relatively short period of time.  Is it simply luck?  Some say it has something to do with his celebrity backings, from influential artists like Usher.  Or, could it be the impressionable age of his audience or his constant and hectic schedule of personal appearances and performances.

I think the real answer here is that this kid is “ahead of his time” and is an absolute marketing whiz!  When Justin was discovered by talent agent Scooter Braun in 2008, he had five videos on YouTube, with the most popular one generating an impressive 70,000 views—all of this with just the direction of his mother, who video taped all of his performances, including his first appearance at a local singing competition. By sharing his YouTube videos with friends and family (who in turn shared these videos with their networks and so on) and through some honest to goodness hard work, Justin’s celebrity status sky-rocketed and his music career took off. In a matter of a year, girls everywhere were screaming his name.

Bieber Fever

So how did he do it? Justin’s favorite and most-effective social media tool has been Twitter. He was one of the earliest artists to start using Twitter to reach and build his fan base and now just roughly three years later, he’s got 7.2 million dedicated followers hanging on his every word.  He uses Twitter to promote his music, videos, personal appearances and boost ticket and album sales.  A quick glance at his Twitter page and you will notice that he responds to each fan and retweets their messages, further proving to his fan base that he truly is “listening.” In addition to promoting his own videos, movie and other tour news, Justin also wisely takes the time to engage with other celebrities (with huge followings) while promoting his appearances on shows like Ellen and Lopez Tonight.

As a result of his hard work and creative social marketing tactics, the Biebster has the world’s most viewed YouTube video, has over 21 million fans on Facebook and is holding strong on AdAge’s list of Top 10 Twitter “Trending Topics” list with other important world figures and topics such as Egypt’s revolution, the Superbowl and fellow break-through artist Lady Gaga. His Twitter statistics are pretty impressive as well, with his readers’ reach at 146,362,484 and 118% of his tweets being Re-Tweeted.

So, what is next for this marketing sensation and what can we learn from him?

Listen and Engage With Your Audience.

He continuously taps into social media to obtain feedback from his fans and gain more insight into his target audience, their wants and needs.  He “listens” and “engages” with his audience just like any master marketer.

Understand Your Target Audience.

He takes the time to understand his fans and he is always pushing the envelope, trying new ways to promote himself. Because of all of this, he gains the hearts and minds of his fans and thousands of new Twitter followers each week and continues to gain on Britney Spears.

Get Creative and Give Back.

Justin is well-known for offering free concert tickets and pulling off surprise visits to fans, such as his recent Valentine’s Day visit to Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA

After the visit, Justin tweeted: “Just finished seeing some amazing kids who couldn’t get to see #NSN3D …so we surprised them and brought the movie to them.” Bieber ended the tweet with the hashtag #makeachange.

All in all, Justin Bieber and “Bieber Fever” is a classic example of putting social media to work for you in the ultra-competitive music industry. However, the lesson here goes far beyond the entertainment world.  Justin’s use of social media throughout his rise to stardom can be translated to almost any industry or small business.  Maybe all of us can’t reap as much reward from social media as Justin has, but we can definitely try by learning from his best practices. Justin was just ahead of his time in this area — but then again, having great hair can’t hurt either.

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun and 915thebeat.com

Persuasive Picks for the week of 01/31/2011

Digg

Digg Updates Design to Draw Users Back
Remember the days when part of your social strategy was to try and get your articles voted to the front page of Digg? Those days are long gone and Digg almost is as well. Mashable‘s Ben Parr highlights Digg’s recent user interface change in order to regain some of the popularity it once had.

Why Social Media Hasn’t Killed The Super Bowl For Advertisers
Seems like big brands are still willing to pay big bucks for ad spots on the one day that viewers won’t fast forward their DVRs through the commercials. Find out why, in this post from Antony Young on Forbes.com.

Digital Divide: Segregation Is Alive and Well in Social Media
Pepper Miller provides an eye-opening and very interesting look into how ethnic Internet users congregate in the online social space via this post on AdAge.com.

What to Consider When Executing Your Social Media Strategy
Fiorella Alvarado from MoreVisibility.com shares four tips to help you take advantage of opportunities and avoid pitfalls when executing your new social strategy.

Mattel Launches Digital Campaign Aiming To Reunite Barbie & Ken
Erica Swallow shares details from Mattel‘s new massive online (and offline) social campaign to reunite Ken and Barbie. This should definitely be a fun one to keep an eye on.

Persuasive Picks for the Week of 6/21/2010

Lacking a game plan when it comes to social marketing? You’re not alone. Social Marketing continues to perplex many marketers, according to eMarketer. In its article, “What Makes Up a Social Marketing Strategy,” the critical components of an effective strategy are reviewed, with some startling facts of how many marketers are still operating this element of their campaigns “without a game plan.”

Social media with a business twist. Tony Bradley of Network World writes about Salesforce.com’s unveiling of Chatter this week at Cloudforce 2010. “Chatter brings social networking to the enterprise in much the same way salesforce.com brought Web 2.0 to the enterprise–enabling the benefits of social networking to be utilized for new strategic advantages.”

Top 10 Most Tweeted Brands – if you’ve never checked out the weekly “10 Most Tweeted Brands of the Week Chart” by AdAge you might find it an interesting – or at least entertaining – bookmark. This week, Simon Dumenco outlines how the Twitterverse tells the media to “shut up” and why being a trending brand on Twitter is not necessarily a good thing, among other things.

Can you hear me now? Apple addresses iPhone 4 reception issues… or not. CBSNews Tech Talk discusses Apple’s lack of PR advice for Steve Jobs in dealing with the iPhone 4 antenna issue. “Allow me to make the official introductions: Steve Jobs, meet Apple’s PR department. Apple’s PR department, meet your boss.”

Twitter, PR and BP. TechCrunch takes a look at the lessons. TechCrunch”s post, “When Social Media Becomes The Message: The Gulf Oil Spill And @BPGlobalPR” takes a look at how BP is floundering from a PR perspective, and how social media can take over and shape your company’s message – whether you like it or not. “Someone on Twitter or elsewhere on the Web  will find ways to challenge the message, as @BPGlobalPR is doing.” The PR lesson here – credibility counts more than ever.