Having worked in and around PR for the better part of two decades, I’ve written more press releases than I can count. Some even had real news in them. Never a fan of the boxy formula (headline, sub head, dateline, lede, executive quote, other company’s quote, more info, call to action, boiler, contact), I toyed with idea of issuing releases in poetry rather than prose but, sadly, none of my clients wanted to differentiate themselves — that way at least.
So when I read this blog post by George Snell, “You Aren’t in the Press Release Business,” I had to chuckle. Give it a read. It’s worth it.
Today, press releases are merely one element among a series of social tools to help companies tell their stories. And frankly, they’re often pretty awful, which means that most go unread. Sure, there are journalists who still read them (because they have to), but I’d bet a million bucks they’re sick of them as well.
So, my fellow PR and marketing folks, I suggest we come up with a new formula for press releases – one that’s more attuned to the Twitterfied digital world in which we live and work.
1. All press releases must be no more than 100 words. Anything longer and the company is forever blacklisted from ever posting another press release on the wire.
2. Any press release announcing a new executive should read as follows: “Company X hired Joe Smith today to run operations. He’s really smart and has done a lot of cool things in operations at other companies. For more info, check out his bio here.” I mean, seriously, what else do you really need to say?
3. All press releases should be edited by a comedian or, better yet, David Letterman. Get it? Seriously, when was the last time you laughed while reading a press release? I mean, laughed in a good way? It should be mandatory.
4. They should be handwritten in crayon with little stick figure pictures as accompanying graphics. And there should be an accompanying video with each release featuring the pre-school kids from the AT&T commercials.
5. There should be a secret code in each press release so readers can treat it like a mini DavInci Code episode. Those who hack the code win a date with Kate Upton or Tom Brady. That would get your stuff read for sure.
6. All releases must pass the 8 year old test. What’s that? It means if an 8 year old can’t understand what’s being announced, it doesn’t go out. “Sorry Dad, I don’t know what a highly secure, redundant and scalable cloud-based platform is.”
7. All acronyms are banned. Forever. “The UI of the SaaS platform is in .Net and uses CSS and .php for the LMNOP.” No. Stop this madness.
8. There should be a press release awards show with categories: Best Fact Free Release, Outstanding Performance Under 50 Words, Best Graphic Stick Figures, Most Outstanding Coded Message. Billy Crystal could host. Or, better yet, Kate Upton.
So, there you have it. Eight simple rules for improving press releases forever. Got any additional ideas? Share, please.