An Autopsy of the Press Release

It probably goes without saying that the world has changed for the traditional press release.  Social media has changed the way companies communicate with customers, and then in turn, the press release must have changed as well, right?

If you Google “Is the press release dead?” you’ll find that many have already written the obituary.  Social media swirls around, the world wants multimedia and the stodgy old press release looks a bit long in the tooth.  Certainly it has outlived its usefulness.

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So let’s do an autopsy.  How did the release die?

Was it the carefully crafted messages, neatly fit into 4 or 5 paragraphs?  Or perhaps it was the “About” boilerplate at the end, sharing compact facts about who released the release.  I know, the heading of “For Immediate Release” was so old, so disgusting, the press release committed suicide.

But maybe, just maybe, the press release can’t die.  After all, what is a press release?  It’s an announcement and one that has some gravity.  It’s been thought through, carefully edited, fully proofread, and in larger companies, signed off by dozens of folks before you get to read it.  Companies will always have announcements to make and the official announcement document is known as a press release.

A press release is a one-page summation of a company announcement.  Just the facts and a quote.  The important things you need to know.  You can add pictures, videos, and links to your press release.  You can choose where a release goes and make that local or worldwide.  Twitter and Facebook haven’t replaced the press release as an announcement vehicle, but they can help you spread the news to interested parties.  What would an important official announcement look like if not in a press release?

Press releases find their way to a dedicated section on a company’s website, where they function as chapters in the company’s history; the product announcements, the executive additions and the earnings wins, all set out neatly in press releases.  You can scan the titles and quickly get a feel for “what the company has been doing.”

No folks, the press release is not dead.  It’s a still a major part of what we do.  It’s a unique style of writing; a pithy rundown of the key elements of a story.  There is always a need for pithy writing.

It’s not dead; it just has a lot more competition.  The social media revolution created a bunch of new communication channels.  Those channels all have their place. They all have their audiences.  The new channels get a lot of attention.  But the press release lives, still doing what it does best.  Companies still issue them and the press keeps relying on them.

So if you come across someone who thinks the press release is dead, ask them how they know?  Inquire as to what replaced it.  Then tell them to look around.  The press release not only lives, it thrives!

Does your company still issue press releases?   Are you sending out any fewer releases?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

Technology Industry Analysts; Marketing’s Friend or Foe?

Technology companies spend a great deal of time dealing with, talking to and trying the influence the analysts that cover their portion of the industry.  The analyst’s opinions can make or break a product.  Turn a start-up into a thriving business overnight.  They have an uncanny ability to create an instant buzz or drive a nail in a product’s coffin.

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Some of these industry analysts actually test the products and base their comments on that and others do not.  The do not base their comments on reviewed of the design of products and customer feedback. To a lesser degree, they also base their analyses on what they hear from vendors.

The question is however, how important is it that marketing spend time working with the industry analysts?  When deciding how much time and effort to invest in working with them, consider these 4 points:

They talk to your customers all day long.  They likely talk to more of your customers than you do.  They also talk to your competitors customers.  It’s what many industry analysts do all day every day.  Over time, they form strong relationships with your customers and your future customers.  It’s good to be on the right side of these relationships.

They know the questions on customer’s minds.  With all of this customer and potential customer discussion, industry analysts are in a unique position to really hear what is on customers’ minds.  What is keeping them up at night.  They hear questions about your product, your category and your business all the time.  This is exactly the type of insight you can use to set your content direction and design marketing pieces that really speak to current and attention-grabbing issues

Analysts will advise vendors.  Many product and service vendors have purchased analyst seats so they have access to both the analysts and to the document libraries.  Discussions with the analysts generally focus on industry trends or competitive actions, or essentially pitches.  However, you can also discuss marketing messaging, content ideas, go to market strategies and other items and you’ll likely find a great deal of insight.

It’s a relationship, not just a chance to influence.   Many makers of technical products view every interaction with an analyst as a chance to expound your product’s virtues.  This strategy will lose effectiveness over time as the same messages get repeated and the analyst only hears the story from the vendor.    A better strategy is to work with them in a two-way conversation.  Use analyst calls to discuss potential company strategies or product choices.  Feed back to the analyst as you implement the strategy you discussed with them.  Make them part of the team.  You’ll get better response that way than shouting your product’s message over and over.

Certainly there is an upside for marketing to make the analysts your friend.  They are a great source or information and can provide customer focused feedback better than almost any group you are likely to encounter.  Spend a few minutes getting to know the analysts in your industry.  It’ll pay off.

What role do industry analysts play in your marketing planning?  Does your company encourage interaction with them?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

6 Things to Consider When Choosing a PR Firm

Public relations firms come in all shapes and sizes, from one-person shops to large multinational firms.  Each of them has a place in the mix, it just a question of finding the right one for the size, industry and stage of your firm.  Here are some things to consider while going through that decision process.

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  1. What is the size of your budget?  Lets be real; you are not effectively going to get a four-person team from a large PR firm for $1000 a month.  No matter how well you negotiate or how attractive your company is to work with, there are some boundaries.  Likewise, it’s unlikely that a sole proprietor PR resource will want to charge you $20,000 a month no matter how good they are.  Be aware of the norms in your industry and company size as you start your search.
  2. Is your company public or private?  It does stand to reason that the larger your company, perhaps the larger a PR resource you’ll want and need.  However, public companies of any size require special expertise and care and this is an important requirement that should be weighted heavily in your analysis.
  3. What is your industry?  Since the publications, websites and analysts you’ll want to reach are organized by industry, you may want to choose from the firms that service that particular industry.  However, if your market is less industry focused, a broader firm might be the one for you.
  4. What resources do you have internally?   It’s a good idea to review the resources that you already have before adding new ones.  You may have a great writing resource on board already that has experience in writing press releases and pitch sheets, etc.   This could move the requirement for an outside firm to pitching and relationships with less emphasis on writing.  It’s sometimes also the case that some product management professionals have deep relationships with industry analysts and you won’t require so much of that from your outside PR firm.
  5. What stage of the life cycle is your company at?  Different PR firms, even in the same industry could have expertise in different stages of the company life cycle.  Take a look at the clients they currently have and see if each firm has clients that look like your company.  Often, firms will state the type of clients they serve in their mission or description.
  6. What are your international requirements?  If you have worldwide responsibilities you may want to consider a worldwide firm.  It’s also possible to operate with more than one firm, picking the firm in each region that best suits your needs there.  In any event, there will need to be coordination on a global basis so each firm would need to have that experience, or you’ll risk experiencing some pain right when you don’t need it.

It’s also a fact that growth companies have different needs over time as the company grows.  You may ultimately “outgrow” your firm, and they know it.  Picking the right firm is both art and science and can often be a daunting task.  Lastly, there are consultants that specialize in agency searches that can assist you with developing the criteria and finding a firm that has the best fit.  It’s always good to have more than one way to “skin the cat.”

What additional items do you feel should be part of the decision criteria?  What issues have you had in choosing a firm?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

7 Good Reasons PR is Still Very Important

We’re living a world where the internet has taken many “middle men” out of the loop.  The world has changed for stockbrokers, for newspapers and for travel agencies, for example.  Consumers can now make things happen or get the information they desire online without intermediaries. These forces have had and will continue to have enormous impact on many things we once accepted as normal.

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So how has all this affected Public Relations?  After all every company can publish their story in a myriad of ways that are read directly by the intended audience.  Press releases, once a “PR wire” and paper-based world that went only to members of the press, are now automatically and instantly posted all over the web as news.  Can’t we just cut that cost and go it alone?

Not so fast.  My view is that PR is just as important today as it’s ever been.  Here are 7 reasons you won’t want to fire your firm just yet.

  1. It’s all about relationships with editors and other press people.  If you choose the right PR firm, you will have someone who knows all the right people to talk to and will likely be talking to them frequently if they have many clients in your space.  This is kind of an economy of scale in relationships that it would be hard to match through an internal resource.  Your internal person will not have something to talk about with the editorial staff of your target publications every week, but it is likely a leading PR firm in your industry will.
  2. Editors do not want to hear directly from vendors. If every product or service vendor in your corner of the industry called editors directly, they would never keep up.  PR professionals are an important intermediary in that they understand the game and often represent several companies the editors write about.  Since it’s a two-way street, i.e. editors need the PR folks to help them find end users and interesting stories, the relationship works.  This does not exist between editors and the sellers of products.
  3. PR firms are often the source of great ideas.  Each person at a PR firm works with several companies and can share ideas, see what works and what does not and transfer knowledge.  An internal PR person does not have this ability.  Hence, PR people are often a source of great ideas and tribal knowledge.
  4. It is easy to “outsource” PR and conserve your internal resources.  As you look to conserve internal resources, you tend to look for things that are easily and effectively outsourced.  Since PR is a very definable set of tasks, and can be managed remotely, it’s a natural fit for outsourcing.
  5. PR is often very cost effective.  PR is a competitive field and there are quality people in sole proprietorships up to multi-national firms.  The right price point exists for you.  In addition, you can usually “unbundle” the services, especially with smaller firms, so that you do some of the work yourselves.  For example, you may retain a firm with an agreement that you jointly develop the strategy, someone at the company writes the press releases and someone at the PR firms pitches the story to the target list. This lowers the costs and can play to a strength someone on your staff has.
  6. Your PR firm will have more resources.  PR firms have access to tracking tools, databases and other resources that a smaller company could not justify purchasing for themselves. Larger firms can also grab people temporarily from other projects to work on an opportunity at short notice.
  7. PR firms jumped on the social media bandwagon very early.  Chances are good that your PR firm has been executing social media longer than you have.  They’ll be better at it and, even if you are planning to do that part of the mix internally, they will be able to get you down the learning curve quickly.

We are all looking for ways to trim our budgets and do more with less.  I’d suggest that having a close relationship with an outside PR resource is a way to do more with less.  You must match the firm to your needs to be most effective, but that will be the topic of a separate blog.

What has been your experience with outside PR firms?  Do you prefer that over an internal resource?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm