Drop the Press Release and No One Gets Hurt!

As a former technical journalist, I have read enough bad press releases to last a lifetime. As a writer of press releases I try very hard to avoid the poor writing that characterizes so many of them. These include 1) silly claims, 2) bad writing, and 3) no actual news.

Now, I know the pressure clients put on their PR people to produce press releases. The press release is officially supposed to catch an editor’s attention, and sometimes it actually does. These days it’s even more important to improve branding and search results with a widely distributed release. Still, if a press release is horribly written you’re going to have a problem.

Silly Claims

Many press releases lead off with “company so-and-so, the leader in such-and-such.” But when the company is quite new or unknown, they can only announce themselves as the leaders of a ridiculously narrow segment, or worse a segment that no one has ever heard of. Either way the “leader” text doesn’t impress anyone. Instead position the company within a meaningful segment as an innovator, the fastest-growing, award-winning, etc.

Bad Writing

Press releases are fairly formal documents but too many writers make them very obscure. This is from a real release, names changed to protect the not-so-innocent: “The new integration allows service providers to use TaskEngine to capture DreamGrid’s monitoring alerts and automatically convert them into service tickets which can be handled and processed with TaskEngine’s powerful workflow automation engine. This seamless workflow ensures that, in the event of an online backup failure alert from DreamGrid, a service ticket will be immediately created, and escalated as necessary with proper notifications to ensure that the failure event is properly serviced.”

What? That’s just wrong.

No Actual News

Sometimes companies just want to get their names out there and make up press releases from whole cloth. A distributed press release will get you some attention but it will be negative if the release wastes the reader’s time. Spend time to find out if you really have something newsworthy. If you don’t, then don’t write the press release – blog instead for better exposure with a narrowly defined topic.

Are you a technology vendor or agency who’s sick of writing press releases? Contact me today.

Cashing In on the Customer Success Story

Along with white papers, customer success stories are the most popular tool in the technology marketer’s toolkit.

Why are they so popular? Because they are compelling to prospective customers. References and testimonials are great things to have but customer success stories flesh out those testimonials and give them teeth. And if you match the case study customer’s industry to the prospects, it’s clear to prospects that your company knows how to successfully operate in a given market.

The ubiquitous case study can range from a 3-paragraph online snippet to a full-blown report. The most popular case study in the marketing/PR arsenal is the 600-1200 word customer success story following this pattern: company overview and challenge, project details, and positive results. Elements include:

  • Customer Overview and Challenge. Start with a 2-3 paragraph overview of the customer’s company. This should be very positive – since you’re going to detail a problem the customer was having, the last thing you want to do is make them sound like a jerk. So compliment them. Feel free to adapt the overview from their own Website text, where they’re already placing themselves in the best possible light. Then move on to the business challenge. Don’t make the customer sound stupid or incompetent. The challenge should always be centered on something good that is happening to them –fast growth, industry prominence, strategic IT changes – whatever. Their challenge should be applicable to your readers’ own business issues.
  • Project Details. Everyone knows that no project goes perfectly, but save the debriefing for the longer-form trade journal article. These short customer success stories should report on the successful project by briefly discussing specific products and benefits. Don’t go all over the map. If the project is fairly narrow or specific, you won’t have any trouble sticking with the main point or product. In the case of very large and complex installation, concentrate on the main product or application. For example, Microsoft Great Plains has more modules than you can shake a stick at. Concentrate on the ones that had the most positive impact on your customer.
  • Business Benefits. Always quantify improvement if you can. Numbers can be dollar savings, percentages, or other measures of saved staff time, more efficient workflows, better customer service, etc. Be sure that the benefits you list are the benefits the customer perceives – hard costs are most easily quantified, but soft costs may have the higher perceived benefit to a customer. Ideally you will have both.

How many customer success stories should you have on hand? The more the better. A large company may have dozens of them on hand and smaller companies should strive for at least three to start. Why? Because they work. Start capturing those customer success stories today, and watch those sales rise.

Internet of Things?

By: Bryan Ward

Helen Duce,  a cheerleader for the Internet of Things said:

We have a clear vision: to create a world where every object, from jumbo jets to sewing needles, is linked to the Internet. Compelling as this vision is, it is only achievable if this system is adopted by everyone everywhere. Success will be nothing less than global domination adoption.

Sewing needles? “Skynet” of Things anyone?