The Art of the Steal

Press releases are all about stealing eyeballs; the more the merrier. So there's an art to producing an effective press release. Sadly far too much of what crosses my desk could be better. It routinely misses basic intel which I must now glean from their website's product page; if it's actually there to be found. Routinely it's full of self-congratulatory guff which only the laziest of editors will regurgitate via cut 'n' paste. I must read the lot then cull all the crap to be left with the hard facts. Often it misses web links; pricing information; explanations for certain claims or acronyms; even photos. Some photos don't show the complete product or strategically shadow areas of interest. That's okay for a teaser but not a formal full-Monty product launch. Many press releases these day are embargoed until a certain time/date. Some are so bad that I simply delete them. Others circle around the change from green to white backlit logo. Huh?

For me, ideally, a press release should come in two versions, short and longer. Either should embed active links to the company home page and novelty's product page. The short form should include basic specs and weight/dims, price in €/$/£, core features and photos from the front and back. It should be purely factual so free of all performance claims. Think one paragraph for the lot. The long form—it's virtually mandatory for a new company or brand and could be a one-page word.doc—might include basic company history and key design credo then breaks down the novelty's most important features or tech in decent detail. If there's remote control, include a photo. If there's an unusual connector, show and explain it. Ditto multiple finish options. If anything is a world's first, explain it. Do not hide between 'stunning advance', 'proprietary tech' and 'must be heard to be believed' dross. Given widespread ever smarter Internet fraud and malware, I don't trust HTML links to download pictures from unfamiliar 3rd-party sites; or others which require an account. I much prefer photos embedded in the PDF of the actual press release; and/or attached separately as .jpg or .png. Online publishers don't need 300dpi. Appropriately scaled images email easily. Print publishers do need high-resolution bigger files. Those shouldn't email but be made available preferably in the company's own website press room to download one at a time at the publisher's discretion.

With the glut of monthly product drops, any press release must ask "why me"? Why should a news editor then reader stop long enough to read it? What makes the novelty different and attractive to a buyer? Is it the low price? Is it extreme performance? Is it a new more elegant solution to a persistent problem? A killer feature? Whatever it is, describe it in clear concise language then show it to us in well-lit pictures. Show 'n' tell. Whatever you forget, it's not the job of the press to fill in holes. Whatever you get wrong to correct in a subsequent press release means potential rewrites of a news post already published; or worse, last-minute video edits for YouTube publishers. It's your product. You or your designated PR person should know it inside out. Tell us what makes it unique. Structure it in clear bullet points for the features and their benefits. Add a for-more-information-contact email should an editor want to publish a more in-depth feature. Why miss an opportunity? The same goes for promo videos. If you have them, furnish us with their links. Who knows, it could just prompt a request for a review sample.

None of it is rocket science. Given the glut of mediocre press releases, it simply doesn't seem to come easy either. Could we try just a bit harder, please?