Steal these five techniques from Silver Anvil-winning campaigns
Most press releases are pretty easy to parody.
Just ask Benny Evangelista, a technology reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. In a Softletter survey of media professionals about the quality of public relations, Evangelista complained of an increase in the number of “boilerplate” press releases — formulaic releases that all “sound basically the same. …
“Something like: ‘XYZ Co. Inc., a leading supplier of the world’s integrated real-time advanced software-aided microchips, announced today the availability of its latest product, the XYZ 4.2, version 3, which will revolutionize the software-aided micro-technology chip industry. “This will revolutionize the software-aided micro-technology chip industry,” said Joe Blow, XYZ Co. Chief Executive Officer and Founder.’”
Why do PR professionals flock to the fill-in-the-blanks model? Certainly not because it stands out in the crowd of all the other releases a reporter is likely to get in a day.
Instead of conforming to the conventional approach — which is dated, formulaic and, let’s face it, dull — choose a better model to follow. Study the winners of PRSA’s Silver Anvil Award, the highest honor in the public relations business. Here are some great approaches I found in the latest crop:
1. Write a feature lead.
Contrary to popular opinion, reporters don’t hate feature leads. They hate crappy feature leads.
Instead of the conventional “today announced that” lead, why not make your release stand out from the crowd with a lead like this one, from Pfizer Animal Health:
“Imagine the first few hours in the recovery room following a hysterectomy or … ligament repair. Consider what post-surgical life has been like for some pets undergoing common surgical procedures; intense hours WITHOUT pain medication. …”
2. Lead with the benefits.
Many Silver Anvil winners lead with the reader benefits. This example is from UnumProvident:
“Employers now have a better way to measure, monitor and manage employee absences, thanks to UnumProvident Corporation’s expanded online Comparative Reporting & Analysis information services.”
Beats by a mile the tired traditional approach: “UnumProvident Corporation today announced the expansion of its online Comparative Reporting & Analysis information services.”
3. Try a tipsheet.
Take the benefits approach to the furthest extreme, and you wind up with a value-added, or service, piece. Explain “how to,” and watch the media pick up your release. Some Silver Anvil-winning approaches:
- “Infuse your party with style: Tips and trends for a spectacular summer soiree,” from VOX vodka
- “Interview opportunity: Tips on how people can get more use out of their health coverage,” from Cigna
- “UPS offers 10 tips for worry-free packing, shipping”
4. Drag them in with your subject line.
“With print, at least they have to pick it up to throw it away,” says Pat Jones, a communicator at TDS Telecom.
Not so when you’re sending a pitch via email. Online, you’re just one click of the delete key away from obscurity. Your only chance to get the message read: the subject line.
A provocative subject line, like this one from Enterpulse, can get your message opened:
“New survey stats for Internet ‘Death Penalty’”
This brisk pitch outlines Internet usage trends, including a “Silent Killer” that can keep people from returning to a company’s site.
5. Give great bio.
Do your executive or director bios read like a resume?
Wake your bios up with human-interest details and storytelling. Here’s a great example from Embassy Suites hotels:
“It all started (when) Carlton Calvin (was) reading a brief item in the Los Angeles Times about the growing popularity of push scooters in Japan. With a spark of creative thinking, Carlton, president of Razor USA LLC, spawned the ‘Razor scooter,’ one of the hottest trends to hit the United States within the last two years.”
Hint: “It all started when …” leads draw the reader in. The moment of creative inspiration is a great place to start an executive or director bio — or any story, for that matter.