Toyota takes on feature releases
When PR pros at Toyota American Motor Sales needed to announce record-level production recently, they started with a traditional announcement release:
Toyota’s North American vehicle production
at record levels in 2013
Toyota announced record level North American vehicle production for 2013 surpassing last year’s output. TEMA built 1,857,696 vehicles, a 5 percent increase and 1,715,709 engines, a 3 percent increase from 2012.
But after a writing workshop with yours truly, those same PR pros came up with this feature approach:
Did you park a new Toyota
in your garage last year?
Toyota’s 2013 North American vehicle production
sets historic record
There’s a reason you might be seeing more Toyotas on the road. The automaker of the best-selling car in America, the Toyota Camry, produced at record levels in 2013 surpassing 2012 production volumes. Toyota built 1,857,695 vehicles, a 5 percent increase and 1,715,709 engines, a 3 percent increase from 2012 at its 14 manufacturing facilities in North America.
Why feature releases?
- Features increase reading and satisfaction, according to recent studies.
- On the other hand, research shows that inverted pyramids “do not work well with readers.”
- More than half of business-to-business editors seek more feature releases, including case studies and how-to stories, according to a survey by Thomas Rankin Associates.
- No wonder the Associated Press now offers feature leads with all the stories it sends across the wire.
Features at Toyota
Features have been generating results at Toyota, too. Take a package of feature releases about Yellowstone (“Buffalo and Bears and Batteries – Oh My!” and “Yellowstone … Where the Deer and the Antelope and the Prius Play“).
“We’ve had almost 1,100 unique page views of the battery story and about 850 unique page views for the background story, both much higher than average,” says Brin Wall, writer at Toyota Motor Sales.
“Time spent on both was longer than average for our site, and the battery story was picked up by Motor Trend, Popular Science, Autoblog Green, Daily News and Automobile magazine, along with many ‘green’ outlets.”
Ready to take on a feature release yourself? Here are six ways to gain inspiration from some of Toyota’s recent feature releases.
1. Tell a story. “When you have news, report it. When you have a story, tell it.” Or so advises Poynter Institute senior scholar Roy Peter Clark. Instead of just reporting this news, Toyota PR pros told a story in this release.
New York City Police Officer
Gets Big Surprise at Family Barbecue
Toyota Pays off Car Loan and Gives SUV
to 50 Millionth Customer
Imagine a stranger wearing a suit strolling into your backyard during a family barbecue. He’s carrying balloons, the title to your car and the keys to another car. Sound too good to be true? That’s exactly what happened to NYPD veteran Michael Dee.
Dee became Toyota’s 50 millionth customer when he bought a Camry earlier this year from Millennium Toyota in Hempstead, NY. To celebrate the milestone sale, the company worked with his family to surprise him during a family barbecue in Levittown, N.Y.
Dee, who will soon celebrate his 20th year of service with the NYPD, was speechless… at first. “I don’t know what to say!” he exclaimed. “This is phenomenal. I can’t explain how much this means to my family and how grateful we are to Toyota! The whole ‘thank you’ thing just doesn’t seem to cut it. It’s a day I’ll never forget.”
2. Show drama. Is there conflict in your news? Make that the story, as Toyota PR pros did in this release:
Happy Trails, FJ Cruiser
Toyota Bids Farewell to an Off-Road Icon
with Ultimate Edition
It’s finally here … and then it’s gone. Toyota today unveiled the 2014 FJ Cruiser Trail Teams Ultimate Edition at a press conference held at the 2013 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show.
The 2014 Trail Teams Ultimate Edition is a commemorative final special edition of the FJ Cruiser. It is the toughest and most capable FJ ever and pays tribute to the iconic vehicle that will end its production run at the conclusion of the 2014 model year. With limited production, only 2,500 will be built.
3. Try human interest. Stumped for a lead? Look for the people behind the news, as Toyota PR pros did in this release:
If Your Hybrid
is Even More Efficient in the Future,
Thank This Guy
Eric Dede’s innovative spirit may
help increase hybrid efficiency by 10%
Eric Dede has always been interested in the future. Futuristic concepts such as space and astronautics have always consumed Eric’s attention. That’s how he ended up as a senior engineer for the University of Michigan’s Space Physics Research laboratory. It’s also why he is now a Manager of the Electronics Research Department (ERD) at Toyota Technical Center (TTC), where his main responsibilities are the development of elemental technologies for future hybrid vehicle power electronic systems. TTC, Toyota’s North American R&D center, is a division of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing, North America, Inc. (TEMA).
Gone in Sixty Seconds:
Americans Take Home a Camry
Every Minute in May
May Sales Reflect Americans’ Trust in Best-Selling Car
On average, Americans drove away in a new Camry every minute in the month of May. Nearly 50,000 owners placed their trust in Camry’s safety, reliability and long-term value.
“There’s a reason Americans choose Camry, and it shows in sales month after month,” said Bob Carter, vice president of automotive operations for Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. “It’s America’s best-selling car, but more important is the one Camry in the customer’s driveway. The one Camry that gets you and your family to work, school, vacation, the Camry that works in a business enterprise, the one Camry you trust to be reliable and help keep your family safe.”
5. Use concrete details. Concrete details — the 42-pound CRT from 1997, the after-college futon — make this release lead creative. And turn numbers into things, as the PR pros at Toyota do in the last paragraph here.
Toyota Helps Haul
130 Elephants Worth of Stuff
We’ve all been there – the dreaded garage clean-out. The lovely time when you dredge up a 42-pound CRT from 1997, the after-college futon you thought you donated two years ago and some crusted paint cans you (responsibly) did not throw away but never quite made it to the hazardous waste center.
Over the last twenty years, Toyota has helped associates, team members and surrounding communities avoid this drama by hosting regular e-waste, hazardous waste and household good collections.
How much waste didn’t land in landfills? Since 1994, Toyota has collected 1,580,519 pounds or 790 short tons.
That’s equal to 519 Prius vehicles or 130 elephants or 10 space shuttles. Talk about tons of stuff!
And what became of the nearly 1.6 million pounds of materials pulled out of the garage and kept out of the garbage? All reusable items were donated and the rest recycled or disposed of, in the case of hazardous waste, properly.
Buffalo and Bears and Batteries –
Toyota Brings Power to Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone … Where the Deer and the Antelope
and the Prius Play
The nation’s oldest National Park is ready for some new power. Toyota Camry hybrid batteries will soon power the Lamar Buffalo Ranch field campus in Yellowstone National Park. It’s a new lease on life for the batteries and new, zero emission, energy option for the Park. Now that’s a “bear-able” solution!
Focus on features.
“What really helps get [releases] picked up is a great story,” says Toyota’s Wall. And a feature release can help you put your great story in the best light.
Take a tip from Toyota: Tackle a feature release.