This Clorox release is worth a closer look
I review a lot of copy for my learning tools, in-house workshops, coaching sessions and other projects. I usually find a headline here, a lead there and a quote somewhere else that are worth pointing out.
But one Silver Anvil-winning release by Clorox is worth a closer look. Virtually everything about it, from the headline to the end mark, is worth studying.
Here are five techniques to steal from the Clorox release:
1. Use creative elements.
Creative material grabs readers’ attention, keeps it for the long haul and leaves a lasting impression. After all, “entertainment” ranks among the two top rewards of reading.
Why, then, don’t more communicators use creative elements in their writing?
The writers of the Clorox release do — early and often. A few creative tools to steal from this piece:
Fascinating facts. Get and keep reader interest with amazing, concrete details. The Clorox release does so in the deck:
“Researchers Find Average Desk Harbors 400 Times More Bacteria Than Average Toilet Seat.”
Alliteration. It’s a quick, easy way to make your copy more engaging. The Clorox headline includes it:
“… Dishes The Dirt On Desks”
Colorful quotes. Quotations, whether in press releases or other pieces, should be creative sound bites. The Clorox release includes a quote that paints a picture and uses alliteration and twist of phrase:
“For bacteria, a desk is really the laptop of luxury,” said Gerba. “They can feast all day from breakfast to lunch and even dinner.”
Learn how to write more creative copy.
2. Focus on the reader.
Forget what you learned in PR 101 (or Intro to News Writing, for that matter). It’s OK to speak directly to the reader.
In many cases, in fact, it’s preferred. Let’s face it: The reader’s favorite topic is the reader herself. So why not appeal to that self interest? That’s what the Clorox lead does by speaking directly to “you” in the lead:
“Working late again? You’re not alone, according to a new study by University of Arizona germ guru Dr. Charles Gerba. You have plenty of bacteria keeping you company.”
3. Write like a roller coaster.
Most press releases start out dull and remain so. (Hey! At least they’re consistent!)
Better ones begin with a bang but end with a whimper.
The best communicators — and the writer of the Clorox release is among them — write like a roller coaster. That is, they show and tell, riding up and down the roller coaster of abstraction. Among the concrete details:
- “Telephones came in as the #1 home for office germs, followed by desks, water fountain handles, microwave door handles and computer keyboards.”
- “Surprisingly, toilet seats consistently had the lowest bacteria levels of the 12 surfaces tested in the study.”
- “We don’t think twice about eating at our desks, even though the average desk has 100 times more bacteria than a kitchen table and 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet.”
A colorful lead is great. But that’s not the end of the job. The rest of the piece needs concrete, colorful details, too.
Learn to write like a roller coaster.
4. Use third-party testimonials.
Clorox brings in an outside expert — “University of Arizona germ guru Dr. Charles Gerba” — to talk about the need to keep surfaces clean. That’s a third-party testimonial.
Most release writers use “first-party” testimonials — their own companies’ VPs talking about how great the product is.
Wonder which is more effective?
Note: Third-party testimonials work even if your organization sponsors the research.
Learn to get better testimonials.
5. Focus on the problem, not on the solution.
The most amazing thing about the Clorox release is that the writer knew what she was selling: the need to keep surfaces clean.
When you introduce a new product category (this release promotes Clorox Disinfecting Wipes), it’s more important to sell the need for the product than to sell the product itself.
After all, a good salesperson wouldn’t pitch a certain model of convection oven to a prospect before selling her on the benefits of convection ovens in general.
The Clorox release focuses on selling the consumer need to the point of withholding the company name until — gasp! — the fourth paragraph and the product name until — unbelievable! — the boilerplate.
That doesn’t make sense for every release, but it does for this one. Most releases push the company and product names far too fast and far too hard.
Learn to move readers to act with avoidance benefits.