Remember the Curiosity Rover?
Sent out to Mars in 2011 by NASA, the Curiosity Rover was a dune-buggy hunk of metal outfitted with sophisticated cameras and scientific measuring equipment to find out whether microbes ever lived on the Red Planet. It captured pictures, sent data from rock samples, and took virtual walks that let scientists feel as if they were walking barefoot on the red rock.
As a writer, I love the way the words “Curiosity Rover” roll up into ideas — that which stimulate the curiosity of someone who systemically scans the landscape. In media and content marketing spaces, that’s the equivalent of a press release.
Reporters like me are rovers. We like to scan the trends, sift through new scientific or medical studies and sniff out the kernels of newsworthy microbes that tell us: Life on Mars exists! Or life on Mars can exist! Or life on Mars once existed! It’s a thrill unmatched to write about something that captures and contextualizes a discovery, a movement, a new impactful piece of information that can make a difference in the world.
Those on the publicity and content marketing side need to understand how Curiosity Rovers operate:
- They delight in finding meaning to the bigger questions about life.
- They don’t like to be coached or bossed, but they want to be engaged and invited to explore.
- The more you try to control them remotely, the more likely you’ll fall into a ditch.
Many new and growing companies often fall into the false trap that putting information out into the ether of social media is enough. These days with strata of niche audiences (echo chambers, bubbles and silos) within the media landscape, the process requires more curating than ever. New companies wanting a press release to go from pitch to press should mind who they are writing for. Remember: Curiosity Rovers.
As a reporter who has skimmed over thousands of press releases, I’m about to give you the (T-2 minutes and 30 seconds) tips that could help you make the right impression on the right writer for your launch.
Tips for Crafting a Press Release That Gets Pickup
T-0:02:30 Align flight computers to self-alignment
Hand-pick bloggers and journalists who write the types of stories on topics and trends that match your intended audiences and customer base. As an emerging player in a sector or an industry, you should already be familiar with the bylines of journalists and bloggers who cover your industry.
As soon as you have your marketing plan in place, you should introduce yourself to them and make personal contact via email or a phone call. Don’t wait until you have a press release to make contact. Have in mind a date when you think your press release will be ready and make the first call a courtesy call.
T-0:02:00 Range verification
Approach each press release as a space to build your rapport with the influencers who are genuinely interested in the products or services you provide. It’s important to find authentic connections with reporters, bloggers and vloggers who might actually use the products and services that you are launching.
Influencers come in all shapes these days, from your teen reviewer on their YouTube channel to the tech reporter on The Verge. You have to see who is writing about the stuff you want to pitch and build that relationship. Establish the range and focus in on key reviewers and writers.
If you want them to amplify the ideas in your press release, they have to feel like they can speak about it candidly and authentically, and feel like your company will be responsive to their critique and feedback.
T-0:01:45 Crew members close and lock their visors
Your company spokesperson and the CEO have to be on the ready to give lively and interesting quotes. They should practice speaking in words that do not echo industry jargon or give quotes that pump up a product with superlatives. The top executive of your company should be equipped with relevant information and insights which link your product, service and initiative to news and trends. And also be ready to speak earnestly about risk factors.
Place an interesting quote in the press release that the reporter can use directly in his/her story, and promise to provide access to the right people in your company for reporters to ask more follow-up questions.
T-0:00:25 All tanks at flight pressure
In your press release, answer all the basics as if you were writing the news article you want printed. Answer the who, what, where, when and how, but especially emphasize the why does it matter. Clearly stating a goal of why your product, service or initiative’s goal matters to the public, industry or sector is crucial.
Press releases should also attempt to leave crumbs to the why it matters open, so the journalists and bloggers who want to learn more can expand with analysis and write more about larger trends.
T-0:00:00 LIFT OFF
If you can time your press release distribution with the release of new studies or industry trend papers, attempt to capture and contextualize your product, service and initiative within the scope of these trends and new studies. A press release sent out with links to new studies could result in a longer feature, placing your company among the trendsetters.
More contextual information about your place within the industry and sector with verifiable links to other stories can help the reporter get faster depth and knowledge about the industry with your help to meet their deadline. This could increase the shelf-life of your press release in the fast-moving news cycle and be a reference for you to build your company’s good-media-begets-more-good-media reputation.
Ground control to Major Tom
Once the press release and the product has been launched, make sure you keep the communications with the reporters and influencers flowing steadily even after your event. If you treat the press release as the conversation-starter and the initial sales pitch, this attitude gets you into the field of curiosity and helps reporters remember you when they want to do a trend story.
Don’t be surprised if a month after the press release you get a call from a reporter wanting to get new information on trends data and more information. Like the Curiosity Rover’s landing into Mars’ Gale Crater, little bits of information gradually add up dust-by-dust to form a new perspective and story.