Everywhere we turn at the moment we seem to come across the news that major brands like Coca Cola and even the Canadian Government are abandoning the press release as a business tool. (Check out this brilliant Coca Cola Unbottled blog for why this is getting us so excited!
Since my business partner Jo and I are from a background in PR, we spent years of our lives relying heavily on press release writing and media relations skills. But the press release becoming irrelevant isn’t news to us. We saw it coming a few years ago now. And not just because the rise of social media platforms like Twitter saw news breaking in 140 characters. But because of a whole range of cultural, social and economic factors which were changing the face of ‘news’ and storytelling in business.
So, we didn’t set up an ‘online PR’ business where we carried on with the same old model but in a digital format. We set up a digital communications consultancy with its foundations in creating engaging content that tells a story, whatever that may be and in whatever medium/format is required to reach the right audiences. For some of our clients, that means writing case study material for tenders that takes the technical jargon and turns it into an engaging narrative and for others than means distilling down their messages into punchy blogs, tweets and updates.
Whether it’s a corporate website, LinkedIn update or a Facebook status, we don’t write formulaic stories that start with the who/what/when/where/why; we write stories that have a beginning, middle and end and paint a real picture of the people behind the story. It is the brand personality and the platform that sets the tone, not the news agenda.
But aren’t those kind of stories even more difficult to measure tangible business outcomes from? Aren’t they even ‘fluffier’ and ‘nice to have’ than traditional media relations-focused PR? No. Because with these kind of stories it isn’t about the output (ie the media coverage), it’s about the response and the dialogue that they create. And when you tell a really good story, people listen and, more importantly, remember it and tell it to others.
We for one are glad to hear that the press release is a dying art because it means that we can break down the boundaries that have always made storytelling in business dull or, at best, ‘staged’. What is newsworthy shouldn’t be dependent on whether it follows a formula/norm of what media outlets tell us is newsworthy, but on whether it’s interesting to the people that you’re trying to talk to. Not all the people in all the world, just your niche sector of the population. Better to get a few relevant people really engaged in what you’re talking about than try and shout about it to everyone and not get heard. So let’s try listening to, and not just broadcasting ‘at’, our audience – and let them lead our communications.
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