The power of content

Planting seeds that grow into future sales

Almost always, as I’m interviewing a customer to learn about them, their operations, and the successes they’re achieving with a manufacturer’s product, they volunteer feedback the manufacturer finds incredibly useful.

I was recently sent to cover a story on the first-ever purchase of a newly redesigned piece of equipment. The article was to be a sort of product review from the new owner’s perspective. What made it particularly interesting was that the new owner had no familiarity with the brand before this purchase. I was curious as to what it was that seduced him into changing brands.

He told me it started with an article. He’d been looking to upgrade his previous equipment with his former manufacturer. He had a model picked out but changed his mind when he saw a piece about this new design in a magazine.

I knew exactly the article he was talking about – it was one that we had written. He’d never considered a rig like it before or thought about that manufacturer’s offerings. Yet the story had gotten his attention right away, at exactly the right time. He’d torn out the article and kept it with him.

During the next few months, he followed up on it. He asked around. He got in touch with the manufacturer. He was impressed by their facilities and their customer service. He learned their history and their reputation. He went from “knowing little to nothing of the company,” he said, to confidently purchasing from them.

We almost never get to put a black and white assessment on marketing ROI like this. The content we generate as press releases, case studies, customer spotlights – these are seeds we can easily forget we sowed. Yet, if we hadn’t planted this one, this chain of events would not even have begun.

It underscores a lesson once again. Never underestimate the power of content marketing.

Joe Bradfield is senior writer for Ellenbecker Communications

On the importance of the lowly press release

It’s easy to dismiss a press release as “just” a press release – until you need one. That’s when it dawns on you that just about every piece of marketing material – ad copy, product briefs, brochures and even job stories – will repeat a great deal of your press release’s content and exact phrasings. In effect, you’re not just making a press release; you’re creating the foundation of all things to come.

The piece itself will appear in numerous publications and prominently appear in online searches each time someone looks for information on that product. Of course, we can’t control what a publication’s editor might do with the piece’s title, length or formatting, but most editors are reluctant to change the precisely worded expressions of a product press release. In our experience, most editors will print what was written in the release. That’s why it’s so important to get it right.

The impact of a single press release widens exponentially online, as excerpts from its text are copy-pasted, word-for-word, into subsequent discussions and in comparisons of your product to other market offerings.

Press releases can be much more than just announcements introducing technological innovations and newer, better capabilities. They present valuable opportunities to influence market perception, or head-off unintended misperceptions. Novice writers often either overlook this opportunity or jump on it heavy-handedly, bungling it. An experienced writer, on the other hand, considers the reader’s frame of mind and then deftly handles subtexts in the piece.

Another error is to say too much. A press release should only plant the seed, giving the reader just enough detail to back up abstract claims like, “More powerful! More fuel efficient! Increased productivity!” Is it more powerful? Give its rated torque or horsepower. Then stop. If it’s more fuel efficient, ball-park a figure you can stand by. Then stop. The release should not give a potential customer so much information they feel confident making purchase decisions based on it alone. And a publication wants to keep their product news short and sweet. They don’t want to publish a book about every new product on the market.

For potential customers who might not be in the market now, the release has their attention. They’ve noted the model and the manufacturer. That’s its job, to prompt further investigation. It also serves as another level of branding awareness and to show your client is always developing products, whether someone is in the market to buy it or not.

Informative yet tactful, nuanced and tight –never underestimate the power of a good press release, and never trust just anyone to create it for you.

Joe Bradfield is senior writer for Ellenbecker Communications

4 sure-fire ways to annoy an editor with your press release

Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer.

The trade press is much more receptive to corporate press releases than typical news media outlets are, and they are certainly much more forgiving of poorly written releases than mainstream news magazines or websites. But even the long-suffering editors of trade journals grit their teeth and dig in their heels when they are faced with the following PR transgressions:

You embed your photo in your press release

If you want an editor to include your amazing photo alongside your press release, please do not embed your photo in the Word document (or even worse, the PDF). There is a loss of resolution and overall quality, which will likely make it impossible to use, at least in a print edition. And even if the publication is online—and can thus use a lower-res photo—why make the editor go to the work of extracting or copying the photo from the document? That brings up another excellent way to annoy an editor…

You make them work for their photos

Editorial staff has been reduced at most media properties and everyone has too much to do. So when you send a complicated set of instructions to the editor detailing how he or she should go about finding and then downloading the photo you’ve chosen to accompany your press release, you’re not really giving them much of an incentive to use your photo. This is a leftover from the days when emails regularly got rejected for exceeding size limits, or they took too long to download. But it’s not 1999, so go ahead and send a 2MB photo as an attachment right along with your Word document. Speaking of Word documents…

You send your press release as a PDF

Editors like to be able to cut and paste the text from your press release, sometimes directly into the content management system of their website. That is really difficult with a PDF. Why would you ever send your press release as anything other than a Word document or .rtf or .txt document? The key is to make it as easy as possible for an editor to use your information. We’ve been told by editors that some companies—who do not use PR agencies, incidentally—regularly submit their releases in this format. Editors will edit your submissions. Sending them as a PDF doesn’t “lock in” anything. It just forces someone to retype your release.

You include a lot of fancy formatting in your document

Some inexperienced communications people go all out to make their press release look like it is a page in a magazine or newspaper. However, each publication has their own layout style and all the work spent on the press release document, getting the text to flow around the photo just so, for example, will have to be removed by the editor before they can do their edit or re-write of the piece. Sometimes the press release will be full of italics and bolding and underlining—all of which will have to be removed by the harried editor or an equally harried assistant before it can be used.

AND FOR GOODNESS SAKE DON’T USE ALL CAPS. IT’S HARD TO REFORMAT THAT, AND SOMEONE WILL HAVE TO SPEND TIME (THAT THEY DON’T HAVE) RETYPING. Neither editor nor assistant will be inclined to go the extra mile for someone who has made their work day even a little more difficult.

Some minimal amount of formatting, for the purpose of making the press release easier for the editor to read, is acceptable. For example, a headline will likely be in a larger font to make it stand out, and the lede paragraph may be in bold because it also serves as the executive summary of the overall piece. But formatting that goes much further than this just becomes, well, annoying.

Bottom-line…

Obviously, we believe that it is best to retain the services of a full-service agency such as Ellcom to handle these tasks for you. We know the editors, and we know that these four mistakes can cost you a certain degree of cooperation. We know this because we talk to these editors all the time. They tell us their pet peeves. And we give them press releases crafted in such a way as to avoid these and many other annoyances so that our clients have the very best shot at getting their story published.