Here’s the truth about press releases: the people getting them are generally suspicious of them. They view it as “this person who wrote this wants me to help them out. Forget it. I’m not giving out any free lunches.” Press releases are, by nature, all about the company issuing them, and news organizations don’t like running unpaid advertisements.
So how can you spiff up your press releases? With the help of a mathematical concept you might remember from school: the Venn diagram.
The image above is a Venn diagram. It’s probably familiar to you, but in case it isn’t, it shows the intersection of two groups or ideas. Let’s look at an example: Circle A represents all the economic ideas of George Bush, while Circle B represents all the economic ideas of, say, Hillary Clinton. Note that they mostly don’t overlap. But the purple part of the image, AB, represents all the economic beliefs of Bush and Clinton that do overlap. This may well be a small group, but it still exists.
Now, let’s apply this concept to a press release context. Circle A is what you, the press release writer, want to write; Circle B is what the news organization and its readers or consumers want to read; and part AB is where these two overlap.
The way to write a press release that will get noticed is to write your press release in the area of part AB.
Now, that seems rather elementary, yet I’ve seen this principle violated numerous times in companies that I’ve worked for. Time after time, I’ve seen press releases that just announce, say, a change in the corporate website. Who cares? Only the company, and perhaps a very few isolated customers of the company. Will those press releases interest anyone else? Probably not, and thus, they are a waste of time for both the writer and the media types reading them.
Press releases in the area of Circle A alone usually only cause damage by making the media types who read them feel like they’ve wasted their time. Worse yet, that makes them think that the next press release from you or your company will also waste their time. In other words, they will already have a prejudice against your next press release before they even open it.
That’s not a good position to be in. So, target the AB area.
But the question is, how? Let’s look at some examples. Imagine you are a toy company publicist, and your company has just introduced its new series of toys. You want to promote safe new toy purchases. That’s Circle A. After all, the more toy purchases there are, the more likely it is that consumers will purchase your company’s toys, right?
But a new line of toy trucks is not exactly screaming, “Front page news!” is it? Most media types will read something like “ABC Co. launches new line of HotWheels competitors!” and just snore. How can you make it more interesting? Well, golly gee, wasn’t there just that recent scare about lead paint in toys that caused such a hubbub? That’s circle B: kids dying from lead in their toys is definitely news!
How to find AB then? Well, maybe you can just have your chief product designer explain how to make a safe, cheap toy that doesn’t use paint — and as an example, he walks people through your new toy line.
Here’s another example. Your company makes a new form of personal organizer. Circle A, right? Meanwhile, it’s September, and that means back-to-school time — which media outlets are writing about. There’s your Circle B. So, AB might be “how to increase children’s organization with our new personal organizer,” or “how you can save time and your back by not having to carry so much because you use our new organizer…”
The trick is to look for AB, to satisfy both needs — i.e., your need to promote your product, and the media’s need for a story their readers will like. Make the two meet, and you can get your press releases read and used.
Think of the old Venn diagram when you write your press releases, and look for that sweet AB spot. If you do, you’re press releases will go much farther!