These days, every company wants blogs to cover their product announcements. After all, most customers rely on a Google search as their primary source of product research and increasingly trust blogs more than traditional media outlets. Guy Chapman’s excellent “how-to” for corporate content on Wikipedia (trust me, it’s a must-read!) brought to mind one key area where many corporate marketers still fall short: Product launch collateral. Even as they increasingly turn to bloggers for coverage, marketers still rely on the same stale “press kit” components from yesteryear. This new media world needs a new kind of collateral!
One way to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to news sources is their reliance on press releases. Sites that routinely copy and paste whole paragraphs from press releases (or even the entire release) are cutting corners and losing relevance. Readers know it, and marketers should, too. These sites aren’t really blogs; they’re platforms for banner ads. Consider what this says about the content of press releases. If they’re providing content for sites to use verbatim, then they’re targeting the wrong ones.
Instead of the same old list of executive quotes, product announcements should provide the information writers need to cover an announcement:
- The basic facts: Product and company name along with version number or identifier
- What is it? What does it do?
- What’s new or different from previous products?
- How does it compare with competing products or otherwise fit into the market?
- Pricing: How much does it cost? Give ball-park figures at least, and don’t low-ball it with unrealistic configurations
Like conventional reporters, bloggers are looking for a “lede” – a concise statement they can build on when they write. Tell them what they need to get thinking and working rather than trying to feed them fully-formed thoughts and quotes.
Must-Haves For Web Coverage
Press releases aren’t dead and can be a useful summary for modern writers, but it’s amazing how many lack the basics. How can we properly cover a product without a URL? How can readers engage with a company without Twitter, Facebook, or other web links?
Every press release should include these web-friendly features:
- A unique, short, and consistent URL for this release. Readers want to click through to the product they’ve been reading about, and marketers want to lead them right to it. So why do so many press releases lack a product URL or lack a web address entirely?
- Tell us where readers can interact with the company itself. Many corporations now have official Twitter accounts, a topic to be covered later, and these should be included in every announcement. The same goes for corporate blogs or Facebook pages.
- Media content should be covered by an open license. Like Guy Chapman, I prefer the CC-by-SA license since it allows me to legally use and adapt your photos for my blog. Non-commercial or non-derivative licenses are right out. I won’t use content covered by these!
- We can’t use “confidential” material! Corporations are so used to tagging everything “confidential” that everyone seems to have forgotten what that really means. If that is included in every slide, we can’t use them to illustrate our coverage.
Sure, not everyone pays attention to licenses and confidentiality. But not everyone abides by embargoes or writes original content, either. Corporations can cater to the hacks or instead focus on the best and brightest. We all know who has the best audience!
Blog-Friendly Collateral: Photos and More
The web is a visual medium, and video is rapidly gaining value as well. Plain-text product announcements just don’t cut it anymore! Every company should post “media kits” online complete with photos, diagrams, and videos. As mentioned above, they should also make sure their license allows reuse and modification by writers
Companies should include a number of high-quality images with product announcements. The best press kits include a number of “hero” shots showing just the product as well as a few “environmental” shots to give us an idea of its place in the world. Check out the excellent shots provided by Iomega, for example. Photographers: Make sure the product doesn’t blend into the background: Black boxes in coal bins aren’t that attractive!
Product materials should also illustrate unique capabilities with useful diagrams. Many high-tech products are difficult to comprehend, and a clear illustration goes a long way. Don’t include too much text on these, either: A writer will likely have their own angle on the technology and won’t want to compete with canned text. For example, Cisco does a great job of illustrating complex networking concepts.
As video becomes more popular, many vendors are including these as well. It’s best to post videos to public sites like Vimeo or YouTube so writers can embed it without having to host it on their own servers. And a few short videos about different concepts beats a single all-encompassing video any day. Apple does a great job of producing these short videos, though they host them at their own site.
A New Kind Of Press Kit
Rather than the same old press release, why not try something different? Include web-friendly features, from URLs to videos, and roll everything in a license that allows reuse and the quality of coverage will improve!
Image credit: Photos inside by tanakawho