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The journalist in me makes it impossible to stop reading press releases. I just can’t do it.  Once a news assignment editor, always a news assignment editor apparently, and part of that job has always been to forage for news via press releases, police scanners, newspapers, beat calls, while eavesdropping during lunch or through any other means that brings in a good story.

But now, since I am no longer responsible for determining what to divulge to the masses during a 22 minute news hole, I’m reading and digesting them a bit differently.

I can now analyze them a bit, laugh at the long-winded nature of many who write them and look for cool things to share with people in my networks.

There is a trend I’m noticing of late. It’s the press release announcing a new twitter account or Facebook page.  (I’ve written about this before.)

If you’re expecting a rant on this one, I may disappoint because I want to think this through a bit more as I type. It seems insane on the surface, but is it really any different than announcing a new product or service?  If your twitter account is a new service, then perhaps it does require a press release. Today I came across 2Insure4Less.com announcing its new twitter page to “share insurance news and answer consumer questions.” 

And before I say anything bad, I have to give them credit for not assuming that every reader would be well-versed on twitter as indicated in this excerpt:

The posts, commonly known as “tweets,” provide insurance-related guidelines, advice and news about legislation and others’ missteps.

They even take it a step further to announce what types of tweets a follower might expect to see:

Many tweets are for national or international trends or phenomena such as a link to a report from Insurance News Net about the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s reinforcement of its tsunami warning systems within the United States since the Indonesia 2004 disaster. The article also describes the National Weather Service’s TsunamiReady program and shares recommendations from the Insurance Information Institute. Other posts address the interests of residents in specific states.

And if you want to read a few previous tweets, just to be sure following the account is a good idea,  there’s this: Read the rest of this entry »

My recent blog post about Peter Shankman’s press release prediction caused quite a conversation. In case you missed it, Shankman predicted that the press release would be dead in 36 months at a TIMA presentation in Raleigh last week.
So, I contacted Peter and asked him to respond to some of the comments left on the post. And he did.

Danny Brown wrote:

“With respect to Peter, I’d have to disagree. I would be more inclined to say that the press release will evolve and take advantage of the newer ways to communicate, but dead? I can’t see it, personally.”

Shankman’s response:

A press release on Twitter or on a Blog is as pointless as a press release itself. What good will it do? Give me information NOW, to the point, and how I want it. A three page press release, with each company blowing smoke up the other’s a__ about how great it is to merge is BS. “We merged with company ABC today to create company ABCD. This will give our customers more options, more sales, and more products. It’s good.” That’s what I need. If I want more, I’ll find it.

Johnnypr wrote:

“It’s certainly on life support but agree that it still has a chance to evolve, I just wish companies would avoid releases that start with the company name and how great they are.”

I asked Peter: “Does the press release have time to evolve?”

Shankman’s response:
Yes – The press release can evolve into NOT BEING A PRESS RELEASE. It can evolve into relevant information, when I need it, how I need it, and what I want it to be. End of story. Again, 3 pages of fluff doesn’t do it for me, or for the next generation.

Danny Brown also wrote:

“The press release is still one of the most useful mediums for recognized news sources. The newer social media release format will only encourage this, and used with a search engine optimized press release will be an incredibly powerful tool to reach as many outlets (media and otherwise) as possible.

I asked Peter: “Does this comment make you change your stance at all?”

Shankman’s response:

Useful and recognizable for who? I had a PR flack show me all the press he “got” for his client once. You know what he showed me? 35 pages of his PRESS RELEASE, REPRINTED on search engines. I literally drop-kicked him out the door.

And finally, Heleana Quartey wrote on her blog:

“One thing this argument does forget is there are still many niche trade publications that aren’t even online, and clients that don’t even read e-newsletters, never mind Twitter, so they don’t value ‘online coverage’.

I asked Peter: “What will happen to these people if they continue to stay offline?”

Shankman’s response:
Back in 1993, a Wall Street Journal reporter said to a mentor of mine, “Yeah, if this Internet thing ever goes mainstream, call me.”Enough said.
Alrighty then! Thanks Peter for sending me your responses.
Any more thoughts?

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shankman111208Those aren’t my words, but the words of PR and marketing guru, entrepreneur extraordinaire, author and all around crazy man, Peter Shankman who you may know as @Skydiver on twitter.

I attended an TIMA event in downtown Raleigh today where Shankman was the speaker. Having served on a panel with him at the same venue just one short year ago I knew that we were in for some innovative trains of thought.

So, Shankman declared in a room full of mostly interactive sales and marketing folks that the beloved press release will be dead in 36 months. He asked if anyone in the room had even read one recently, and the number of hands that flew up were slim. He drove home four points:

Transparency, relevancy, brevity and “top of mind presence.”

He says if your clients can’t send their message in 140 characters of less, it needs to change. He also said PowerPoint is for the weak, but that’s a topic for another discussion.

Interested in some of Shankman’s other colorful quips and trains of thought? Here are all of my tweets from the event in chronological order: BTW, I’m @communitygirl on twitter.

  • communitygirl: @skydiver tells me he has no idea what he will say to this audience of 100 plus.
  • communitygirl: @skydiver has taken the podium. He is a wild man. Says powerpoint is for the weak!
  • communitygirl: @skydiver says social media doesn’t exist. Gives the power to screw up many times over.
  • communitygirl: You can’t make something viral. You can make it good and it becomes viral. @skydiver
  • communitygirl: Social media is more like human nature per @skydiver. He helped launch the AOL newsroom without a clue.
  • communitygirl: Too many self proclaimed social media experts says @skydiver.
  • communitygirl: @skydiver says google will be the winner of the profile war. People in this audience say LinkedIn is more professional than facebook.
  • communitygirl: @skydiver predicts the press release will be dead in 36 months! Anyone agree?
  • communitygirl: Teach clients that if they can’t send the message in 140 characters it needs to change. Per @skydiver
  • communitygirl: You have to like social media. If you don’t it will be obvious. If the PR guy blogs for the CEO people know it. @skydiver
  • communitygirl: @skydiver says the personal vs professional profile will go away in 12 months. You will have one profile on whatever network wins!
  • communitygirl: Ever heard of unjust tagging? How about facebook purgatory? I will blog about it later. @skydiver is a fun speaker. Hilarious!
  • communitygirl: Kids growing up with technology will be smart about it. No need to pity them at all says @skydiver.
  • communitygirl: @skydiver is now talking about top of mind presence. Use social media to the point of “remembering.”

I couldn’t tweet everything, as i also needed to eat lunch, but those are a few highlights. Tomorrow I will blog about two concepts Shankman shared: Facebook Purgatory, and Unjust tagging. Pretty funny stuff. Yeah, he’s definitely a wild man.

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I’ve been an assignment manager at numerous TV stations throughout my career, and that involved making hard decisions about news coverage. There was always more than we needed and the day file was typically flooded with news releases.

Unfortunately, most of them found a home in the bottom of the recycling bin. I know that’s not what you want to hear if you are the one who poured over the document with the goal of creating a masterpiece, but it’s true. The good news is you have the power to change that.

Here is what you can do to keep your press release out of the recycling bin and the deleted items folder of Outlook.

  • Make them shorter! A press release is not a novel. Remember that.
  • Stop burying the lead. If the reader has to read through three paragraphs to find the most pertinent information, he never will.
  • Write a snappy headline. Try headlines that are five words or less, and make it descriptive. Avoid long company names. I don’t need to read the company’s name in the headline unless its a major news maker.
  • Experiment with different layouts. Are the words”for immediate release” a necessity? Think about it.
  • Stop using the phrase “for immediate release.” I know it’s customary but isn’t that assumed in most cases?
  • Ditch the history lesson and provide links. Is it necessary to provide such lengthy paragraphs about the history of each company mentioned? Try using “for more information” and providing links to additional information.

I suggest playing around with your press releases with the goal of making them mean and lean. And now for something fun. I will transform a press releases (into a mean, lean informational machine, (free of charge, of course) for the first two people who send me an e-mail with “Make me mean and lean” as the subject.

I will contact you later requesting the press release of your choice and we will go from there. All you have to do is give me permission to display the original and the new version in a future blog post.

Send it to angeladconnor-at-yahoo.com.

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This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry.

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