Marketing/Public Relations

The Power of a Press Release: Forget the Obit

Posted by M. Sharon Baker
The Power of a Press Release: Forget the Obit

There’s been much talk in the past year about press releases being dead and ineffective.

No one reads them, and journalists don’t care. That’s what some publicists and social media experts have said.

I’m not in that camp – as a journalist and as a publicist. Here’s why:  Press Releases still work to get the media’s attention and to reach customers.

I helped a new client send out a press release on July 26. The client is a new charity with a heady task: get the nation to pay down the national debt by sending in donations.

The $14.6 Trillion national debt has been the news, and a looming Aug. 2 deadline was generating a lot of attention.

Because hitching your news to a national trend is a great way to get attention, we decided to ride the wave of news surrounding the debt ceiling limit deadline.

We wrote the release playing on the crisis, and sent it out via PR Web. The intention was to send the release out into the world, letting PR Web’s vast network carry the release to all points because the issue is national, and the intended audience is all Americans.

The only media pitching we did was to the local weekly newspaper and the county’s daily newspaper. Neither responded in the first week.

The release was picked up in many places. According to PR Web stats, the release:

  • Appeared in 22, 475 news feeds in the first five days
  • 2,426 media outlets received the press release in the first five days
  • 461 people clicked on a link and read the release from a PRWeb site
  • 101 people printed, forwarded or clicked on the charity’s website link
  • 37 online media and news sites reported running the release.

 No one from the media called the first week asking about the release.

But many people did what the charity wanted: to send in a donation to pay off the national debt.

Not pleased with the lack of media coverage, we decided to see what else we could generate.

First, we sent a direct message on Twitter to The News Chick asking her whether she’d be interested in a follow up angle to the debt story, one with a local Seattle and Washington state angle.

Great, she said, asking for a guest post. We dashed off a post, which Thomas added to, and it was posted on Sunday, August 7.

The NewsChick – Linda Thomas’ Blog:   “Local effort to pay off the national debt

We’re not sure whether Thomas’ blog touched off the ensuing media onslaught or whether Monday was a slow news day, but either way, Monday was flooded with calls and emails from reporters.

The following is a list of the coverage the charity received:

August 8

KOMO Radio AM 1000/97.7 FM – short, taped radio segment

KOMO 4 TV – 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. segments on Seattle TV station

August 9

KIRO Radio FM 97.3 – Top and the bottom of the News short segment

Skagit Valley Herald – front page news story above the fold

August 10th

La Conner Weekly News: front page news story

Joe Teehan Show – radio interview KBIA AM930 in Bellingham Noon

Dori Monson show – radio  interview 97.3 KIRO FM in Seattle at 12:35

Victoria Taft Show – radio  interview KPAM AM860 in Portland at 1:45 p.m.

An Associated Press (AP) story runs in many newspapers and online news sites including: MSNBC, Seattle PI, Seattle Times, Tri-Cities Herald, Bellingham Herald, The Wenatchee World, Northwest Cable News, Tacoma News Tribune, and The Olympian, among others.

Outside Washington state, the AP item ran online on sites including The Dallas News, The Daily Journal in Indiana, Boise Idaho’s KTVB, The Citizen-Times in Ashville, California, and also out of the country in the  Victoria Advocate in Victoria, BC

August 11th

The Bob Rivers Show –  KJR 95.7 FM at 8:30 am


A week later, we had generated more than 752 Facebook likes or recommendations – without a Facebook page – but on media sites; established a Twitter handle and generated 15 followers – with no effort – and learned of several people who have decided to tackle the national debt too.

The news sites also generated more than 16 Tweets, more than 300 comments, and more than 1,500 visits to the charity’s web site.

All from a single press release, two email pitches to local papers, and one direct message on Twitter.

What results have you seen recently with your press releases? Do you think they are ineffective in reaching the media or your customers?



Content/Content Marketing/Journalism/Marketing

Why you should hire a Corporate Storyteller or Reporter, not a “Brand Journalist”

Posted by M. Sharon Baker
Why you should hire a Corporate Storyteller or Reporter, not a “Brand Journalist”

David Meerman Scott first started talking about brand journalism back in 2009.

He urged companies to hire what he calls a “brand journalist” to help companies tell their stories and help them become content publishers. 

Last month, Scott again urged marketers or companies who struggle to write great content to hire journalists to do what he calls “brand journalism.”


I love Scott’s idea, but dislike his phrase “brand journalism.”  I’m not alone.


When it was introduced, Scott’s concept touched off a flurry of debate from journalists claiming that no internal employee would ever be about to investigate their employer and write about them objectively.

Journalists worried Scott was advocating writing “advertorials,” a concept created by advertising departments to sell ad space filled with corporate product-based copy thinly disguised as editorial content.


Those attacking the concept missed the point of Scott’s idea, partly because he uses the word “journalism” which is misleading and inappropriate.


Ditch “Brand Journalism”

I’d like to propose that Scott ditch the term “Brand Journalism” and adopt a phrase more appropriate, such as “Corporate Storytelling,” which could be performed by “Corporate Reporters” or “Corporate Storytellers.” Or perhaps he could use Corporate Content Development, Branded Content, or even Custom Content Production.

I’ll admit those names aren’t as sexy. But they are less emotionally charged, not misleading and are more appropriate.

 Here’s why:

Journalists abide by a code of ethics that demands objectivity, independence, and accountability solely for the public good.


Coupling the word “journalist” with “corporate” or “brand” is an oxymoron, and an affront to practicing journalists, as Scott has learned. (And most likely enjoyed the controversy and traffic it has produced.)

I agree what journalists can do is of great benefit for marketers and companies adding content development to their marketing toolkits.

Journalists are great storytellers, fountains of ideas, and bring outside perspective and objectivity that is different than that of a customers or competitor.

They have a different mindset that starts with the audience – or for companies, that of your customers.

They write tight, have a nose for what’s newsworthy, and understand how to write for readers. They know how to turn jargon and convoluted concepts into clear prose, and relish the challenge of rendering simplicity from the complex.

Journalists know how to write quickly, how to meet deadlines and how to juggle multiple tasks and projects. When they write, they include context – why something matters, and they write about people, not products.

It’s not Journalism

Several companies are already benefitting from hiring corporate reporters, including Eloqua, which hired Jesse Noyes, who formerly worked for the Boston Herald and Boston Business Journal; and Bob Evans, formerly of InfoWorld and now communications strategist at SAP.

Other corporate reporters or storytellers include Xilinx’s Mike Santarini, Cadence Design Systems’ Richard Goering, and more recently,  Metro’s Nick Christensen, a reporter who now reports for Portland, Oregon’s regional government instead of reporting on it.

But these folks aren’t practicing journalism, they aren’t journalists, and all three would be the first to say so. They are corporate storytellers, and corporate reporters creating content that provides insight, analysis and expertise for their audiences.


Hey David, would you consider changing your sexy term to something more appropriate? Readers, what do you think?


9 Things I learned at Marketing Prof U’s Marketing Writing Bootcamp

Posted by M. Sharon Baker
9 Things I learned at Marketing Prof U’s Marketing Writing Bootcamp

During June I attended Marketing Prof University’s Marketing Writing Bootcamp, an online conference lasting two weeks.

I decided to do this because:

  • I wanted a better handle on what problems marketers face since they are my target customer.
  • I wanted to brush up on my marketing knowledge since most of my knowledge comes from practice, observation, and one or two marketing classes in college – and that was eons ago.

Many of the points made about marketing writing were similar to what I already  know and do due to my journalism training: 

  • Keep things simple
  • Use active verbs
  • Write for your reader
  • Be very specific
  • Tell stories
  • Write great headlines and
  • Write in short, bite-sized chunks

These familiar tools are already in my writing toolkit.

Because of the varied corporate work I do writing case studies, articles, white papers, and other online and public relations content, I knew a lot about the different subjects being covered.

However, I did pick up nuggets that will make my work even better.

Here are 9 nuggets I learned from the MPU bootcamp experts:  

1)  Everyone wants to be happier, smarter, healthier, richer, safer, more secure, more attractive and more successful, and you need to include at least one in your marketing copy.  A good reminder from Bill Schley.

2) If you operate in a commodity-like service area, get yourself a dominant selling idea. Bill Schley. 

3) Get buyoff on the outline of a white paper, which speeds the time it takes to create a first draft. Get several people to look at the outline to get additional feedback.  From Stephanie Tilton.

4) When creating content, think of the frequently unasked questions and answer those. From Ann Handley.

5) Infographics are great ways to mix things up. But I haven’t had time to find any good tools.

Anne Handley gave us five tools or sites to check out, and Marketing Prof’s Veronica Maria Jarski created a cool infodoodle of Ann’s ideas, shown at left.  

The info-graphics sites are:

6) What does great content looks like? Anne Handley and others gave me a good list of companies they think are creating great content.

 I hope to check out and review some of these sites, and do another post. Here are a few: Marketo, ExactTarget, Open View Ventures, Daxko and Solany.

7) Find yourself a content buddy. Friends and colleagues can point out content ideas you miss because you are too close to a situation, concept or story. Regular conversations can spark great ideas.

I’ve actually done this with Carol Tice, my writing buddy. Simple conversations have turned in to blog post ideas for both of us. From Mark Levy.

8 ) Free writing can help you see fuzzy things clearly and helps you see options you may have missed, or content you could create, says Mark Levy.

9) Take a look at things you normally dismiss, examine them and ask “Who loves this and Why do they love it?” Your answers can reveal hidden content ideas, says Mark Levy.

I haven’t listened or read all the sessions, and I’ll share additional nuggets as I find them.

Are any of these nuggets new to you? What’s one marketing writing lesson you learned recently, or rediscovered? I’d love to hear from you.

 Infographic: Veronica Maria Jarski, Marketing Profs