press releases

Video Story Pitches = the Steak in the Sizzle for Startups

The best asset for a startup business is the entrepreneur who risked everything to start it. Their face in a video story pitch can more than compensate for the money, skill and established rapport of larger businesses.

The best asset for a startup business is the entrepreneur who risked everything to start it. Their face in a video story pitch can more than compensate for the money, skill and established rapport of larger businesses.

Startups usually don’t set aside pots of money for marketing. To get noticed, they need low-cost options with a decent chance of success.

Writing for EntrepreneurJennifer Spencer offers some suggestions, starting with video story pitches.

Established firms with a PR agency or in-house staff have existing relationships with local reporters and key trade press publications. The best asset for most startups is the founder. There is no better way to pitch a story than in the voice of the founder.

A video literally puts a face to the pitch, Spencer says, showcasing the brains behind the new business. That can spark interest and stand out in a crowded queue of pitches written by public relations professionals.

Written press releases can include quotes from the CEO, while a video pitch conveys context in a conversational tone. It’s as if he or she is personally sharing their views or telling an interesting story, because he or she is personally sharing a view or a telling the story.

Standard story pitches have embraced multi-media. Video story pitches also can be accompanied by infographics, charts, images and B-roll video.

Video story pitches still need to be news worthy. No fluff or self-serving CEO quotes. And production values matter.

Video story pitches still need to be news worthy. No fluff or self-serving CEO quotes. And production values matter.

Well-conceived and engaging videos used for story pitches can be repurposed as social media content, which isn’t true of typical text-based press releases. Video content attracts more clicks and has wider generational appeal.

Creativity is useful in developing story-pitch videos. There aren’t really too many restraints. For example, a video might include short clips of endorsers for a new product or a visual explanation for how to use a product.

Another creative use of a video story pitch is to newsjack, the art of piggybacking on a trending story to gain attention for your brand. A lot of newsjacking occurs on Twitter, so a video story pitch can be an attention-grabbing variation that can make its way onto traditional media websites and social media platforms.

Think of video story pitches as teasers. Produce longer versions or a series of clips that can be shared in response to media inquiries or as extenders if the media picks up your story.

Video story pitches still need to be newsworthy. You need a captivating news hook. Fluff won’t cut it. Self-serving quotes don’t come across any better on video than in print. Poor production can undermine the effort.

As things stack up, lacking financial resources could even be an advantage. It will force you to be inventive, authentic and engaging – more or less, the steak in the sizzle of any good story pitch.

Gary Conkling Image.jpg

Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

 

The Case for the Press Release

The press release, despite a checkered past, remains a valuable tool in the digital era to tell a good story.

The press release, despite a checkered past, remains a valuable tool in the digital era to tell a good story.

The press release has been a public relations staple, a pariah and a candidate for burial. But it is still around and, in the digital era, may be enjoying new life.

Ridiculed as self-promoting puffery, press releases don’t have to be stuffed with smarmy statements by company executives. Instead they can be engaging storytelling platforms. 

With slimmer news staffs, credible, well-written press releases can tell an entire story for a news reporter or producer and entice them to pursue it. Or, in some cases, they can use the press release as the stem for their own story.

See one of our recent press releases, and then check out how it translated into a story in The Oregonian

The storytelling press release also can be original content placed on your own website or online newsroom. Your online newsroom can and should be designed to look and feel like a “news” site. And your content, including press releases, should resemble the news.

Some good uses of press releases include:

•  Distilling a story with complexity to its comprehensible essence.

•  Highlighting elements of a story that have human interest and are entertaining or unusual.

•  Conveying meaningful, on-point quotes without an in-person or on-camera interview.

•  Providing the backstory to an event or milestone.

•  Calls to action that drive trackable traffic to your website or online newsroom.

•  Offering background information, visual assets, links and contact information that make following a story easier.

•  Gaining wider exposure than a single channel.

A rule of thumb is that the newsier a press release reads, the more likely it will gain some traction in a newsroom – or on your own online newsroom.

Vanity press releases have less appeal to the media – and readers – than press releases that are audience-centric. The key is providing quality content that is readable and even enjoyable.

Call it brand journalism or anything else, your press release can do the job if it’s clear, clever or convincing and it’s credible. If you want to make the news, your press release needs to be newsworthy – in content, approach and style. It needs to tell a genuine story.

Advice for Aspiring PR Pros

Dear PR Student:

The best advice for would-be PR professionals is to learn as much as you can about as many subjects as you can, starting with journalism.

The best advice for would-be PR professionals is to learn as much as you can about as many subjects as you can, starting with journalism.

Congratulations. You are embarking on a fascinating career ride in public relations. Here is some unsolicited advice that may come in handy.

1. Take journalism classes. You very likely will be asked to write press releases. You should know what it's like to receive one.

Understanding news media needs and demands puts you in a better position to help, not just send an email with a news release. The goal is to get your client's message into print, online or on air. Having first-hand knowledge of how news is identified, researched, prepared and delivered can guide when and how you approach reporters and editors, as well as what you serve up to them.

Volunteering to work for a student newspaper is a great way to get experience. It will ground you in basics such as Associated Press style and serve as a reminder of grammar. It also will force you to write with the reader, not a client, in mind.

2. Be a liberal arts student. PR clients come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Their needs will stretch your knowledge. There is no way to know in advance everything you will need to know. The best you can do is to learn how to learn — fast.

Luckily, that is what a liberal arts education is intended to provide. All those non-major requirements may seem like boxes to check en route to a degree. In fact, they are important way stations to widen your horizon, to open your mind to knowledge you may have had no idea how to acquire or assimilate.

Take a physics class. You will be surprised how valuable it can be in understanding new technology. Take an economics class so your client's business plan doesn't look like gibberish.

3. Learn the tools of the trade. One of the exciting dimensions of public relations is that it deals with an environment that changes at the speed of light. Ten years ago, designing and building a website was a rarity. Today it is an imperative. Five years ago, people thought social media was a fad. Now it is viewed as an important communication channel.

The PR world five years from now is likely to be very different. However, you won't be able to leverage what's new if you aren't rooted in what's worked for a long time. A great example is how to fashion an effective presentation. The software may change and the animation may be cooler, but the fundamentals of a presentation that does its job won't be all that different.

You may write on an iPad or dictate into your Google glasses, but solid writing transcends the tools. Knowing how to tell a story and basic principles of design, which are universal, are foundation skills you should develop.

4. Know your chosen profession's history. PR professionals in the future will face an increasingly complex set of challenges in choosing the best platforms and the most resonant channels. A knowledge of how PR professionals in the past innovated is invaluable.

The use of events, contests, third-party validation, outrageous stunts, clever ads, smart writing and guest columns were all new in their time. Study to see how these ideas evolved so you understand, with some helpful perspective, how you go from problem to solution with creativity and élan. You don't need to discover gravity or reinvent the wheel. You can learn from your peers how they did it, so you can do it, too.

Talking with Customers Not at Them

Nintendo company leadership (pictured here in puppet form) made the mistake of talking at their customers rather than with them during the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo.  

Nintendo company leadership (pictured here in puppet form) made the mistake of talking at their customers rather than with them during the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo.  

Talking directly to your customers is often a great way to tell your story. However, this approach can have unintended consequences.

Nintendo learned this lesson after an angry reaction from its customers following its presentation at the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). In 2013, Nintendo made the decision to forgo use of press releases to announce new offerings and instead communicate directly with consumers through pre-recorded video broadcasts. For the past two years, the broadcasts have been well-received. 

However, this year’s broadcast backfired and fans were very angry about Nintendo’s new game offerings. After more information about the games was released, the initial reactions started to soften, but some of the damage was already done. Here are three things that Nintendo could have done to prevent negative reactions from its fans. 

1. Allow for two-way communication
Communicating to your customers directly can be a great idea, but make sure that communication offers some form of two-way communication. It's important to talk with your customers, not at them. Nintendo’s pre-recorded video statement did not allow anyone – fans or journalists – to ask questions. If fans and journalists had the opportunity to ask questions, many initial concerns could have been assuaged, and Nintendo could offer more context. 

2. Give an exclusive preview to a small group
Also, with an interactive medium like video games, video trailers are not the best way to demonstrate what the experience of playing a video game is like. Nintendo might consider allowing a small group of bloggers and journalists to play the games prior to its announcement, with an agreement that they would not post their thoughts until after the broadcast. 
 
3. Perform research
While Nintendo is a creative company that offers unique products, the company sometimes seems hopelessly out of touch with what its fans actually want. The E3 offerings demonstrated a clear disconnect. Part of the miscommunication might be attributed to cultural differences since Nintendo is a Japanese company. However, if the company was better at testing its messaging with fans, it could avoid similar difficulties in the future. 
 

Make Noise to Make News

If you want news coverage for your brand, make news. If you don't have any legitimate news, then make noise. 

There is a lot of competition for coverage — in the traditional press, trade press and blogosphere. Sending cookie-cutter press releases is akin to folding a paper airplane and pushing it out the window.

Even press releases with sharp story hooks may not turn into coverage because of bad timing or a reporter is chasing what he or she thinks is better story. Reporters face a new dynamic in how they are evaluated and compensated — their ability to post stories that attract clicks and reader reaction. A great story that elicits a broad smile is not as valuable these days as a story that will spark online comments.

That's where noise fits in. Noisy subjects elicit reactions, which is what reporters and editors want.

Making noise involves something quite different than adding audio or video to your press release. It means finding or creating activity that is noisy enough to break the sound barrier of today's crowded marketplace.

Dewey Weddington, who calls himself the Chief Fermentor at Ferment Marketing, describes how he created noise for SakeOne by teaming with prominent chefs in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Beverly Hills and, of course, Portland. He provided sake to each chef and allowed them total freedom to create dishes using the product. 

Writers in Chicago showed up because of their curiosity at the idea of pairing food with sake based on its aroma, flavor and texture. The gambit earned coverage in Beverly Hills at the Red O because of the seeming paradox of pairing sake with Mexican cuisine. A similar sensation was created at Andina in Portland, which paired its Peruvian-influenced offerings with sake, earning it valuable TV coverage.

Press Releases: Publish Yourself

Where will you send your press releases if traditional print and broadcast news outlets continue to shrivel or move to new business models? Maybe you should consider publishing your own press releases.

The emergence of the Internet and social media has eroded the economic footings of traditional media. Fewer reporters and no room in the news hole have replaced reportorial skepticism of spoon-fed press releases.

At the same time, Web sites and social media afford opportunities to interact directly with customers and constituents. You can post your press releases so customers and constituents can read them without the filter of a reporter, copy editor and headline writer.