Archive for the ‘Writing press releases’ Category

New Address for Word Currency

March 6, 2008

TO: Word Currency readers and cohorts –

This blog is now hosted on the Smith-Winchester website. New address: www.smith-winchester.com/wordpress.

Please visit and update your feed or aggregator. We’re launching a series on the impact of “potent messages”(as opposed to wishy-washy ones). Hope you can join us.

-David Gordon Schmidt

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New PR Paradigm

November 27, 2007

Here’s the second installment from our CEO Emeritus, Charlie Weaver… from his recently-finished article that explores customer-created brands and the new battle for mindshare.

 

For some, public relations has become the new magic bullet. In their book, The Fall of Advertising & The Rise of PR, marketing strategists Al Reis and Laura Reis make a strong case for Public Relations as the lead marketing tool for those attuned to the new branding and communications realities.

The authors argue that traditional advertising has lost its communications function and, by extension, it’s role in development of mindshare. The primary purpose of advertising, they assert, is to defend a brand once it has been built by public relations and related third-party tactics.

It’s tough to argue with success. Many of the world’s most powerful brands have been built with little or no advertising. Google, Starbucks, eBay and dozens of other category leaders have risen to prominence on the strength of the new public-relations paradigm.

Or have they? While there is solid evidence that positive third-party media coverage played a strong role in propelling these and other brands into the public consciousness, it’s not time to transfer all your eggs into the PR basket just yet.

Pets.com Wimpers and Disappears

Take Pets.com, the ill-fated dot com start-up that set out to revolutionize the way people bought pet food. The venture capitalists ponied up $50 million. The technology gurus built a killer website. And the marketing team breathed life into the Pets.com sock puppet – a hit with consumers and an instant classic in advertising circles.

So what went wrong? Some would argue that this was a prime example of the growing inability of mass media advertising to connect in a meaningful way with its target audience.

It seemed that TV viewers, while entertained, could not be moved by the self-serving messages of an unknown brand. Yet Pets.com and its dot com contemporaries didn’t lack for PR either. Newspapers, consumer magazines and other media outlets overflowed with glowing reports of the dot com revolution and its power to liberate and empower consumers. Pets.com was one of the revolution’s early heroes and the recipient of lavish media coverage.

Trouble is, no one thought to check with the consumer. Brands like Pets.com, HomeGrocer.com, Jobster and TripHub didn’t fail from lack of effective PR, or because traditional advertising no longer worked, but because they didn’t have a viable value proposition and didn’t deliver a brand experience anyone cared about. They disappeared because they couldn’t convert mindshare into paying customers.

Linux Community

Then there’s Linux – the number one brand in the open-source software category and poster child for the PR model of mindshare building. However, the Linux brand wasn’t built by PR, but by a passionate and committed community of users and developers. PR followed mindshare, more than creating it.

Linux software grew out of a project at the University of Helsinki and was placed on the Internet where it was made freely available to programmers who could apply and modify it to suit themselves. It wasn’t owned by anyone. So there was no one to advertise it. And no one to send out PR releases touting it.

The power of The Linux brand, first popularized in the mid to late 1990’s, came from its ability to deliver a high-value functional brand experience consistent with the psycho-social and emotional mindsets of Linux users. They supported and defended the brand, first and foremost, because they passionately believe in it. Champions of the Linux brand were completely self-selecting – they themselves created the compelling experiences that gave the brand power. In the process, the lines between commerce and community virtually disappeared.

It wasn’t until after the Linux brand was embraced by the technology community, that companies like Red Hat and Novell refined it and built businesses providing related support and services. The brand came first, its commercialization second.
The same basic process unfolded with online brands such as social networking site MySpace and video sharing powerhouse YouTube.

Viral YouTube

From its May2005 launch, it took YouTube just six months to achieve national brand status, and under two years to command a $1.6 billion buyout from Google. Advertising had no role in YouTube brand ascendancy. And PR came along only after YouTube had been canonized by its user community and experienced by the millions who flocked online to get in on the fun.

Like Linux and MySpace, the YouTube brand was a viral marketing phenomenon—experience-driven, community-based, and pulled into existence by brand acolytes, rather than pushed by the brand’s originator.

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To read the entire article “The New Mindshare: Rise of the Customer-Created Brand”

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Wired Magazine Embarrasses PR Folk

November 19, 2007

Several weeks ago, Wired Magazine’s chief editor, Chris Anderson, took his “revenge” on the PR industry by posting on his blog, The Long Tail, the email addresses of several hundred PR people that sent him inappropriate press releases. The response was immediate and huge; over 300 comments on the blog.

Many agreed with him that PR people can be lazy and should stop spamming press releases without understanding a publication’s or editor’s needs and interests. Others blasted him for contributing to the spammer’s harvest with his spiteful on-line listing of hundreds of email addresses. Several cited the annoying spam they endure from Wired media sales reps bugging them to buy advertising space. My favorite was a short one: “Get Over Yourself.”

My take on this:

Yeah, yeah, true, PR staffers distribute press releases too far and wide. Why doesn’t Mr. Anderson do what many publications do and have an intern or clerical person sift through the public email box (or a “press-releases@” address) and keep a private address for his own network?

So now, instead, he’s into the shame game, embarrassing people from major PR firms like Edelmen. If “PR people” do nothing else, they talk. Does he really want a lot of them as Wired enemies?

My colleague, David Meerman Scott, agrees that PR people are spammers. His blog readers joined in heavily in the debate. David’s book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, available from his site, is deep with alternatives to smothering journalists with press releases, by the way.

As for me, I’m not greatly impressed any more with Wired. Maybe I’ve been reading it too long. I do however thank them for inspiring the “It’s Lame” and It’s Game” format within this blog. Unfortunately, Wired is getting somewhat Tired.

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3200 PR Colleagues

November 14, 2007

IT’s GAME

A few weeks ago I attended the Public Relations Society of America national convention in Philadelphia. We’ll be hosting next year’s convention here in Detroit in twelve months.

Great networking, to be sure. Keynote speakers included Tim Russert (Meet the Press), an inspiration … as well as Donna Brazile. But this large a gathering begs the question:

What do you get when you put 3200 PR people in one room together? Obviously, a real lot of conversation. Sharing, caring, minimal blaring. A kind of Interview-apolooza.

IT’s LAME

From the convention floor, a concensus from the technology types: the word “enable.” Very over-used.

PRSA

That Single Idea

PR pro Ann Wylie writes in her current Writing Tips e-newsletter about sticking to a single idea in your messaging. Timely, with an election year approaching. As Ann says: “The more messages you cover in a campaign or communication, the less people will remember. So count the number of messages you’ve crafted. If the total is more than one, you have too many.”

She mentions Bill Clinton adviser James Carville and his gospel of “exclusivity.”

Carville says the communicators’ toughest job is to convince the client to stick to one message or theme. “People say I fill empty vessels,” he says. “But I empty full vessels.”

To subscribe to Ann Wylie’s occasional Writing Tips
e-newsletter.

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Borrowing Terms From the Paranormal

September 5, 2007

 

IT’S GAME

Borrowing words from the paranormal “sciences” is kind of fun (with the Halloween season right around the corner). Especially since technology-driven business sometimes gets out of hand and becomes a little spooky. Try these words for impact in your business writings.

Automatism

Sounds like an automation ailment to me. Why not? In the paranormal world, it means an unconscious and spontaneous muscular movement caused by the spirits.

Apparition

Paranormal business

Every have a derailed, dormant, disembodied project suddenly rear its ugly head, startling everyone at the conference table?

Oracle

The well-known software company notwithstanding.

Retrocognition

My favorite. Company management folks often find themselves “living in the past.” Unfortunately, they don’t also always recognize the reoccurring business outcomes that ought to feel like a 2-ton Déjà vu.

Teleportation

A way to eliminate shipping costs completely.

Scrying

Ever seen a CEO do this? Scrying is a prophecy in which the fortune-teller predicts the future while staring into a mirror. (Crystal balls with logos are common also.)

 

 

IT’S LAME (hall of fame)

Synergy.

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Sure, But Is it Cost-Effective?

July 17, 2007

IT’S LAME

A couple of suggestions from colleague Dave Arnesen:

1) “Cost-Effective.”

 

It’s supposed to mean that you get lots of “effect” for minimum cost…. maximized “bang for the buck.” But the term is lame because it’s tame…and way over-used.

Like “innovative,” it’s one of those adjectives you throw in because it sounds good and, what the heck, why not? In business writing, both PR and advertising, we’re almost all guilty of it. We can’t really say that the product is “cheap,” and we can’t stick our neck out and position the pricing specifically against the competition. We could and should be talking ROI. How about “cost-assertive?”

When was the last time you heard anyone ask a salesperson “Is this product cost-effective?”

Cost-Effective Money

2) “Total Solutions Provider”

So, is this opposed to a “Partial Solutions Provider?”

IT’S GAME

“River.” As in “a river of new ideas.”

Also in style: Dennis Miller-type metaphors used in technical articles (with presumably a little less political agenda).

Example: “plow through coding tasks like a monster truck at a tea party.”

(Credit to Joel Spolsky, Fog Creek Software – Inc, 5/07)

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Babble Ain’t Just for Us Techno-Babblers No More

June 20, 2007

Jargon in promotional communications is bad enough. But bloated, almost nonsensical babble can be even worse. Especially when it’s long and protracted…what you might call”Ramble-Babble.”

Eric Webber (Webber/McJ Communications (Austin, TX) recently railed on some poignant examples of abuse in his Advertising Age column. (June 4, 2007). Quoted from Hastings, a company that sells books, music and movies: “(our goal is to) satisfy our customers’ desires for personal entertainment and information through total customer satisfaction.” Wow.

From another communications company: “We are developing sustainable communications programs that actually revolve around what we have learned, through systems thinking, are in the customer’s best interests.”

Laudable.

IT’S LAME

Thanks to Jessica Wayland (PR Pro from the Detroit Economic Club) for several suggestions, including:

“Innovative”

How sweet the sound. Find it used on 188 million web pages.

It’s in the running for our “most overused adjective” award (to be bestowed soon). The question is raised: if everything offered in the business world is innovative, what’s the opposite and when should it be used? “Conventional” often describes the dreaded Brand X when comparisons are made to the competition.

I have an answer. When presenting both your standard and the really-cool-revved-up version of your product, refer to them this way: “To meet your needs, you can choose our innovative Maverick XT or settle for our uninspired Mainstay Model A.”

IT’S GAME

“Rudder”

 

A noun: even better as a verb. When you’re talking about direction.

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Slough Off the Cruft

May 21, 2007

A few more observations about overused words mentioned in David Meerman Scott’s blog post Gobbledygook Manifesto. By the way, his book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR, is coming in June. I’ve seen an advance copy – lots of information and ideas on building networks (and customers) via blogs and RSS.

IT’S LAME

“World class.”

The term seems to suggest that, no matter where the reader lives, there is always somewhere else in the world where everyone has higher standards than “us undiscerning schmucks that live right here.” Once upon a time, “world class” indicated that the product or product design was viable on more than one continent. Then it became a favorite edit-in adjective to imply that the product or service is so great that it ought to be deemed the standard of the world. Result of overuse: it’s almost as trite as “super.”

“Easy to use.” Yep, nothing’s hard.

IT’S GAME

“Cruft.”

It signifies anything unpleasant that accumulates over time. As in dust under the bed. You could use it to describe an efficiency-stealing bad habit that makes operations progressively worse.

“Comport.”

Synonym for “behave” or “conduct.” As in: ” Jason’s tech savvy lets him comport himself with confidence.”

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Robust Me

May 2, 2007

IT’S LAME

“Oh jeez, not another flexible, scalable, groundbreaking, industry-standard, cutting-edge product from a market-leading, well-positioned company! I think I’m gonna puke!” says marketing advice author David Meerman Scott in his blog post Gobbledygook Manifesto. He tallied several hundred thousand press releases last year with help from the wire services and news aggregators, and found over-use of bloated and vague terms like “robust,” “world class,” and “easy to use.”

The adjective “robust” has always been a little fuzzy in my book. It could mean “heavy duty,” or “purposely over-designed.” Or does it simply mean that, as opposed to being barely capable of doing the job it’s intended to do, the product in question is really, really, absolutely designed and/or built to do the job it’s intended to do?

More on Gobbledygook words soon.

 

IT’S GAME

“Pulse” as a verb.

As in: “information that pulses through the network,” or “the extra throughput tends to pulse the bottom line.” Use it to convey vibrancy, authority, intensity or resilience.

pulse marketing communications

 

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Nowhere Else in Any Universe

April 3, 2007

IT’S LAME: “Unparalleled”

Yes, it’s of epic proportion. It’s of cosmic consequence. It’s unparalleled.

It seems that nearly every company and every product is unparalleled these days. How is this possible? Does anyone believe it, or does using this adjective without including substantiation merely serve to build skepticism of all the words and claims that follow it.

62% of the business editors Smith-Winchester surveyed recently deemed “unparalleled” to be overused in business publicity. The majority also indicated that “Unsurpassed” was also overused. Our suggestion: back up the claim…and use only it if you can. By the way, “unparalleled” isn’t a synonym for “unique.”

IT’S GAME: “Rich Medium”

The multiple meaning of the word “medium” can serve you well. Use it creatively to refer to an industrial controls environment, or a business environment resulting from a trend….a software capability or communications mode… a culture for growing things, like ideas (literally or figuratively). Mix in a dash of prognostication, on occasion.

Hot Link

Podcasts from Grammer Girl may actually prove that someone can make grammar tips popular. She’s getting national press. And it’s about time that someone helped us all get tuned into the rules. Check out her blog Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

Grammar Girl blog

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