Public Relations Writing: Lesson #4 - p. 2

Product releases

    Product releases are a different type of announcement release – but for all their differences, they are still among that wide category of press releases known as announcement releases. That is, they are not

      Spot news, or
      Bad news, or
      Response/reaction releases

    or other types of releases where you, the PR writer, do not have control of the release date.

    As with other announcement releases, you do have control of the release date when you write a product release. But you have to take a slightly different approach.

    What is a product release? It is an announcement release that you do as part of a marketing campaign for a new product.

    By the way, a product release can also be a "service" release – A marketing campaign may intorduce a new service, as well as a new product – especially in our growing service economy.

    Obviously, a new product or service is always 'news' in a trade magazine – and often you'll get listed without even trying, in the "new products" columns of the local papers. But that's not the objective of a product release.

    Even a secretary who mails out a brochure to the 'trades' will get the product noticed – But PR Writers worth their salt are not going to be satisfied with the trades or the "new products" columns – that might be good enough for the grad students at other schools, but Columbia College professionals are going to strive to put their client's new product or service on the front page – or at least the front page of the business section – or education section, or food section – as news!

    In order to make it 'news' you have to give your story a sharp news angle as you prepare your Message Planner. With a product release, even more than other types of release, you can expect the editor to ask "So What?" There will be a lot of skepticism that you are simply trying to get a free ad out of it, rather than helping the editor with a good news story. You have to anticipate that skepticism, and head it off. Good thing you know what editors look for in a news story, isn't it...?

    Now you have to go the next step, and write your press release 'backwards' so the editor doesn't throw it away as a cheap marketing ploy. If your release looks like a product promotion flier, why should the editor entertain it for a minute? He or she is all about news, not pushing new products. 'Backwards', in this case, means going from the general to the specific.

    Now, this is very important to keep in mind: Instead of leading with the 5 W's in your first paragraph, your release will begin by establishing the need for your product or service. What problem does it solve. What need does it fill? Why is it "news" that a social value is crying for attention, and your product or service is just the solution that folks have been waiting for?

    Once you've established that need, without hype, then you can work your way back to the wonders of the product itself. This may mean that the brand name of the manufacturer or service provider – that is, your client – may not get mentioned until the second page of the release.

    Every marketing campaign for a new product or service highlights a USP – a unique selling proposition – which gives the product its market niche. Your new soap isn't like any other soap. It floats! Oh, there's already a soap that floats? Then yours floats and it's half the price of the other one that floats. There's already another half-price floating soap? Then yours is cheap, floats, and is shaped like a cell phone – get the picture? Hopefully your USP will be a little more persuasive than my example...

    Whatever your USP, your job as a PR writer will be to set the stage for the product – in effect, to create the context for the features your product promises... If your product is the answer, what's the question?? – that's what you'll be putting in place.

    Go on to the next page.

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