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Cutting out the US

Cutting out the US

Press releases from the US don't work well here - but a conversion can make a huge difference.

Australian marketers for US vendors and their distributors are flooded with press releases from their head offices. They dutifully send them out to the Australian media but find the response is poor.

They carry on regardless, figuring that it can't do any harm and, who knows, they might get lucky. Wrong. It does do a lot of harm.

If you're sending an irrelevant, boring press release to journalists every week, you're training the journalist to toss out your release as soon as they see your logo. It doesn't take but a few times for a journalist to open your envelope, read the first few paragraphs, realise it's a waste of time and throw it out.

Instead, try doing the opposite - train the journalist to want to open your release and read it. Do this by sending fewer releases and give them major surgery to make them relevant. You will see a dramatic difference in the coverage you get.

Check the relevance. Australian journalists want information about what's happening in Australia. They can easily pull information about what's happening in the US directly from US sources. Make sure your release is talking about changes that affect Australians: IT managers, the channel, end users and the general public.

Find the news. US-based releases are written quite differently than Australian-written releases. First, US releases have to run the gauntlet of corporate lawyers, the sales, marketing, and corporate communications VPs, product managers, etc, with each one adding their own perspective. This results in the news being buried somewhere around page two or beyond. That's fine for US media, but Australian journalists want the news up front. Find the news and drag it back to the top.

Specify the benefit. It's amazing how many releases get lost in specifications and forget to say what the benefit is. A feature is not a benefit. For each feature, spell out the benefit and who will benefit from them. Press releases from publicly listed companies in the US are often meant to influence the stock market rather than the IT buyer. That sort of release goes into great detail about the strategic benefits of some action the company is taking. Forget it, it's rarely of any interest in Australia. Instead, focus on how it will improve things for people who buy it.

Cut the hype. US releases often start with something like, "Acme OnLine Inc, the market-leading provider of affordable, leading-edge tools for advanced e-commerce applications, today announced . . ." To Australian media, the positioning statements mean nothing and just increase the time it takes to find your news. The value of your information will be in its nouns and verbs. Most of the adjectives can be taken out. In particular, leave out terms such as state-of-the-art, best-of-breed, seamless-end-to-end, etc.

Quote local pricing and availability. Be sure to change the pricing to Australian dollars and check on availability here. Journalists are trying to be helpful to their readers. The first question a reader asks is, "How much?" and, "Where can I get it?" Pricing can be complex but you can always give a range of prices or a price for a standard system. Never send out a product release without local pricing and availability.

Quote Australians. If you're going to quote people, it's best if they're Australians, but you can also quote American VPs if they're talking about the Australian market. But beware - a quote from a US VP is usually where you find "motherhood statements" - the most hype and marketing-speak. Remember that a journalist will run a quote not because it talks about your company, but because it's informative for readers.

Cut out the subjective. The last thing to remember when performing surgery on a US release or creating your own is to speak in terms of real benefits and value to the reader. Sales and marketing literature may be fine for potential customers, but readers expect journalists to be objective.

As a result, journalists want press releases that are informative, as unbiased as possible, and focus on real benefits for their users.

Journalists will be glad you took the time and you'll be happy with the results, in terms of coverage, that you get.

Steve Townsend is managing director of Recognition Public Relations. E-mail him at steve_townsend@recognition.com.au


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