1. Writing in “engineering speak” and at too high a technical level when the personnel at publications and websites who actually critique and select news for publication do not always have technical degrees. This does not imply that journalists are not competent, it points out that engineers should be sensitive to their audience and respectful of their requirements for clarity and brevity. Always include a human editorial contact as a service to editors should they need more information. Remember the key to creating a successful product release is to prepare your materials from the perspective that you are trying to serve the media by contributing content. Yes, the result will be “free” publicity. But, don’t take the approach that you want something for nothing. Adopt the mindset of a giver, not a taker, and you will get much better results.
2. Including too much information. Designing a product requires limits and a clear sense of space requirements. A news release is similar. You must restrict your presentation to about 200 words. Further, keep in focus that a product release is about a product: what it is, what it does, how it does it, where you get it, and what it costs. It is not appropriate to put quotations from the president or another person in a product release. Product application stories, however, are different because the benefits from the use of your product are often qualified by a statement from the actual customer.
3. Lack of respect for marketing profession. Engineers must appreciate the fact that marketing today is as much a science as it is an art. As such, there are certain “generally accepted principles” that need to be adhered to. On the science side, for example, product releases need to be brief and cannot tell the whole story about a product. What’s more, any performance claims should be quantified and substantiated. For example, if your product is compact, list the dimensions. If precise, indicate a measure of precision in the form of a tolerance or some other quantifiable data. Don’t be timid here. You can always say that a claim depends upon configuration.
4. Misunderstanding what makes a product newsworthy. An older product can be upgraded or can be totally new to a different market segment. These new applications represent something newsworthy to a new audience. Also, a product may have different features that are of interest to different audiences. For example, paint can be easy to apply, chemical-resistant, and yield a hard finish. Separate product news releases and different media lists can be developed featuring each characteristic.
5. Believing the more information you include, the more value you receive. Nothing could be further from the truth with respect to news releases. The fact is: most editors are seeking problem-solving information for their readers. Generally speaking, the more specific the problem being solved; the better the publicity coverage will be. In the above example, if you focus on a hard finish, you are solving a problem relative to durability or scratch resistance. Moreover, the sales inquiries will reflect that interest. In other words, you know what your prospect’s problem is and can arm yourself to solve it.
6. Underestimating the importance of a professional photograph. When preparing a product news release, the old cliché, “one picture is worth a thousand words has never been as apt as it is today. A phenomenal photograph that is congruous with the message being conveyed will reinforce your message. More importantly, it will provide an editor with great content. As the editor of Plastics Auxiliaries & Machinery wrote to the author, “Perhaps you can use this situation to make a point to your client regarding what can be done by producing a gorgeous photo of a fundamentally plain product.”
7. Not believing publicity will work for your product or service. This is plain crazy! Publicity will work for any product for which there is a “legitimate need.” That said, I’m not certain what the legitimate need was for “Beenie Babies,” but, they were very successfully introduced using publicity only! If fact the most successful products were all introduced using publicity. The Apple Mac was introduced in 1984 with a legendary publicity stunt by Steve Jobs who had the computer introduce him! The Microsoft Tablet, Vista Software and numerous other products were also introduced with publicity. If there is a need your product or service fills, there will be an audience interested and, therefore, publications, websites, and blogs available to satisfy that interest.
About the Author
The “7 Reasons Why Engineers Bungle News Releases” were compiled by Steve Stroum, president of Venmark International, a company he founded in 1976. Since that time he has been recognized as the “best in the business” by many leading editors. In recognition for his contribution to the success of many smaller companies, Mr. Stroum was elected to serve on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Small Business Task Force and was later appointed to serve a four-year term as one of 18 small business advisors to the Governor. Mr. Stroum’s contribution to the small business community was recognized further when he was selected by the International Rotary Foundation to join a five-man Group Study Exchange Team and tour South Korea for six weeks as an ambassador. He has also been listed in “Who’s Who in the East,” was an executive member of the American Marketing Association, addressed the Inventors Association of New England at MIT, and the New England Chapter of IEEE. Mr. Stroum was also appointed to the Norbert Weiner Forum at Tufts University to study the impact of technology on society. He has been a guest lecturer at Babson College, Boston College, Northeastern University, and has addressed numerous business and civic groups.
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© Copyright 2010- Steven M. Stroum