Opinion

‘Lazy’, ‘dense’, ‘tedious’ press releases can be solved by implementing brand purpose

Communications specialist Lucy von Sturmer unpacks why some journalists believe press releases are 'the laziest thing a company can do'.

The rise of #fakenews has left many feeling skeptical of what they see and read. This, paired with heightened awareness of global issues, has changed audience expectations of brands. In the face of failing institutions, when choosing products and services to support, consumers are more discerning than ever before.

Millennials are at the forefront of this. We want to know the brands we support practice business ethically, and we want to know they contribute to “doing good.” This is confirmed by a recent Nielsen report which reveals that 81% of millennials expect their favourite company to make a declaration of corporate citizenship.

For PR professionals, this changing climate calls for new tactics. However, the answer isn’t smoke and mirrors; it’s quite the opposite. It’s about meeting this call for accountability and authenticity head on.

I cherish the opportunity to work with bold leaders to throw them into the spotlight. I believe opinion-editorials and blogs are a great way to achieve this. Traditional PR still plays an important role, but an authentic, individual voice can bring a brand to life. Not only are they more playful to write (and read), if done well, they offer the reader value by providing a genuinely new perspective.

This is welcome news for editors too, many who receive hundreds of releases daily. In a recent Forbes article, a group of journalists were invited to share their views on press releases. Samantha Murphy Kelly, tech reporter at Mashable said, “often the language used is very dense and tedious to get through.” Charles Fleming, editor at the Los Angeles Times went as far as to say:

“They offer no context, no understanding of the receiver, and no story. They are literally the laziest thing a company can do.

To be open and creative, and tell a compelling a story, it’s essential those I work with are crystal clear on their raison d’être. It might sound crazy, but many companies still differentiate themselves based on what they do, rather than why they do it. Getting clear on your vision is therefore essential. As author Simon Sinek famously said: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

While I used to work for NGOs, when I switched to the world of advertising, I knew full-well the same causes could no longer inspire me. However, in my first week, when devising a communications strategy, I couldn’t find a mission or vision statement. “Just make something up,” I was told. Really?

You don’t have to be saving the world to have an inspiring purpose. You do, however, need to be able to articulate why your work attributes to some sort of meaningful impact. A compelling vision needs to go beyond a one-liner in the about section of your website, but if it can’t be found there, it’s a tough job to write a story that resonates!

Here are some corporate statements that do work:

  • “Nourishing families so they can flourish and thrive” – Kelloggs
  • “Helping people manage risk and recover from the hardship of unexpected loss” – Insurance company IAG
  • “Empowering people to stay a step ahead in life and in business” – Financial services company ING 

Once you’re clear on what it is your company stands for, there are many creative and transparent ways to amplify this. But beware: this story, needs to be honest and authentic. As we’ve seen with Uber, it’s not just the story you tell the world that will get told.

Millennials get a bad rap, but we’re simply hyper-aware of many issues facing the planet, and through our actions, want to know we’re contributing to a better world. Today’s, audiences demand integrity, authenticity and accountability , and hiding behind the neutral third-person will no longer cut.

If your brand has a story to tell, why not put a human face to that vision. Because, as everything around us continues to change, some truths remain; the power of a good story.

Lucy von Sturmer is a communications specialist.

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