Every year, for the last ten years, someone has proclaimed that the press release is dying. While the rumors of its demise are exaggerated, they are not totally unfounded. That’s because the press release is, in fact, being eclipsed by digital alternatives that are more flexible, more interesting, and more relevant.
In 2010, when Google made a major announcement not by press release but by blog post, we reached what seemed like a milestone. Five years earlier, a company of Google’s stature would have issued a statement on a newswire. Now, a Google executive was crafting a more thoughtful narrative that the company published on its official blog.
This shift in medium and message represents a new era in corporate communications. News now needs to be conveyed in an empathetic tone and delivered in a user-friendly format.
And Google isn’t the only company using this strategy. Dell breaks news on its blog all the time. When Netflix has something to say, it complements a traditional release with a first-person post. Southwest Airlines takes the prize for a blog that whips CNN-type announcements into HBO-like celebrations.
What’s so encouraging about this trend is that it isn’t exclusive to corporate behemoths. To the contrary, smaller companies can leverage blog-centric communications with great success. Here are four examples of those that do it well.
1. ZillowZillow, the real estate company, has a great blog where it bypasses the typical corporate press release. Instead, it opts for more conversational posts like: “Whether you’re driving around a neighborhood checking home values on your smartphone, using an iPad to draw a search around that dream neighborhood while waiting at the airport, or doing some serious house hunting on your computer at home, there are multiple ways to home search and shop with Zillow.”
Similarly, new hires are introduced by their respective manager in a first-person post.
The Lesson: Keep it human. Your stakeholders, and your customers, prefer it that way.
2. PatagoniaThose searching Patagonia’s website for a press release will look in vain. Instead, media folks are invited to join the Patagonia PR Facebook group. This group is dedicated to keeping journalists, writers, editors, and other media informed about Patagonia and its outdoor clothing products. While a social network isn’t technically a blog, it works. In fact, Patagonia also operates a robust blog.
The Lesson: Passion, even edginess, does not get in the way of your message. Passion actually shows personality, and that there’s a real person behind your press shop.
3. InnocentWhen the British smoothie-maker Innocent announced new juice blends earlier this year, it did so via press release and blog post. The difference between the two versions speaks volumes.
- Here’s the press release: “We’ve been so pleased with how popular the juice has been that we got back in to the kitchen and have made some delicious juice blends, which we think everyone will enjoy just as much.”
Here’s the blog post: “You can choose from our delicious apple and raspberry recipe or totally tasty tropical (sorry), depending on whether you need to be transported to a dappled orchard or a desert island.”
The Lesson: Entertaining consumers is as important as informing them.
4. ServIntWhen ServInt, a web host, announced a new line of servers from their Flex brand, the press release followed the tried-and-trite formula. “ServInt, a pioneering provider of managed cloud hosting for enterprises worldwide, today introduced its new line of fully managed, dedicated servers under the Flex brand.”
Then things got interesting on their blog, ServInt Source, which ran three posts about Flex. First, ServInt’s sales director touted the servers’ “power and options.” A week later, its vice president of marketing connected the new machines to the company’s new brand identity. Finally, the COO placed these changes in the context of industry-wide developments.
What’s significant about this approach is how it turns a single announcement into multiple opportunities. With press releases this continuity is difficult. A blog, however, is perfect for ongoing updates.
The Lesson: Make it personal. Comments from soldiers in the trenches are more memorable than a few quotes from a chief executive.