Press releases: 5 questions that boost audience traction

Before starting your press release, take a few minutes to step away from your company or client’s vantage point. Step far enough away that you can empathize with prospective customers, aka readers.

If you don’t, a preponderance of marketing messages (top-down, company-centric) will weigh down your creativity and cause you to write in ways that have been proven to alienate readers.

You should stray, but not far — because at the end of the day, it is the company/client’s messages after all that you are here to share.  The goal is to get into the minds of the audience without going off-topic.

Answer the following questions to keep your mind open but efficiently on track.

  1. Who are the users? List them by job title and by industry vertical. Write a long list. Get specific, as in “network engineer, software developer, digital forensics analyst, database administrator,” not just the umbrella term “IT professional.”
  2. What are their challenges? Do a Google search to learn more about their problems, decisions and actions — in graphic and visceral detail. Try looking at an annual conference for that job title — read the names of the sessions and borrow the language you find there.
  3. What are they doing now? Focus on verbs and the “scenery” of their work flow. Search for specific verbs that depict them in action — not with your product in hand but in their own lives before your product came into being. You need to know what they are doing now before you can make suggestions to them about what to consider doing differently.
  4. What do we want them to do? Not know; do. Even if you think you just want them to “know” something, force yourself to go beyond that and say, “OK, after they know about this, what might they do differently in their own lives.” It’s a leap, and you might be using your imagination, but trust yourself and go for it. Visualize them in their happy new future.
  5. What’s the big-picture value proposition, for the user? Not what are the benefits of the features. A value proposition is larger than that. If you visualize the value proposition correctly, you won’t see your product in the picture. Instead, you’ll see something bigger and perhaps intangible.
Once you’ve spent a few minutes inside the lives of your perspective audience, you’ll do a better job of finding the right connections and associations in your company/client’s messaging.
In short, immerse yourself in the audience’s life. Empathize. Get those details on paper before going back to the messaging brief. Your press release is best when audience and company/client needs are in balance.


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Lauren Edwards is a former reporter for the Associated Press. She has been creating, customizing and delivering workshops for science and technology teams since 2000.

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