Katie Burke

Front Page Snooze: Creative News Releases Spice Up Boring

By: Katie Burke | December 9, 2013 | 

creative news releaseby Katie Burke

We’ve all been there.

Your company has big news to announce, and you want to share it with the world.

The news is significant for your business, but it’s not likely to make front page news on its own.

You could beg and plead with a reporter who has covered you before or write a traditional news release and pray to the PR gods that a combination of social promotion and “wing and a prayer” pitching will help get the news out.

You could light candles, buy a lottery ticket, and hope for a stroke of good luck, or you can consider an alternative: Friends don’t let friends write boring news releases about office moves, new hires, or a minor product update.

I speak from recent experience on this issue.

Last week, HubSpot hired Joe Chernov as vice president of marketing.

Joe is one of the original godfathers of content marketing and a supremely awesome addition to the team. However, as Joe himself noted, “It’s not like Microsoft hiring a new CEO,” so aiming for the front page of the Wall Street Journal just wasn’t realistic.

To that end, we decided to have a little fun with the announcement, using Joe’s legendary beard and the infamy of the bearded heroes of this year’s Red Sox team to announce his arrival with a Hubspot-themed baseball card.

The card drew significant engagement on social media and the company news blog post with the announcement saw the most comments and highest pageviews of any piece of company news posted in the last 12 months.

Facing a similar challenge where you’re going head to head with a global market leader or trying to grow mindshare with a partnership announcement?

Consider the following tips to get more mileage with your news release.

Get Picture Perfect

Simply put, visual content performs better on social media and helps your content stick out in the inboxes or Twitter streams of journalists and influencers alike.

A recent HubSpot experiment found tweets with embedded images garnered a 36 percent increase in clicks and a 41 percent increase in retweets over tweets without visual content.

When reporters receive and view hundreds of news releases and advisories each day, many with the exact same claims and structure, creative images and illustrations can deliver your message in a clear, concise way that is more likely to get shared by your customers, partners, and target reporters.

Have a Sense of Humor

Self-deprecating humor works as well in news releases as it does as cocktail parties: Everyone is drawn to people who can laugh at themselves.

The common misconception is that only small companies can leverage this strategy successfully, but that’s not so.

CBS got in on the fun, released a fake news announcement in the midst of a heated legal battle with ABC. For reporters mired in subpoenas, legal files, and court documents, you better believe that seeing CBS have a little fun at their own expense and that of a competitor was a welcome break in the action.

The announcement got significant engagement on Twitter and was covered on Huffington Post and Business Insider among others.

If you can’t win in court, a little humor in the court of public opinion can go a long way.

Create for Your Customers

In thinking about an announcement, it’s very easy to get caught up in jargon you think journalists want to hear. Instead, it’s helpful to remind ourselves of David Meerman Scott’s edict to, “Think, speak, and write like your customers do.”

The Beutler Ink collaboration with JP CrossFit coincided with the timing for the CrossFit Games here in Boston. They thought about what people who have heard about CrossFit but don’t understand what the heck it is and built their announcement specifically to address their questions. The infographic not only arms potential customers with the information they need for the games, but also familiarized them with the vocabulary of CrossFit.

The next time you’re staring at a blank page considering how to make a feature update, legal proceeding, patent, or new investor announcement stand out from the pack, think differently.

Develop content humans (whether they are journalists, influencers, customers, or leads) are likely to interact with and share: doing so will effectively prioritize the quality of the content over a boring recap of the details.

The resulting content will show your core audiences you respect their time and interest, demonstrate that you understand how to effectively market your own news, and most importantly, deliver significantly more impact than a boring old news release. Trust us: Your employees, customers, media contacts, and leads will thank you for it.

About Katie Burke

Katie Burke is a senior manager on HubSpot's marketing team, overseeing media and analyst relations, external events, and sponsorships. Prior to joining HubSpot, she ran marketing for Athletes' Performance and worked as a director for the Glover Park Group, a strategic communications consultancy. Katie has her MBA from MIT's Sloan School of Management and attended Bates College in Maine.

  • That’s quite an awesome way to promote a boring subject matter! Not only is it timely with a reference to the most recent World Series but it’s also a clever way to introduce a unique feature of Jon Chernov. 
    Kudos all around!

  • As soon as I saw the announcement, I thought, “What a perfect way to announce the news!” I’m a big fan of @chernov and this couldn’t have been more perfect. 😀

  • Some great reminders Katie, I especially relate to create for your customers and speak a universal language (visuals)

    I won’t lie to you though, now I’m worried y’all are creating a wild run on beards. Social media speculation will run as rampant as it once did with bacon. People will be putting bacon and kittehs and beards together into gloriously awful and self-referential infographics.

    Y’know what, I’m going home to lie down. This has got me all stressed out.

  • Love it! Humor is almost always a great way to go, if you can get it past the lawyers. The baseball card thing is a good bit and I’ve seen various treatments of it over the years (including one at my expense!). In a twist on David Meerman Scott’s directive, companies should act like humans talking to other humans.

  • katieburkie

    JoeCardillo I promise not to make bears the new bacon, at least at HubSpot!! And Rob, feel free to share the baseball card that was made at your expense, would love to see it! Jason, thanks so much for having me on the blog, this was a lot of fun!

  • katieburkie  Glad to have you, Katie! Don’t mind JoeCardillo, he’s pretty harmless. 🙂

  • katieburkie I wish I still had it! When I worked in politics our opponent in an election had baseball cards made up of our communications and field staff. So it was both funny and painful!

  • Thanks Katie, intriguing examples. Where do you stand on the balance of getting creative vs. maintaining the core message… do you think there’s a point at which the angle(s) that we can add overtake the news itself?

  • katieburkie

    Great question, Steve-I think you’re absolutely right that we run a risk of being too cute and missing the point entirely. The way I look at it is that the strategy has to match the news and the audience-for us, we weren’t targeting financial reporters and most of the journalists and influencers we reached out to already knew Joe, so missing the core facts was less of a concern than it might be otherwise. The flip side of that is that I think most of us overthink the details (myself included!) so the advantage of these types of approaches is forcing yourself to be honest about what facts people really need.

  • katieburkie

    Steve Birkett katieburkie I realized after my morning run (the dangers of responding too early) that I inadvertently missed one portion of your question–in this case, we were okay with the risk of the style of announcement being part of the story because to be honest we know Joe is going to bring a dynamic and fun perspective to our content strategy, so if people took this as a funny/amusing form of content, all the better to kick off his tenure with us. However, we’ve intentionally avoided tactics like this for some other announcements where we were more concerned that might be the case, so I think your push is a completely fair one. Sorry for the double comment and for the incomplete response earlier!

  • katieburkie Thanks for taking double-time to respond 🙂  I think your approach is spot on. We should take time to match the message angle to the intended audience. In this case you knew you needed to add that little something extra and it obviously proved to be well executed. Good food for thought, thanks again!

  • I kind of want to marry Joe’s beard! 

    Thanks so much for this, Katie. Because I’m running a company now – and no longer doing media relations – I love to see posts like these that I can pass on to my team. Very, very good insight and I love the creativity!