“If there is one thing I want to do, it’s kill off the press releases.” Coming from Coca-Cola Company's digital communications head Ashley Brown, the sound bite proved itself memorable.
He kickstarted his mission by hiring a slew of journalists for Coca-Cola's content marketing effort.
Beyond the rhetoric and headline-worthy statement, what does his pioneering decision really mean?
1. Brands should now align itself to the issues that really matter to its audience
“Does it spark an emotion? Is it something new or noteworthy? Very basic things that a journalist would go through.”
Brown went on to say: “For the first time ever our PR teams are challenged to think beyond the press release … They have to think, ‘What is a two minute, really high-quality video that someone would actually want to share? How do I package up that announcement as a story that someone who doesn’t work at Coke and who doesn’t care would want to read it and share it with their friends?’
2. It's time for brands to think beyond themselves. Think like a journalist.
“Brands typically want to talk about themselves. The challenge is to align yourselves with the issues that really matter to your audience,” says Stephen Waddington, European digital and social media director of Ketchum.
The problem, as all good communications professionals know, is that the more a brand talks about itself the more likely it is to turn a potential audience off.
Instead, making effective use of a brand newsroom means writing around your subject and, critically, writing with your audience in mind.
- What kind of lifestyle does your audience lead?
- What are their needs?
- How can your brand fulfill it with content?
We see exemplars all around from Moneysupermarket.com, which trades on an appetite for personal finance expertise; to American Express’s OpenForum; and, yes, to Coca Cola’s Journey. Read "The Rise of the Brand Newsroom", which also contains a 10-step guide to a successful newsroom).
People have been forecasting the death of the press release for many years. (Read Die! Press Release! Die! Die Die! by journalist Tom Foremski written in 2006) But the truth is, the press release still has its place – as an effective source of instant opinion and reaction to a breaking news story, for example, or as a means for pulling together the top lines of financial results.
The press release remains, as just one tool, among many in a brand’s toolbox. That’s why “thinking beyond the press release” is a much more useful mission statement.