You’re probably familiar with three bolded words at the top of every “press release” or “media alert:”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

As a former PR Agency exec, I’ve probably written those words a thousand times throughout my career.

In fact I still write press releases for media clients and their clients.

And I think it should be a standard practice for your media company to write and distribute client press releases if you’re helping them launch in the marketplace, roll out a new product, announce a business milestone or sponsor one of your events or content platforms (eg…the Brand X Studios).

It’s just another way of differentiating yourself as a part of doing (and retaining!) business in this hyper-competitive media environment.

You can pick up some good press release writing tips here.

But that’s not the point I want to make with this post.

What I want to share with you is how the act of writing a press release can be one of the most effective things you can do to help your client, you and your team get clear about a business and marketing strategy.

I’d forgotten about this insight – dare I say “hack” – after being away from the PR agency scene for a few years.

But I was recently reminded of its power by a former colleague whose wife works for that little online retailer Amazon.

What I was told is that Mr. Bezos (Jeff to you fellow billionaires) instructs his teams to write a press release about a new product or product innovation as the very first step in the product development process. Even, and especially, if the product idea or concept hasn’t even been well defined yet.

Why?

Think about it for a minute.  A press release is meant to grab the attention of a reporter.  A cynical, skeptical, sleep-deprived, deadline-crazed, seen-it-all, don’t-bug-me reporter (yes, I can say these things because, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been one).

Yep, a press release is just like advertising that’s trying to break through to weary consumers who are constantly fire-hosed with promotional messages.

Essentially, in either case, this all boils down to a “who gives a crap” moment of truth.

But here’s the deal. A press release is almost never longer than a single page, with no more than five or six paragraphs.

So brevity is everything.  And if brevity is the soul of wit, it’s also the heart of a well executed strategy document.

Which is precisely what your press release will become if you follow a framework like:

SNAPPY HEADLINE (The why should I give a crap hook: think compelling, universal benefit in 10 words, tops.)

FIRST PARAGRAPH (A “most,” “first,” “best,” “only” positioning statement about the product or service. If you can’t lay claim to one, find a word you can own and add “-est.” Ex: Sky Harbor is America’s Friendliest Airport).

SECOND PARAGRAPH (A quote from the business founder(s) about their “aha” moment that drove them to launch the product or service. In other words…a key insight.)

THIRD PARAGRAPH (A quote from an ideal customer who speaks to the “why I buy/use.” Yes, a testimonial.)

FOURTH PARAGRAPH (A how it works graph that’s a little more nuts and bolts. Also a good place to mention a process or partner.)

FIFTH PARAGRAPH (A clear Call to Action to learn more)

Can you imagine generating a document like this to get everyone fired up and synced up?

So how about asking this question in your next CNA meeting (to which you’re also bringing your Brief, right?)

“If you were writing a press release about your brand or business (or product, or service) what would the headline be? What would say in the opening paragraph?”

Isn’t that a nicer way to go about it than asking…”so why should anyone give a crap?”

Thought so.

Now go out and make some news.

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(oh, and don’t forget the press release hash marks at the bottom)