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Functionality vs. Creativity in Press Releases: Which Do You Choose?

A Business BattleThere’s a new battle raging in the world of online news releases: the battle between a release that is traditionally structured and simply works, and a release that captivates the reader with creative, new elements. Can they both exist as one?

It’s 2012, people – and it’s time to do the whole “out with the old, in with the new” thing  (again). Today, we’re talking about the constantly evolving press release, or news release, if you prefer. I know you’re looking for new ways to get your news noticed, so tell me: do you choose functionality or creativity when constructing your press release? Here’s the reason I ask:

Time these days is scarce. Not just for us, but for everyone, especially the media. “Shrinking newsroom staffs and the multiplication of media platforms have increased the workload of individual reporters,” says Jim McNabb, a journalist and communicator. They’ve got more to do, with less time, and less manpower. That’s why we as content creators should make it as easy as possible for journalists to digest our news releases or pitches so they can get the information they need for a story. Having said that, a release that is newsworthy, relevant and timely (in other words, functional) seems to be one of the golden keys to great news coverage.

However, there’s a new breed of news release on the block, one that is refreshing and proves to have impact on journalists and bloggers. This was first brought to my attention when Dom Conlon, a PRWeb UK client emailed me his news release for a quick review. Dom wrote me:

I’m more curious than anything. I don’t write press releases and I’m not a PR person. But I am a writer. I know it has to have news in but I read the “Company X announces the launch of Product B” so many times. I’m really not saying I’m right. I’m saying I’m curious and that’s because I sent a press release like this direct to a site recently and had a really amazing response with the journalist saying how refreshing it was.

I understand what many people think about what constitutes as “professional” writing but I see bigger rewards for the people who appear fresh and innovative. Take CVs for example. A person sends the usual “I am a passionate and engaged person with a real interest in your company…”. I see it many times a day and it has no impact. It gives no concept of personality. But then I read about the CVs that do get noticed and they are just individual, fun.

So like I say, I’m just curious to know why press releases don’t operate in this way. And I fully accept that maybe they don’t.

I love the questions Dom posed in his above note–it really got the gears in my head turning. So, lets have a read of his release and see if we can answer them:

365 storytellers take on 366 days in 2012

Sit down. I’d like to tell you a story. The only thing is, this one will take a whole year to tell.

We’re calling it the 3hundredand65 project and it is a story told day by day, tweet by tweet, writer by writer.

So far, it’s lovely and delightful, scary and intriguing. We’ve no idea what it will be like tomorrow. That’s because each day, a new writer takes over and tweets the next stage in the story. 140 characters to move things along a bit and keep people reading. And each day, that Tweet is turned into an illustration by Dave Kirkwood – the chap whose idea this whole thing was to start with.

The writers are all volunteers. Anybody can put their hand in the air and pick a date which they would like Tweet on. Those dates are going fast so prospective writers have to check the calendar on the official site. Then they just send a Tweet to @dave_kirkwood and put in a request. In total there will be 365 writers with one (@jake74) Tweeting twice. Because he went first so it’s only proper that he goes last.

You can view the site here and keep on top of how the story progresses. And the official Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/3hundredand65.

So why are we doing this? Apart from the fact that stories are great, of course?

3hundredand65 is being done to raise awareness and money for The Teenage Cancer Trust. We want people to give money so they can continue the excellent work they do.

To help that, the site offers easy links to quickly donate and we are also auctioning off the original notebooks which, at the end of the year, will tell the full story. Bidding starts at £120, the cost of these beautiful books which are 300x210mm, hard bound with 200g/m2 top quality, acid-free paper. And if people want to commission any original, signed drawings of the characters then we’ll do that too.

There is even a Facebook support site where people can discuss their vision for the story.

Stories really are great. They can inspire lives. We want to use ours to save them.

It’s not the same as other releases you may read online:

1)  The use of first person instead of standard third person is the most noticeable change. Third person is the general “rule” for writing press releases – is there room for this rule to be broken?

2) There’s a storytelling aspect to the press release, which makes it captivating and easy to read. As content creators, we are storytellers.

I give this news release two thumbs-up because it kept my attention with its creative formatting. Maybe it’s more interesting to me because it reads more like a casual blog than a press release. Is this the breath of fresh air releases need to remain relevant?

How do you feel about the creative, first person press release format above? Was it captivating and easy to read? Would you like to read news in this format in the future? Or do you value traditionally structured functionality instead?

Both PR pros and journalists, I want to hear from you! Tell us your opinion in the comments section below.

(Photo Credit – Flickr Creative Commons: elisamoro)

About Cision Contributor

This post was written by a guest Cision contributor.

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