Writing PR for the Web: the newest of new rules


Last week, I read David Meerman Scott’s excellent and free e-book, The New Rules of PR. I was already pretty schooled in the SEO and PR thing (after all, I am a publisher). But David made a point that I really hadn’t thought about before. I always focused on the Dan Rather and Swift Boats episodes, i.e. a press release to a blogger can end up all over the Internet and eventually on CNN. David made a related but not identical point: under the old rules, only journalists saw the press release. Today, publishers on the web, like me, may pick up the press release in its entirety, and that means that regular people – not just journalists – are reading press releases.

Now that non-journalists are reading our releases — why are we writing them in the same old boring fashion? Why aren’t we writing for an audience that doesn’t want to read marketing spin? In fact, why do we even organize them the old fashioned way?

I think I was fated to have read his e-book when I did, because I started the next day with a phone call from Traci Hailpern, VP of Marketing at Feedburner. “We’re buying Blogbeat.net,” she explained, and asked if I would contribute a quote to their press release.

Both Traci and I were really tied up that day, so their PR agency wrote a quote for me, which they read over the phone while I was supposed to be eating lunch. Here’s what the PR agency wrote for me:

“This acquisition is a logical extension of FeedBurner’s valuable service,” said Robbin F. Steif, CEO of LunaMetrics, LLC. “I’ve been thrilled with each of these services separately and have wanted a more efficient way to determine how my feed subscriber trends relate to my blog traffic. I continue to be impressed with FeedBurner’s ability to keep its customers’ best interests in mind as the company grows.”

It’s really not bad. I give the PR firm credit for understanding Feedburner’s business. But if everyone on the web is going to read it, why don’t we talk like real people instead of like marketers?

Here’s what I dictated to them:

“I had been using each of these services separately and am so excited about this acquisition — the very best feed analytics company purchasing the best blog analytics company,” said Robbin F. Steif, CEO of LunaMetrics, LLC, a web analytics and conversion consultancy. “Now I can go to one place for all my blog data. Congratulations, FeedBurner, for making a great choice!”

Now, Feedburner being the incredibly cool company that they are, no one really cared about this particular release. FB created a special page with funny FAQs and a great cartoon and the whole world linked there instead. (Truly great marketing.) But most other companies don’t have that same sense of style and are still relying on their press releases — so why don’t we start writing them to be read?

Robbin Steif

Our founder, Robbin Steif, started LunaMetrics in 2004. She is a graduate of Harvard College and the Harvard Business School, and has served on the Board of Directors for the Digital Analytics Association. Robbin is a winner of a BusinessWomen First award, as well as a Diamond Award for business leadership. In 2017, Robbin sold her company to HS2 Solutions and has since retired from LunaMetrics.

  • David Meerman Scott

    Well said, Robbin.

    I really like your example of turning a gobbledygook quote into the sort of language that real people use. Because I write for various magazines and blog quite a bit, I get something like 20 press releases sent to me via email each day. I cannot understand 99% of what these things are trying to say! Really – 99% are virtually indecipherable! What with the “leaders” in this and the “cutting-edge” that and of course the “industry-standard” another thing plus the silly jargon-laden quotes I end up just deleting the damn things.

    And thanks for the link to my e-book.

    David Meerman Scott

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