At one stage, I worked with an email marketing company founded, in part, by a clever Croydonite called Tink Taylor.
And one of the biggest things I discovered is that there are dozens of lessons in email that can be applied to smart, modern PR campaigns.
Think about deliverability, for example. Between Gmail’s multiple inboxes and overzealous spam filters, how suicidal does an agency have to be to risk its domain not reaching inboxes by spamming out messages indiscriminately?
And how many activate authentication systems like DKIM, just to be safe?
Thanks to email marketing, I was neck deep in A-B testing years before I joined a global tech startup obsessed with operating lean and minimum viable products.
But one of Tink’s lessons that really stuck with me is the importance of cadence. In an email marketing context, this refers to the ups and downs of volume, the frequency with which you’re contacting people. But in the PR world, it has a huge role in telling realistic stories over time.
The old cadence of PR
When you’re distributing messages or news announcements, there’s an inclination to make as big a deal of the story as possible, to persuade someone that it’s genuinely news. So you act like it’s a breaking bombshell from the world’s leading operator and the quote reveals how ‘excited’ you are to announce version 1.45.
Then, one month later, it’s time to tell the world about version 1.46. And because you’re emailing again and, likely, nobody wrote about the previous announcement, you feel obliged to up the ante and reiterate what a big story this is.
How excited you really are. Maybe you’re even ‘proud’ to announce this one.
The issue is, no company in the world operates at 11/10 month after month, year after year. Yet the pressures of how companies used to communicate encourages this illusion.
Cadence and context
Companies need to embrace the natural cadence and the natural ups and downs of their story. But if you’re going to use smaller stories to punctuate the bigger ones, or add industry context, it means little if you only ever show one episode at a time.
So ask: where are you going to host your story? What the hell is /blog/ doing on your website, still using the non-responsive WordPress 2010 theme and with things like ‘archives’ in the left sidebar? Why is there a separate /press/ or /news/ or /about/?
Embrace your cadence
Create a page on your site. Tell your story, accepting that some announcements are big and some are small. Write less about the smaller ones. Only publish when you have something to say. Think about what anyone reading might need or want next and link to surrounding or previous context pieces. Use video. Use audio.
Ideally write directly to your customers instead of faux press release lingo. Don’t use words like obfuscative to try and hide the lack of story (let alone because it’s not a real word.)
Send anything you think might have genuine industry ramifications to a few highly targeted people beforehand, once you get their agreement to the embargo. Give them the link to where the story will be published, so it’s clear that they can visit that page for future news or commentary. Be consistent.
A matter of taste
Everyone has an instinct for stories, like they have a taste for food. Not everyone is a gourmet, not everyone is a chef. But everyone can tell if something’s rotten.
Stop trying to perfume the corpse. Don’t pretend you’re smarter than your reader or they don’t have the taste to see through the corporate tone. Filter the impurities and embrace the truth of how your company is operating. Tell it how it is.
Be an excellent company and/ or tell excellent stories. It’s not easy but that’s why it’s such a real, valuable advantage.