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Extra Extra! Where’s the Story in your Press Release?

I was on a video conference with a friend from a well-known brand the other day. Let’s call it ShopLand. We were talking about how to use PR and corporate communications more effectively to build the ShopLand story and drive greater engagement.

“So much of it’s just, here’s our latest news,” he complained. “I mean, how do you build story into an announcement that you’re offering some purely mechanical benefit, like adding contactless payments?”

“Start with conflict,” I said. I always say that.

“You always say that,” he said. “But where’s the conflict? We’re adding contactless payments to our app. It’s a benefit. We’re letting people know. It’s just information.”

“Where there are human beings involved, there is always a conflict somewhere,” I told him. “It’s your job to find it. More importantly, any outlet that picks up your press release will be looking for a conflict, too. Conflict drives engagement. If there is no conflict, there is no story—just more boring information.”

“But it’s important information.”

“Important to you. But it’s probably not important to your audience unless they have an immediate use for it. And even then, they may still find it boring. The brain is an—”

“An information filter and a story sponge. I know,” he grumped. “So how do you suggest I find conflict in a press release?”

“Start by taking the essence of the benefit and asking what possible problem it might pose.”

“Contactless pay is a solution—not a problem.”

“Think about it in human terms. Contactless. Is lack of contact a positive thing emotionally?”

“Hey,” he objected. “We’re not talking about depriving people of human contact!”

“But that’s the essence of the benefit, isn’t it? Contactless. Lack of contact. And while that’s good from an efficiency point of view, contact is an emotional experience some people might miss.”

“But how am I going to make the benefit attractive if I frame it like that?” he asked. “That sounds like a downer.”

“I’m not suggesting you frame it like that,” I pushed. “But people want both things. They want efficiency and convenience, but they know it can come at the cost of connection. Everybody struggles with that. People want progress, but they don’t want it to leave them feeling alone and isolated.”

“Ok. But in a press release? And how do you do it so it doesn’t sound like we’re creating a problem instead of offering a benefit?”

“The trick is to look at it as a struggle between two good things rather than a battle between a good thing and a bad thing,” I said. “And you’ll want to frame it in a way that’s consistent with your brand voice. Your brand personality is ‘your playful uncle,’ right?”

“Yup.”

“How old is your target audience?”

“Mostly Baby Boomers and GenXers,” he said.

“Ok, good. So, what if you thought of your contactless pay announcement as part of a humorous struggle between emotional connection and convenient progress and framed it in terms of someone who had a pop hit about that when your audience was growing up?”

“Uh?”

“Do you know who Rick Springfield is?”

“Of course I do,” he said. “Jesse’s Girl.”

“And Human Touch,” I added. “How about something like…”

 

NEWS RELEASE
CONTACT:    

ShopLand, Inc.
Corporate Communications
media@shopland.com

ShopLand Introduces Contactless Pay, Braces for Blow-Back from Rick Springfield

ShopLand’s Contactless Buy-It-App Gives Customers A Touch-Free Payment Option That Could Really Upset 80’s Pop Icon

Cape Coral, Florida (Nov. 13, 2022) – An easy, contactless way to pay… that’s the ShopLand Buy-It-App. ShopLand, Inc.’s new app-based digital purchasing option offers customers a convenient and touch-free way to pay at participating U.S. stores. Who wouldn’t love that?

80’s pop icon Rick Springfield, that’s who.

“I’m so scared and isolated in the modern world,” Mr. Springfield observed in his 1983 smash single Human Touch. “We all need the human touch!”

“Of course, we’re all worried that Rick is going to be upset,” ShopLand CMO, Will Sellers, confides. “We don’t want anyone to feel more scared and isolated in the modern world. Especially not Rick. But contactless is the new norm, which is why our digital ShopLand Buy-It-App is the right move as Americans look for touchless ways to shop and pay post-pandemic,” Sellers says. “ShopLand’s Buy-It-App gives customers access to heightened convenience along with deep value offers. Mr. Springfield, if you’re reading this, we sincerely hope you understand that we’re not just trying to be cool and calculated.”

“ShopLand approaches every new idea focused on how it makes our customers’ days easier,” says Sandy Banks, ShopLand CTO. “Regrettably, that’s put us in direct conflict with Rick Springfield this time. We just want Rick to know that we’re huge fans and that our only goal with the ShoLa-Rewards program is to offer customers great value for every dollar spent at their local Shopland store as well as a fast, frictionless shopping experience. We’re not trying to get everybody talking to computers or dancing to a drum machine, although we’d be thrilled if customers (including Rick Springfield if he’s open to it) downloaded the ShopLand app in the Apple store or Google Play. Or they can visit the ShoLa-Rewards online mobile website at ShoLa-Rewards.com, or chat with the Shopland AI robot on Messenger*.

*We’re aware that this probably sounds a lot like “talking to computers” to Rick, but it’s chatting…with an AI bot…on Messenger…which is different.

# # #

About ShopLand, Inc.

ShopLand, Inc. is a made up company name created for purposes of writing this story-driven press release without revealing anybody’s real identity. 

I hope our faux press release gave you a chuckle. My lawyer, Jane, is telling me to remind you that if you’re planning on incorporating Rick Springfield (or any other celebrity) into your brand communications, it’s probably best to have your own legal team vet the idea first. For my part, Jane thinks Rick won’t mind a loving reference used strictly for illustrative purposes. After all, she says, it’s not like I’m competing with him for Jesse’s girl.

“Character gets to the heart of what good storytelling is all about. They’ve helped Wendy’s focus on what makes us unique, different and special and that’s helped us to get people’s attention, keep their interest and keep the business growing. We compete with much larger brands, but by being overt about how we want to attack those differences, we’ve been able to have a lot of tension and conflict in the story that we are telling. That allows us to keep the story fresh and to fuel it. The more we do that the more positive attention we get as a brand and the more the brand continues to grow, which, in turn, builds our confidence in our storytelling and keeps the courage level high.”

—Kurt  Kane, President U.S. & Chief Commercial Officer, Wendy’s Corporation

“I’ve been through Character’s story framework process four times in my career, and it has always added extraordinary value. It was a central piece of Walmart’s rebranding effort in 2006, as we sought a new articulation of our brand narrative and our purpose. It’s an equally powerful tool for us now, as Walmart defines its place in a rapidly transforming retail environment. And we are currently using it to do the same for Sam’s Club.”

—Tony Rogers, Chief Marketing Officer, Walmart

“Character’s approach to brand building is unlike any other in the business. Jim and his team use the timeless truths of human storytelling to unlock story potential and connect deeply with brand audiences. I’ve worked with Character throughout my career, and my experience with Tabasco was as fascinating, inspiring, and productive as ever. 

Character worked with our team not only to help us re-examine and re-articulate the elemental truths of our iconic global brand but also to develop and apply practical tools that make the brand story framework user-friendly for our entire organization. 

I whole-heartedly recommend Character to any brand marketer who is looking to make intuitive and durable connections with their consumer.”

Lee Susen, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Tabasco / McIlhenny Company