Give Your Press Release the Amazon Treatment

Amazon got plenty of media coverage the week of Dec. 1 after showing off its drone-delivery plans on 60 Minutes. Some PR and marcom pros saw the timing as especially savvy because it put Amazon in the spotlight just as the holiday shopping season kicked off.

Amazon made another announcement a couple of days later that flew under the industry radar but deserves just as much attention – not only for what it said, but how it was said. Posted prominently on its main page for more than a day, the announcement said:

Dear Customers,

Wrap rage. You know what it is.

Breaking through hermetically sealed clamshell cases and untwisting dozens of plastic-coated steel-wire ties can be nerve jangling.

Five years ago, when we announced Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging—a multi-year initiative to alleviate wrap rage—we made this video.

We got comments like these:

“Amazon, if I could, I would seriously make out with you right now. Yes, I said it.”

“The old frustration full packaging took scissors and blood and sweat to open. The new way is perfect! Pull cardboard tab, open envelope, memory card in hand.” 

Since the launch five years ago, the team has worked hard. We launched with 19 products. Today, we offer more than 200,000 different products in Frustration-Free Packaging, and they’ve been ordered more than 75 million times. In addition to being frustration-free, this packaging is also better for the environment. No Styrofoam, no clear-plastic inlays, and it’s smaller. Frustration-Free Packaging has so far eliminated over 24.7 million pounds of excess packaging material.

We still have further to go on this initiative, and we’ll keep after it. We want to say thank you to the millions of customers and thousands of vendors who have supported us on this journey so far. If you’d like to share your feedback and suggestions with us this holiday season, you can reach us any time at Packaging Feedback—your comments are the driving force behind hundreds of packaging improvements every year.

We wish you a frustration-free holiday season, and as always, thank you for being a customer.

Press releases could learn a lot from this announcement.

The first sentence identifies the problem. You can’t sell a solution to people who don’t realize they’ve got a problem or, in this case, might have forgotten about how bad that problem can be. You also can’t sell a solution when the gatekeepers – journalists, analysts and bloggers – don’t know that their readers and clients – your potential customers – have a problem. So don’t start a press release by naming the new product. Name the problem first.

While you’re at it, quantify the problem, especially if you’ve got some independent research. That approach shows journalists, bloggers, analysts and investors the size of the opportunity that the problem creates. Too many releases bury the lede by mentioning the problem and opportunity a few paragraphs later, where it will go unread by those who weren’t hooked by the first paragraph, gave up and now won’t be disseminating your news.

The language is vernacular and vivid. If readers weren’t already nodding their heads, they were after reading the third sentence.

Not only does it include customer testimonials, but they’re quoteworthy, too. Anyone who’s written more than a handful of releases knows how tough it is to get a business customer – an enterprise, a telco, you name it – to provide a quote. And when they do, it’s usually reserved for reasons such the customer’s legal team worrying about it coming across as an endorsement. The result often is more like damning with faint praise: “We are pleased to use this widget” or “This service is a good fit for our company.”

It quantifies the benefits. For example, “Frustration-Free Packaging has so far eliminated over 24.7 million pounds of excess packaging material” explains the environmental benefit. Are you close enough to your customers to get the information necessary to quantify how many dollars, cellular minutes or employee hours you’ve enabled them to save?

It’s free of boilerplate and chest-beating such as a “leading provider of . . .” If you have to tell people – customers, press, analysts, bloggers, anyone – that you’re a leader, it means you’re not confident that they already know it. Saying it makes you look desperate.

Two days later, Amazon issued a press release about the initiative. It’s worth comparing to the announcement because although it’s in a traditional release format, it still eschews annoyances and crutches such as “a leading provider of” in favor of proof points, compelling customer quotes and straightforward language. That’s smart because when the press release’s messaging and writing are compelling, that will come through in the coverage.

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