Storytelling in a News Release: Are You Fit for a Phone?

I’m convinced that storytelling in news releases increases syndication.

While the wire services don’t track this type of data, our own experiences support the premise.

Apparently, Gold’s Gym agrees, applying storytelling techniques to a news release distributed yesterday with the headline:

Are You Fit Enough For Your Own Phone?

Gold’s figured out announcing yet another discount on membership fees or the latest equipment to build those deltoids wasn’t going to register on the media’s radar.

Instead, the release sets up the problem tied to mobile-phone mania with no mention of Gold’s:

It’s become a ubiquitous part of our culture: People everywhere hunched over tiny screens, cramping their hands to type on miniature-sized keyboards or tilting their necks to listen to a call. All you have to do is look at the multi-tasking driver next to you on the highway and it’s easy to see that Americans are addicted to their smart phones. Now it turns out our addiction may be taking a physical toll.

From there, they bring in Dr. Eric Plasker, a chiropractor, to pontificate on horrible conditions such as “Blackberry Thumb” and what’s called “Cell-bow,” which occurs when a person damages a nerve in the arm by bending their elbows too tightly for too long.

I think this is also the ailment Guy Fieri on the Food Network deals with from what he calls the “hunch,” the same bending of elbows to stabilize sandwiches before indulging.

Moving along.

On the negative side, I can’t say the melodrama works for me:

The stats are staggering … Americans spend 6.1 billion wireless minutes chatting on the phone each day; that’s equivalent to 11,600 years of talking within a 24-hour period.

Really … 1,600 years?

But the idea of explaining the problem over four paragraphs before spotlighting the payoff, Gold’s “Fit for the Phone Workout” works.

I also appreciate the attempt at levity in the news release:

The goal is to help eliminate these pesky mobile maladies … one smartphone user at a time.

Last, the release outlines several exercises that can be done at your desk or on the go to fight “smartphone-itis.”

Looking at the past 24 hours, the syndication coverage is already flowing with media ranging from Wireless and Mobile News to WTHR in Indianapolis.

Sure, most of the coverage comes from pure syndication, but there is a human element at work as well.

The key lies in telling a story with broad appeal that the media property can rework in a few minutes. You can see an example of this in the Wireless and Mobile News lead graph:

People hunching over tiny screens, cramping their hands to type on miniature-sized keyboards or tilting their necks to listen to a call, are stressing their bodies.  Gold’s Gym offers exercises to help. 

Kudos to Gold’s and its communications team for brains over brawn (couldn’t resist).

P.S. Appreciate Judy Radlinksy in our Silicon Valley office flagging the Gold’s news release.

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5 comments

5 Comments so far

  1. Yin Mei November 20th, 2010 8:26 am

    It sounds like someone had fun writing this press release with an audience in mind. I am now picturing people bent over their tiny mobile screens reading Gold’s article and feeling guilty from not going to the gym. Thanks for sharing this news release to highlight the power of storytelling!

  2. Lou Hoffman November 20th, 2010 10:36 am

    Thanks Yin for taking the time comment.

    I agree that the company brought some levity to the news release.

    I also think Gold’s management deserves some credit for supporting a storytelling approach.

  3. Donna Maurillo December 23rd, 2010 12:43 am

    Heh… you just gave me the impetus to get back to what I love best… Writing! Being clever! Pulling people in! It’s kind of easy to get into a rut when much of what I promote is academic research. But hey… thanks for reminding me that I can wrap a story around it. Instead of opening with the same formula designed to get search engines to find the release (i.e., mention the company name, title of the report, author, here a keyword, there a keyword…), maybe I should be writing something that will compel a real reporter to do a story about the research in a practical setting. I mean, it really doesn’t matter how many news sites print a word-for-word copy of your release. What really matters is getting a colorful by-lined article based on that release.

  4. Lou Hoffman December 23rd, 2010 9:28 am

    Donna,

    Thanks for sharing your perspective.

    I’ve seen companies take academic research and package it in two forms, one for their peer group and one for the mainstream.

    I think HP (not a client) has done a particularly good job with this concept.

    For example, if you go to http://www.hpl.hp.com/news/2010/apr-jun/wastefordatacenter.html?jumpid=reg_R1002_USEN you’ll see storytelling techniques applied to a narrative about transforming dairy farm waste into energy for data centers. The same story is comes in the form of a technical paper presented at a conference on sustainability.

  5. Donna Maurillo December 23rd, 2010 6:53 pm

    Cool story, Lou. Thanks for helping to pull me out of that rut. I never felt comfortable there.

    Donna

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