Wednesday, June 20

Enhancing News Releases: International Paper

International Paper (IP), which is a global uncoated paper and packaging company, demonstrated what is likely to be considered by most to be a best practice in blending traditional news releases and digital media features. And they did it for the right reasons.

In a news release (we ran a portion of it on our business giving blog), International Paper recognizes two outstanding efforts to protect natural resources through leadership in conservation and education. Most public relations practitioners know the drill: Company X together with Nonprofit Z recognized so and so and so and so on date at place.

Sure, the release is mostly traditional and follows an emerging trend of being "pat" quote heavy: "So and so and so and so are great people who do great things," said so and so. "And that is why it makes sense that our great company and a great nonprofit gave them a great award." Only one quote survived in our version and that might have been too much.

(Note to IP: I'm not making fun of the release as much as I am poking at public relations rules, which seem to only work for members of the media who claim they want to write their own stories. I've written several thousand releases, just like this one, but perhaps with a few quotes less.)

So what caught our attention?

There is an added element that, although easily missed, is brilliant. In addition to the sum-ups of John Tippett (2007 IP Conservation Partnership recipient), who was recognized for his work to protect Virginia's Rappahannock River, and Donald Sprangers (2007 IP Environmental Education recipient), who was honored for outstanding curriculum innovation and cooperative education, IP linked to two mini-documentaries on YouTube. They focus on the merits of each individual's program.

You can catch Tippett's IP-produced video here and Springer's IP-produced video here. While we could probably nit pick a few camera angles, these documentaries, at just over three minutes each, add volumes to the release.

So what makes them work?

Strategic Consideration. Much like the recognition program and release, these documentaries fit the company's strategic message to make products in a safe and healthful workplace, to manage natural resources wisely, and to continually improve its environmental performance.

Multipurpose Communication. While they won't draw as much attention as the latest uncensored celebrity video or campy college pick, the videos stand alone in telling two interesting environmental stories separate from the release. In sum, while the release works for the media, the videos will work for anyone. As a bonus, both groups now have a 3-minute presentation about their efforts.

Message Reinforcement. The videos reinforce the release with new, detailed information that drives home precisely why these two conservationists were chosen. It establishes credibility that few releases do while avoiding the duplication of information.

Demonstrated Credibility. The award program, which is a joint program between IP and The Conservation Fund, is a great example of business giving and philanthropic partnering with its own merit. With the documentaries, IP didn't flood the footage with executive cameos and company quotes (thank you), making it a fine example of credible corporate generosity.

I could list at least a dozen more reasons why this is a best practice without the benefit of seeing a work plan because the strategy is obvious and the tactical craftsmanship spot on. Sure, not every company will be willing to invest in digital media to enhance a news release, but I'm thrilled IP did.

Not only did IP demonstrate communication savvy, but it also gives us a glimpse into why we don't necessarily have to reinvent the news release to make it work with multiple audiences. Public relations professionals who are crafting "social media releases," please pay attention.




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