These days there seems to be a lot of activity in the audio industry -- lots of new product launches -- and in the past week I’ve probably read ten press releases from manufacturers. But just as all audiophile products aren’t created equal, neither are the press releases that attempt to attract customers and reviewers to those products. When a company circulates a press release, and I’m deciding if I want to get its subject product in for review, by me or by someone else in the SoundStage! Network, I often see things that bother me. I wonder if they bother you, too.
Manufacturers, here are five tips for improving your press releases:
- Don’t call a product upgradeable unless you plan to upgrade it. Calling a product “upgradeable” in your press release implies that that product will be upgraded at some point. But will the buyer of the current product be offered an upgrade path that involves sending the component back to the manufacturer for better parts or more advanced technology? Or might the “upgrade” be only a generous trade-in allowance toward the next model? The problem is that, when the next models appear, many of these “upgradeable” products are forgotten by their makers. Or the upgrade is so costly that it’s a no-brainer to buy the new model instead. After all, to some degree, any product can be upgraded -- to call it “upgradeable” doesn’t say anything useful. But if the product will be upgraded in the future, and at a cost that makes actual sense for the consumer, then the reader of your press release has learned something that might add value to your product, and convince that reader to pursue your new component.
- Include the product’s price in the press release. If your product isn’t yet ready for purchase or at least pre-order, don’t send out the press release. Not telling the consumer or the reviewer the price leaves one of the most critical pieces of information up to anyone’s guess. We need to know what that new component will cost before we decide to line up an audition or a review sample -- and certainly before we or readers decide to order it sound unheard, something that’s more and more common in this age of Internet buying. Besides, in ultra-high-end audio, “Price TBA” sounds dangerously close to “Let’s see what people are willing to pay before we set a price.”
- Give us real photos of the product, inside and out. I’ve seen computer renderings so good that I’ve had to ask the manufacturer whether or not the image was actual or computer generated. But more often, you can spot such renderings a mile away. The problem is that such images are really only approximations of what the final product might eventually look like. If you haven’t actually made one of your new XL1000s, how do you know enough about it to sell it? I know from experience that, once manufacturing begins, changes in production units are not the exception but the rule. Prototypes are fine and dandy -- seeing an example of the actual thing I might buy inspires much more confidence.
- When you announce your new product, don’t slam the model it replaces. This is disrespectful to customers who trusted you when they bought the original model. After all, you told them then that they were getting something really good. If your customers aren’t willing or able to upgrade to the new model, do you really want to alienate them by telling them that what they now own “sounds broken by comparison,” or some such? There are more respectful ways to highlight the improvements you’ve undoubtedly made while still respecting your past efforts. Think of it this way: If your last product is so easily trounced in a single generation, what does that say about that past effort? A good component will always be a good component, even if it’s replaced by something better.
- If you claim to have reinvented the wheel, at least follow that claim with a smiley face. Yeah, I get it -- you need to sell this new thing, and to sell it, you need to get folks excited about it. If those folks are audiophiles, that means telling them about all the new stuff they’re gonna hear in their favorite recordings. But don’t go over the top and blow past the threshold of believability. Chances are, the readers of your press release have been down the upgrade path before and have seen such claims many times. Have some respect for them, and maintain your credibility. Hopefully, this isn’t the last product you’re ever going to release -- leave someplace to go next.
I can hear the marketers now: “If we do what Jeff says, we’ll never sell anything!” My response to that is simple: If you make something really good, you won’t have to embellish the truth nearly so much to sell it anyway.
I realize that, for a product to be sold, it needs to be part of a story. Our SoundStage! InSight videos were created to tell these stories. I find them far more interesting than press releases that make all sorts of wild claims and leave me wondering, Who wrote this thing? If you’re writing a press release, follow the advice above; tomorrow morning, at the mirror, you’ll be able to look yourself in the eye.
. . . Jeff Fritz