Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bios and Press Releases

Elisa Peimer writes:

While creating both a bio and a press
release for a client recently, I was asked, "Why do I need both?" Good question! If a press release is about something a person is doing or has accomplished, isn't biographical information going to be part of the press release?

Sure. But while a bio and a press release share some information, their purposes are different.

A bio – or biography – tells the whole story of the person it's about. A bio of an executive, author, or musician, for example, talks about that person's background, influences, and career path. It discusses their early work, and what they did in order to create their newest work. It touches upon the choices they made in their lives that led them to where they currently are. It also goes into depth about their current creation – their thoughts about it, what they're trying to accomplish, what they hope their company, customers, or public will get out of it.

In writing a bio, I'll always (if possible) interview the subject to get a sense of what they're about. I'll ask them about their childhood and their early influences, as well as specifics about their newest project – what inspired them, who they worked with, what they hope to achieve. The ultimate goal of the bio is to draw readers in and get them interested in the subject. It's ultimately a marketing piece, something to give the reader a reason to want to find out more about the subject and his or her work.

A press release, on the other hand, is built around a specific piece of news – a product release or event, for example. It pulls information from the bio, such as general background about the person or people involved. The main purpose, however, is to promote a thing – a merger or acquisition, a new deal, a record release party, a new book or CD, a new strategic partnership. The press release is sent out to the media for the purpose of advertising the event. Sometimes publications reprint the press release as is, and sometimes the press release is the instigation for further editorial coverage of the event. A press release should have all the relevant information clearly on the page: what, where, when, who. It should also provide web addresses for where to buy the product, where to RSVP for the event, etc. And it shouldn't be too long – one page is usually best. Publications have limited room to reprint content, and you don't want to give them something they can't fit in their available space.

As you can see, a press release is time-sensitive, while a bio is not. A press release is created to promote something, gets sent out, and that's it. When a new event or piece of news is in the works, a new press release should be written and distributed. A bio, while it can and should be updated over time, is a perpetual tool that should be posted on the subject's website, and on social networking sites and e-commerce sites, as an additional tool for the press. Both are necessary parts of a good marketing and press plan.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Twitter: The New Customer Service

Elisa Peimer writes:

A few months ago I wrote about Twitter as a means of business-to-customer communication. I had been intrigued by reading about what happened to a guy who had been stranded at the airport after his JetBlue flight was delayed. I found it really interesting that the whole customer service process – JetBlue trying to figure out what the problem was, Southwest stepping in and trying to get the guy on one of their flights – represented a fundamentally new way of business-to-customer communication. All instantaneous, all public. It broadened the perception that Twitter was about more than just letting people know what you were doing at any given moment.

One of my favorite bloggers,, recently posted her own highly entertaining story of a customer service issue resolved via Twitter with Maytag. After a long bout of poor customer service regarding a broken washing machine, she tweeted her frustration in no uncertain terms. The result? A call from a manager at Whirlpool, Maytag's parent company; quick service; and even an offer of a free machine from another manufacturer.

I recently had one of my own customer relations issue resolved via Twitter. It happened after a certain amount of frustration. I’m currently working with a wonderful Indian singer named Chandrika Tandon and I was in the process of getting her new album up on popular online music distributor CD Baby. Due to a misunderstanding at the printer, I needed a UPC number from CD Baby, stat. I emailed. No response. I called. No one picked up the phone. I continued to email and call for days, to no avail. Meanwhile, the printer was waiting on the project until a UPC number could be procured. In desperation, I posted a tweet to CD Baby’s Twitter page – Hello? Is anybody out there? Why aren’t you responding to emails or picking up your phone?

Apparently, someone at the company watches their Twitter feed – within 5 minutes I got a response. “Sorry you’ve been having trouble getting through – what’s up?” After going back and forth on Twitter a few times, my UPC code problem was resolved within hours. I was glad I was able to get my client what she needed, but I couldn’t help but be annoyed that I had had to resort to a public calling out of bad customer service before I could get a response. At the same time, thank goodness for Twitter – if I hadn’t had the option of using that method to get in touch with the company, who knows when I would have been able to get the help I needed?