Recently, The Onion (a satirical faux-news provider) redesigned their website. To announce this (actual) news, they put out a press release that, in true ‘Onion’ fashion, lampooned the importance companies place on such events. The release was super long, and comedic gold – it detailed every feature of the new site in hilarious detail, never missing an opportunity to toot its own horn. A few highlights:
– “To get the most out of this interactive experience, readers are encouraged to constantly scroll downward on their browsers at all times, during every moment of every day. An entire catalogue of news and information is now at your fingertips as long as you ignore any impulse to eat, drink, or sleep, instead devoting all your time and energy to scrolling further and further and further until your body eventually reaches such a point of exhaustion and dehydration that your organs shut down and you cease being of any value to The Onion.”
– “For readers who wish to get their news in the more traditional form of a hard-copy newspaper, The Onion’s website now offers a ‘conventional newspaper’ view. Just connect your phone or computer to any industrial-sized printing press loaded with full rolls of newsprint paper and ink, and in no time you will have several hundred thousand physical copies of The Onion’s latest issue to enjoy.”
– “The Onion has long been the standard-bearer for all journalism, but with our new redesign, we are now also the standard-bearer for the internet itself. Indeed, with this new design, not only will users continue to have absolutely no reason to visit other websites—news or otherwise—but they will also have no further need for friends, family, or human interaction of any kind.”
Though not every company’s style is as sassy as The Onion can afford to be, I think we can all take a few lessons from this release when announcing our next product launch, feature update, etc. For example:
1. Have a personality. I read the entire Onion release because it was funny, and even though most of the content was comprised of jokes, I DID learn about the new site (while giggling my way through the humorous bits). I definitely would not have done the same with a standard release/release note/etc.
2. Be brief. Part of the release’s humor is that it’s incredibly long. It breaks down seemingly EVERY feature of the new site. In doing so, I (a frequent press release author myself) was remind that no one except the author really cares about every minute detail. In my next release, I’ll try harder to spare my audience and cut to the chase.
3. Assume your audience is smart. They don’t need to know that you cleaned up your design so there’s no more need to scroll, or that you picked a different typeface to optimize the reader experience. They will appreciate the changes you made in totality when they check out the new site/product/etc., so don’t beat them over the head with the motivation behind each choice you made during development.
4. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. The Onion’s crack about a print version of the site hits this point perfectly. In a time when customization to the individual consumer is all the rage, it’s tempting to try and be all things to all people. But… don’t. Be the company/product you are, do your best, and let that stand.
5. Don’t congratulate yourself for offering basic features. The Onion’s release notes users get “unlimited clicks!” Often, many marketers (again, myself included) find themselves actually promoting stuff like that (i.e., “features” that are free and would be included under standard circumstances). Consumers can see right through this (and, anyway, your product shouldn’t need to rely on filler to make its case for greatness).
6. Recognize where your news falls in the ‘big picture’. No matter how revolutionary your new website is… it’s still a website. For your company. It’s not someone’s parent, or child, or even their pet. It’s just a website. Scale your language accordingly.
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