When you’re throwing a multitude of blades from velvet sheaths at the media, you don’t want to be in any way predictable in your approach.
With on average 200 press releases arriving in inboxes each day, journalists are swimming in content.
Nothing really registers and gets any traction if it’s just the same old same old. A stack of similar size daggers thrown in the same way, at the same speed, all looking identical makes a content-worn journalist inevitably glaze over.
Daggers instead need to be thrown in with a variety of hand actions. Some thrown lightning fast. Others silent but violent.
The sizes can vary greatly as well in order to mix it up. In Mediaeval times the length of daggers ranged from 6 – 20 inches. Many were so long that they were often viewed as short swords. Your story content should be large and small as well.
And many of the daggers of old were very elaborately decorated and made from Gold, Ebony, Brass. Some even had diamonds encrusted on them.
Your story content needs to be the same. Some of the daggers arrive as a short emailed ‘tip off’. Others are a bunch of pictures and videos emailed over with just picture captions accompanying them. Others are 1,500-word feature-length stories where it’s written in the third-person and you’re written about alongside other experts as if you’re part of a feature. A bulk of your content are straight 500-700 word press releases labeled ‘Press release’ with a boilerplate at the bottom providing more information about a particular subject. A boilerplate is American PR slang for the boilerplate, or bumper of a car. The boilerplate is much like an abbreviated Wikipedia entry.
Sir James Dyson, the man, and Dyson, the business, are completely intertwined with this elaborate content-producing system to be fired at the media.
Dyson, the company, is well known for its innovative vacuum cleaners and ‘air-blade’ hand dryers. James Dyson as the founder is like the ‘Japeto’ that burns the midnight oil every night coming up it all.
What his team like him talking about in the media are a suite of set-piece stories around entrepreneurship, nostalgic memories of his upbringing, innovation awards winners that Dyson sponsor, new inventions from James himself, dividend payouts etc.
500-700 word news releases are self-written and produced around these repeating themes which have updates poured into the mould.
-Dyson Promises Power With $1500 Cordless Vacuum (Channel News)
-James Dyson is right to urge us back to the office (The Spectator)
-‘Sir James Dyson speaks about growing up in North Northfolk (North Norfolk News)
-West Country’s Sir James Dyson now second wealthiest in the UK (ITV Hub)
-Kiwi student inventions make Dyson’s shortlist for $59k prize. (Stuff.co.nz)
-Sir James Dyson’s UK business pays out £460m dividend.
When James Dyson did his big GQ Magazine interview in December 2021, the stylised photography and subject matter of the article is as rehearsed and regimented as the news stories. His headline for the article is selling the brand with ‘Sir James Dyson: Most focus groups are wrong’.
But the look, feel, shape of this carefully crafted content is ‘Lifestyle’ as opposed to ‘News’.
All of the imagery used by Dyson the man and Dyson the business will generally be shot and supplied by Dyson themselves – or they would only ever be permit photographers to be commissioned that have been screened first, and they would have approval rights on the images used in the magazine.
The press content is as carefully managed as the use of logos might be managed by marketing managers through the issuing of brand guidelines.
Dyson is ultra-protective of its reputation, particularly because the man James Dyson and the Dyson business are so synonymous. If James Dyson the man went down, so too could the Dyson business run into trouble.
To that end, James Dyson, the man, is currently suing Channel 4 for libel over a news report on the 10th of February 2022 that he personally was complicit in abuse and exploitation at his Malaysian factory, a former supplier for his firm.
This is the same Sir James Dyson that just got named second on this year’s Sunday Times Rich List worth £23 Bn.
His lawyers called the news report “remarkably defamatory” and that “The main theme of the broadcast is the difference between ‘Dyson’s image’ which his firm seeks to project and protect, and the reality of abuse and exploitation which Channel 4 discloses.”
Channel 4 allege, via interviews with former workers, that they “suffered abuse, inhuman work conditions, and in one case, even torture while they were helping make Dyson products”.
James Dyson had to act decisively on this with his own legal action because if he just left it, the rot can set in and eat away the reputation of the entire business like a cancer.
This is left field, and totally not in the script written by Dyson communications people, that want to paint him as a brilliant inventor and entrepreneur.
When you’re not reacting to a reputational crisis, there’s about 20-30 story ‘shells’’ that make up the various shapes and sizes of daggers that you can slot your content into to throw it in at the media. Variety is the spice of life.
All of these ‘varieties’ are utilised by the comms team at Dyson.
The more ‘oven warm’ your story content is the more readily the journalist will cook it and serve it. I often describe it like a Hello Fresh box where all the content ingredients you supply are separated, washed and ready to combine into an Easy-meal, cooked by the journalist.
Wrapped around each dagger – or cutting-edge story – like a message on a string, is a news date which indexes what ‘happening’ sits behind the story that is being thrown at the media.
This gives the story a raison d’etre, or reason for being.
An interesting, repurposed, recognisable yarn is all well and good, but if it doesn’t have embedded a ‘happening’ or news date, then its simply superfluous fluff rather than falling into the category of ‘in the public interest’.
Often a manufactured and controlled ‘supporting event’ can be created. I was promoting a low-cost security camera a few years ago in a flooded market. I sent an email to the Department for Education, asking if they would support a trial of the product in schools. Even though the product was totally unknown, they sent back an email stating that in principle they would indeed support the use of this device in schools that protected children. I certainly gave them a leading question.
This ‘supporting event’ – with the documental evidence or an email replied to – acts to further authenticate a story. So not only is the story interesting, you are now also providing evidence of something actually ‘happening’ such as a potential Department for Education trial.
Adjoin that with a news index date such as ‘World Safety Day’ which just happens to be the same day that you want the release to run, and you’ve created your own perfect storm.
Its a story. Its a happening. Its a relevant news index date. A Holy Trinity.
These three combine to make the dagger extra potent, almost creating a poision tip.
When the story strikes – with the extra components – it becomes so much more penetrative, seductive and deadly.