In Blog, lessons

Popular stories in the media often originate from a press release. Each week we pick one of those popular announcements and distill down key PR lessons that you can immediately apply in your own business. This week: a product innovation press release from a little-known Wisconsin company called Three Square Market.

Microchip Implants for Employees? One Company Says Yes – the New York Times

This news from Three Square Market garnered massive global media coverage, but not all positive. In addition to the New York Times, business media like Inc. and local outlets like NBC Chicago and the Milwaukee Business Journal also ran stories.

Why was the media so interested in this news, and what can we learn from this announcement from Three Square Market, which designs “micro market” vending areas that businesses put in employee break rooms?

What Works:
  • Strong News Hooks. Three Square Market used a few news hooks including the so-called superlative hook to tell the media that it is the first U.S. firm to offer implanted microchips to their staff. The company is also teasing its current customers with a prelude to a product announcement by testing the rice-sized payment and ID chips on its employees first. The news was part of a clever marketing strategy, which includes a “Chip Party” press event where staff will have the RFID chips injected between their thumb and index finger.
What Doesn’t Work:
  • Not Alleviating Inevitable Concerns. While most of the company’s staff agreed to be implanted with the chips, some media outlets still focused on health and privacy concerns, as well as “Big Brother” aspects. A few headlines referenced the anti-christ and George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984”. Tech outlet Gizmodo’s snarky and sarcastic headline called the company’s move “Totally Not Creepy” and said this is the beginning of the slow death of worker rights.
What We’ve Learned: Prepare For Alternative Outcomes and Focus Your Messaging

Three Square Market grabbed the media’s attention, but they could have alleviated some of the inevitable concerns by addressing them upfront in the press release: Are the chips safe? Can the chips be hacked? Can the chips be removed? Will employee movements and actions be monitored?

While the expression “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” may be relevant to Three Square Market’s announcement, it’s still too early to tell if they should have done things differently. The firm recognized they had an interesting story to tell about an upcoming product, but they could have explained more clearly and higher in the statement why they are launching this employee program.

The media can be tough and relentless, so it pays to prepare for outcomes you may not want, and it always pays to focus your messaging so your brand identity comes out on top. In your next press release, ask yourself if your messaging is clear and on point and if there are any concerns that need to be addressed. Can your messaging get hijacked? Is there a chance you’ll lose control of the narrative?

Check out Three Square Market’s announcement here and let me know in the comments section below what lessons you will likely apply in your next press release.

Alex Armitage is co-founder and CEO of Publiqly, whose step-by-step systems help small and mid-sized companies write press releases that journalists and bloggers can’t ignore. Were you forwarded this post? Sign up to receive our weekly press release lessons directly in your inbox.

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