Ikea’s got it down right: when you purchase furniture that needs to be assembled, the instructions contain no words, only illustrations. Simple. Easy-to-follow. You can’t make a mistake. You know how many screws you have, how many bolts you need and are sometimes even given a mini screwdriver to put screw A into bolt B. When you put together a piece of furniture from Ikea, it’s unlikely that you’ll find an unused bolt on the floor when you’re done. They’re all accounted for.
If only all our user manuals could be that simple. No such luck. We recently purchased a new coffee maker and burr grinder. We had to read the instructions for use four times because they weren’t clear. My guess is that the instructions were written by someone who was so familiar with the device that they didn’t realize that they’d neglected to include an important piece of information in the manual. We had to figure out for ourselves where all the “bolts” belonged.
That’s what can happen in a press release. Written by insiders to be read by outsiders, releases are often over-written, and get tangled in insider-language that garbles the intent, confuses the reader and fails to tell your story clearly. Frequently, the critical piece of information is missing. Inside all the gobbledy-gook, it’s easy for that last bolt to go missing.
The next time you write a press release, think about the best set of user-instructions you’ve ever seen, and model your release on it. Does it come close to the IKEA model? Does it clearly illustrate how your story can be put together with ease? Are all the screws and bolts accounted for?
How do you ensure clarity in your releases? What’s your story?