Solar Marketing Think Tank is honored to have Mark Osborne, founding senior news editor of and Photovoltaics International magazine, as our first contributor outside of the agency. As a veteran solar editor and journalist, Mark offers some sage advice—and a template—for composing press releases that get attention from readers. – Tor “Solar Fred” Valenza, CMO of Solar, Kiterocket

By Mark Osborne

Mark OsborneNew product introductions across the solar photovoltaics value chain provide a key indicator of both the technology and innovation paths that the industry is taking to secure the future of low-cost renewable energy. The R&D can cost millions, and time to market can take several years. When one adds marketing and sales efforts associated with product launches to the total product cost, the forward investment is often considerable.

What may surprise some readers is that the vast majority of new product press releases we receive at PV Tech, from both the upstream and downstream sectors, are basically woeful. They lack some of the fundamental content requirements to either report as news or, more regularly, fail to provide the right information for us to do them justice in our highly popular new product reviews.

Basic Errors

A persistent failing in new product press releases is that they focus only on the features and claimed benefits. However, even when such content exists, many releases often fail to use industry standard nomenclature, data and specifications. Few product releases cover important aspects such as what is unique, different or simply better than competitive products or existing products from the company’s own product suite.

The worst failing is probably the lack of content that covers why the product is needed in the first place. Put another way, what problem does the product solve and what does it do better than the other products?

Some of the silly things often left out of releases include the branding name or part number, as well as when the product will be commercially available and in which countries. In the world of multimedia, one of the silliest mistakes is not providing a high-resolution photo of the product.

Simply put, the lack of care and attention can give the strong impression that despite the products’ claimed benefits, cost of development and the like, the release actually carries little weight and conviction.

Basic Corrections

Help is at hand, without a long and winding to-do list.

Please take a look at the standardized product review format that PV-Tech uses for all new products. The template provides must-have content inclusion that potential customers need in order to get a good initial understanding of the product offering.

The format has been honed from in-depth conversations and feedback with purchasers and readers for more than 15 years and has been applied across several different industries served by our publishing company. Key ingredients include problem, solution, applications and availability. We use the “platform” section to cover key technical details.

When planning a product press release, you won’t fail to convey the right information if you take what has been written in the initial draft of the release, and then try and fill out the template with the information included in that working draft. The reverse engineering of our standard template is a good starting point when developing a product press release, and it also can prove helpful in formulating marketing information on a new product.

While this may sound self-promotional, my last bit of advice is to submit your solar releases to the publications that your target market reads, and that of course includes PV-Tech. As one of the most popular websites globally for the solar PV industry, the pageviews of our new product review section rank among the top five most visited areas, and many of these reviews also are included in our print publications. From my experience and Google statistics analysis, product reviews have an incredibly long traffic tail, compared to industry news content.

Finally, savvy readers may notice that this article was written in the framework of problem, solution and platform—product press releases aren’t the only content that can benefit from this proven format.

Mark Osborne is the senior news editor of Photovoltaics International magazine and the PV-Tech website. He has launched multiple technology titles in print and online, and has covered manufacturing in the automotive, shipping, semiconductor and solar sectors during a publishing career spanning three decades. Mark started blogging in 2005, one of the first technology editors to do so, and has worked online since 1996. A veteran manufacturing technology journalist and editor, Mark has been responsible for a series of innovative formats for delivering technical content to an engineering-based audience.