Open Source Press Relations

Benton, Kevin kevin.benton at
Mon Feb 19 16:16:46 UTC 2007

"Wooing the press is an exercise roughly akin to picnicking with a
tiger. You might enjoy the meal, but the tiger always eats last."  --
Maureen Dowd.

Kevin Benton
Senior Software Developer
MSS Silicon Design Engineering
Advanced Micro Devices
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-----Original Message-----
From: developers-owner at
[mailto:developers-owner at] On Behalf Of David Miller
Sent: Friday, February 16, 2007 9:20 PM
To: developers at
Cc: Mary Colvig
Subject: Open Source Press Relations

Last year at OSCON I attended a session on "Open Source Press Relations"
that was led by Josh Berkus, who was the Postgres lead at Sun

With Bugzilla 3.0 being a major milestone, it's a good chance for us to
jump into the press game and get some good coverage for our new release.

The following are the notes I took at his presentation.  Hopefully
they're mostly coherent.  I don't know how much of it we can actually
do, but it'd probably be fun to try. :)

Open Source Press Relations

Josh Berkus
Postgres lead for Sun

- volunteers
- press contacts
- reference users
- press kit
- a little money

Volunteers Wanted!
- writers/designers
  - press releases
  - webdesign and graphics
  - handouts and articles
- translators
  - all of the above
- regional contacts
  - press/business experience
  - email & phone for work hours
  - one per country/region/language

care & feeding of volunteers
- PR contributions are as valuable as code, treat it that way
- OS-PR is participatory: ask, don't tell
- make sure each PR volunteer gets their 15 minutes of fame.

press contacts: your list
- collect a list
  - bloggers/reporters in your community
  - reporters who have covered your project
  - lists from conferences
  - business cards
- manage the list
  - keep in central secure location
  - separate into categories:
    - cold - only interested in releases, if anything
    - warm - covered in the past, seem to get it
    - intimate - go to events, etc.

reference users
- you need them
  - quotes
  - interviews
  - case studies
- get them through your community
  - mailing lists
  - consultant clients
  - conferences
- keep their contact info handy

press kit
- one-stop shopping for reporters
  - "what is" document
  - "latest news" document
  - case studies & reference users
  - contact information / regional contacts
  - logos/graphics
  - self-booting CD?
- have the same information everywhere
  - website (single web page with anchors for sections)
  - paper handouts (give them out at conferences)

handling the press

1. Reporters are people, too.  Treat them like another developer that
you respect, but they develop news rather than code.
   - Don't insult them when they get something wrong.
   - Do thank them when they get something right.

2. NOTHING is off the record.
   - Don't share it with a reporter if you don't want it shared with the
   - Do plan everything you're going to say.
   - Don't expect to get a preview of the article

3. If you want to decide the news, you do the work
   - Do respond very quickly to requests
   - Do offer facts and quotes, and lists of contacts to reporters, And
   - Do look for the "newsworthy" story.
   - Don't tell them what to report.

getting press for a release

8 weeks out: draft release

- Do it in an open source way
  - involve your advocacy group
  - use mailing lists and wikis/version control
  - "many eyes make bugs shallow" is true of press releases, too
  - allow 3 to 4 weeks for draft.
- Don't be afraid to do it in the open.  Most reporters don't have time
to follow along, so you shouldn't have to worry much about premature
announcements (usually).
- Use professional release format
  - top-down composition (so they can tell in the first paragraph if
they want to carry the story or not)
  - emphasize news value
  - have a theme (something to unify the story line in the press
  - one to 1.5 pages long
- professional release format has 8 parts
  1. contact information - include a phone number of someone who can
take phone calls during business hours
  2. dateline - mandatory: most services will auto-reject without
reading it if it doesn't have one.
  3. summary paragraph
  4. theme paragraph
  5a. first quote - full name and title of the person quoted, you'll get
calls asking for it if you don't include that
  6a. detailed information
  5b. second quote
  6b. Additional detail (keep it short)
  7. "about" paragraph - usually the same every time, may evolve over
  8. link to more information (press kit URL)

4 weeks out: create press kit

- press release, plus:
  - links to more advocacy information (case studies, etc)
  - full text of quotes
  - detail that didn't fit in the release
  - information about quoted companies
  - links to regional contacts

- get website ready to roll
  - use CMS so that you can activate content "all at once" (stage on a
  - links to downloads
  - home page announcement
  - traffic monitors (statistics, etc)

- release to translators so you can send native-language press releases
to foreign press.

1 week out: "embargoed" releases

- contact press whom you "trust"
  - must agree to not release until the release date
  - must be willing to postpone/cancel release in case of problems
  - a good way to reward reporters you like
- additional advance content
  - Q&A about release
  - demo if appropriate
  - arrange interviews with developers/users
- be aware of press schedules
- file release with PRWire (especially if you don't have a lot of press
contacts yet)  This has to be done 2 days ahead of when you want the
release to be distributed.

12 hours out: stuff up on website

- last chance to postpone
  - check with lead developers (are we ready to go?)
- put up on web
  - press kit
  - home page news

0 hour: send out release

- contact embargo reporters and give the all-clear
- spam your whole press list
  - individual email to each press contact, not a mailing list or BCC
(use a script to send it if you want)
  - return address should be "press at ....."
- tell the translators to release to foreign press

1 to 5 days after: follow-up

- follow up with key reporters
- start collecting links to press coverage
  - send corrections, if necessary
- slashdot it!  digg it!
- update press list (weed out people who bounce, collect names of
reporters who ran the story? etc)
- thank volunteers, throw a party if local.

Dave Miller                         
System Administrator, Mozilla Corporation
Project Leader, Bugzilla Bug Tracking System
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