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Chevy’s emoji press release: thumbs up or unamused?

Who says press releases are old-fashioned and boring?

On June 22, Chevrolet published the first-ever emoji-only press release to introduce the new Chevy Cruze. “Words alone can’t describe the new 2016 Chevrolet Cruze,” the company explained, “so to celebrate its upcoming reveal, the media advisory is being issued in emoji, the small emotionally expressive digital images and icons in electronic communication.”

Chevy's emoji press release

Different. Isn’t it?

As a 24-year-old millennial who considers herself as quite emoji-literate, I’ve taken the liberty of decoding the first section before I looked at the official translation (and no cheating!)

Happy people love car

If you’re cruising around in a big city with loud music blasting, then stop. In two days, a new car that chicks will love will arrive at 11 p.m. Remember to charge your phone and stay connected for this striking announcement. Also fill up your basketball, football, soccer ball, baseball, tennis ball, tennis ball and your bike with gas. Yes, get pumped up, give a thumbs-up to all good breads, dress pretty, and let all the happy faces know what is going on. “The new car is going to turn your world upside down with brand new ideas,” said a beardy auto-mobile salesman wearing an old red tie.

Well, okay, I was way off, but at least this emoji-laden press release caught my attention, challenged my thoughts and was entertaining. And, obviously, I was not alone. This emoji-packed teaser drew many attempts on the Internet before the official translation came out, and some of these emoji-savvy gurus were beyond hilarious when deciphering all these smiley faces and heart emoticons (for your entertainment, look up #ChevyGoesEmoji on Twitter to see all the bizarre translations).

Chevy is not the only brand that is dipping into this emoji craze. In 2014, Oreo targeted mainland Chinese parents with a successful mobile social campaign that allowed them to take pictures of themselves and their children offline and paste their heads into emojis. In less than three months, the campaign generated approximately 100 million emojis and nearly 10 million emojis were shared on WeChat.             

Although some may dismiss Chevy as being overly gimmicky or trying too hard to be trendy and relevant, all in all, I do think there are some great elements in this press release that we can all learn from:

1. Be creative and have fun!

Haters gonna hate meme

Press releases about events, new product launches, anniversaries and awards can be very formulaic and tedious. Before you say, “Oh, but the emoji press release was too cryptic and completely incomprehensible”, think about this: Could a 500-word news release about the seating and fuel efficiency of a new car draw your eyeballs and generate as much enthusiasm as this emoji-only press release? Yes, this emoji-filled press release may seem vague and limited. But isn’t that the point? The ambiguity piqued the interest of the audience to see the decoded version. While I don’t encourage you to jump on the emojis bandwagon, it is refreshing to see a traditional brand taking a step out of the box and being a little playful with their stories.

2. It captured the media’s attention.

did I just win the game meme

Any PR pro can tell you how challenging it is to grab the attention of journalists these days. The brutal truth is that many journalists may receive up to a hundred press releases each day. Exacerbating this fact is the shrinking of newsroom staffs and the proliferation of media platforms. Journalists now only spend less than one minute reading each press release they actually open, according to a study by Greentarget. That means that PR and media professionals need to be more creative if they want free press. Chevy’s news was picked up by many major media players, including USA Today, The Guardian, Business Insider, Fortune, MarketWatch, PR Daily, The Verge, AdWeek and Morningstar. I would assume that the media team at Chevy popped a great amount of champagne in the office for this successful PR stunt.

What Chevy could have done better though, was to offer well-rounded meals to whet the reporters’ appetites. Remember, most reporters would still want the nuts and bolts (yeah, the 5Ws) so don’t just serve them desserts and forget to provide them the fulfilling, hearty entrées. If you are not helping the reporters determine what to write about your story, then you are leaving it to them to cover whatever they want, and in the end, it may not comes across as you had intended. And yes, press releases can be creative and functional at the same time. For example, last year did a cool variation on press releases when it distributed a press release to announce the new Kindle Reader in a series of 14 separate tweets, each plugging a different element of the new product. The innovative, yet informative, press release was picked up by many journalists, and more importantly, its shareable nature allowed journalists share the tweets extensively on social media.

3. Tell an interesting story – humanize it and use multimedia elements.


While an emoji-only press release may not be for everyone, I do applaud Chevy’s effort in injecting some personality into their story and relating to its audience in a more human way. Another good way to tell a good story is to support it with multimedia elements, such as compelling photos, videos and infographics. Multimedia content is considered as one of the most powerful components in storytelling. Not to mention that adding visuals can help transcend language barriers and allow brands to tell their stories across borders. The rich elements help increase media pick-ups and drive audience engagement with the content. For example, check out this Porsche’s multimedia news release that compiles all of the rich multimedia assets including logos, compelling images a video, social updates, and related links – it’s comprehensive, it’s rich with content, more importantly, it gives the reporter everything they need to write about you.

4. Invite engagement.


The call to action in your press release is vital, whether you want people to download your content, follow your social media or seek more information about your product. It’s not every day that you see a brand asks its customers to decode an emoji press release, but there are other ways by which you can invite engagement and plug in your call-to-actions in your press releases. The use of multimedia, including videos (check out our latest hand-drawn corporate video), images, landing pages and social media feeds have proven to increase engagement when included in part of your communications strategy. While a smiley face-filled press release might be seen as a clueless attempt if Chevy’s goal was to get a message across, it has outdone its job if the primary goal was to get the young consumers talking about Chevy. Again, it all depends on your primary objective and how strategic you want to be.

5. Write for your audience.

Audience meme
We always stress the importance of understanding your audience’s interests and reflecting them in press releases. Think about what you can do to differentiate yourself from other marketers and what story angle you can use to capture your audience’s attention. As one of the most traditional, well-respected automobile makers, Chevy has taken a creative approach when catering the message to a younger generation of consumers. Again, that’s quite risky, because not all journalists like gimmicks, but the effort paid off. Just hours after the release was issued, different versions of the decoded release surfaced and were shared on social media.

As media and audience demand change in our increasingly digital world, press releases will continue to evolve. The prizes are there for those who take the initiative to experiment, learn from their mistakes and are willing to captivate the readers with engaging and creative elements. The key is to always keep your audience in mind and constantly re-evaluate what you can do to engage with them. I personally would like to give my two thumbs-up, smirking face, and muscle-flexing emoticons to Chevy for their recent effort.

What do you think the future holds for press releases?


Eki Isabel Lau is the Marketing Executive for APAC (excluding China) at PR Newswire.