Lessons from the World’s Most Famous Press Release

Original post date July 2, 2011

It was written 235 years ago. Between 200-300 copies were printed for towns up and down the east coast, and a few made their way to Europe.

Contrary to popular belief, the original copy contained no signatures and what it promoted was completely unique, new and…flawed.

The Declaration of Independence may very well be the world’s most famous press release. That’s according the curator at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where it was written and approved in its final form (unsigned) on July 4th, 1776.

The signed copy we are familiar with was created later for ceremonial purposes.

I found it interesting to hear one of the world’s most famous and important documents being referred to as a press release during a class field trip with my son.  The curator used the analogy because he said that there is confusion regarding the purpose of the Declaration:

… the goal of the document was to only articulate “What” and “Why,” not “How … ”

This history lesson is an important best practice from the Founding Fathers.

Lesson: Focus on effectively communicating ONLY “what “and “why.”

How many times have you written and/or read a press release that tried to say too much, or that lacked clarity on its objective?

Another interesting point from our visit was the struggle to form a new federal government (the “How”). Under the Articles of Confederation, the new federal government had no revenue source (taxation), and no real authority over the states.  The states were sovereign, operating essentially as their own countries making decisions on their own currency, religion, and diplomacy with other countries.

Again the marketer in me saw the similarity to the power struggle between corporate marketing and other sales/marketing organizations (Product, Field, Region, etc.).  Would history provide another lesson for marketers?

Know Your Customer

Congress struggled with governing under the Articles.  Instead of revising the existing document, the Federal Convention decided to draft an entirely new frame of government. According to that curator, three key issues hung up the approval of the framework:

  • Religion
  • Slavery
  • The power of the federal government (which many saw coming at the expense of the states.)

Addressing the religious issue was easy; they left it out of the Constitution.  It was later covered under the Bill of Rights.  On slavery, they reached a compromise by outlawing slave trade in 1808, twenty years in the future.  But the single most important change was the shift from states to the individual in granting the federal government its power.

We the people of the United States … do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States.”

The federal government now answered to citizens, not the states.  State representatives and congressmen now represented the views and best interests of the people within their districts.  By putting citizens first, the founding fathers established a focal point that transcended state interests.

Lesson: With the rise in social media adoption, marketers now can better gauge the direct needs and desires of their customers.  Customers for their part are showing a willingness to engage like never before.  Marketers are presented with an opportunity to shift focus from solely addressing and satisfying internal “state” needs to anticipating, engaging, and serving the needs of “citizens” … customers.

Is it time for a marketing revolution?

Although I’m a proud Virginian, I’m no Patrick Henry but I say marketers, it’s time for our own declaration … marketing by the people, for the people!

Happy Birthday America.