How to make it easier for media to make articles about opensource projects

While opensource probably never has had projects that brands and communicates themselves better than now it isn’t something to put under a chair that most opensource projects are done by enthusiast programmers on a hobby-basis. This, plus a culture of anti-commersialization and identifying outside mainstream culture creates a opensource landscape that alienates both programmers and normal people, and more importantly leading to making nice articles on opensource, decentralzation and libre culture very difficult.

Now, it is not our interest to call out projects or try to control how opensource is done in practice. But for projects that want to have a better media-relationship we have created a little resource to encourage such efforts. 🙂

So here is a list to make our job easier

1. Create a press kit

Often listed under as ‘press’ on the websites of projects and organizations, it is a page or document containing logos, professional pictures of the people, images of the product or similar ment to be used in articles. The purpose is to make it more likely that media to make articles or content about the project by making it more easily available. But it is also is to ensure a higher bottom quality level reporting on the project.

Example of great press kit:
https://zorin.com/press/

2. Create a press list

When a new update is happening media is more likely to make an article if the news are freshest possible. A press list makes that easy by essentially being a email list. But for such a press-list to be effectively used it is important that it’s not too busy and when posted being as flashy and engaging as you can with all the relevant assets and resources medie-people need to generate content effectively.

To make updates and news have a large impact it’s also smart to make as many of the channels or plattforms to be sharing it at the same time.

When it is syncronised into a simultanious mass release on the news it hits people on different places at the same time making for a bigger impact making it more likely people will catch it. With this is mind you might want to use the presslist to give media the update and resources before it is public so media has time to prepare articles and content until when it gets public.

3. Sell important issues and updates to media

By selling we are not talking about money, but convincing and engaging. If you want something to be picked up by media it is your job to make it as easy to happen as possible, and by making it easy you are trying to sell media on your news.

Now, what selling entails is pretty openended. Often it means befriending and having a relationship with journalists that you work with over time. But it can also mean creating good assets, a well written press release that is easy to turn into an article or just sharpening the concept so it is more engaging.

Things opensource can do less of

While you are free to present yourself however you want these can be a bit of a awakening for some.

1. Release-notes and updates

This might be controversial, but ever so important… Do we need release notes? Short answer if obviously a overwhelmingly, YES. However, usually releasenotes are for the most part all the communication-work opensource projects does, and that can be damaging. A lot of these release notes have information that is not relevant to most people leading to whenever something newsworthy gets mentioned it might get overlooked. This goes both for media, but also the people that are following the project.

While it needs to be formed towards the given project’s needs, it might be worthwhile to seperate information more and hide away release-notes to be available for those that really need it, like contributors and people on the team and so on, and then have blog or similar that you direct most people towards.

Some projects also choose to post release notes less often and culminate them into for example quarterly posts where it is more focusing on making it a bigger release that is amazing instead of a lot of smaller releases that aren’t as engaging.

An example of good informative outwards communciation:
https://element.io/blog/

2. Endless detail and endless hours put in

While detail and a high work ethic is good it doesn’t always mean it amounts to coverage or reach. A lot of programmers can have the tendency to put put a lot of energy into a large list of updates and information. Often talking about the amount of hours put in.

While this gives a expansive view of what is happening it can become overly noisy communication-work leading to it being a hassle for media-people to make an article about it, or even worse; make it difficult for the general public to gather much at all from the post.

An example of a informative posts:
https://blog.zorin.com/2022/03/10/zorin-os-16-1-released-support-for-ukraine/

Final words

Hopefully these are enlightening and universal enough to be helpfull to most projects. And as said earlier, it is not ment to shame projects for doing bad branding or communciation-work, but being helpfull to those projects that wants to push their project to the next level and make it more relevant in the media landscape.

If you’d like to get help or information about media or communication-work outside what is said here we will answer comments on the article and we are available on our mastodon account @fedinews@mastodon.social

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