Hey, you don’t have to write like that

November 12, 2012
wastebasket with press releases

I am guilty as charged. A victim of insider public relations. I admit, I have written my fair share of bad press releases. You know the kind, littered with formal, stilted language and qualifying clauses that no one believes or will ever incorporate in an article. But you have to, at least sometimes. There are conventions, after all. But damn, it kills me. For the record, here are my biggest pet peeves of press release writing.

1. Including copyright or trademark symbols. Do clients ever really read the media? If they did, they would know that media never include the symbols, but still they insist, claiming it comes from the attorneys. Still, it’s just bad form that we put up with.

2. Using mixed caps in company’s name. OK. So you thought it would be cool to brand your product or service using an odd mix of caps. FunKY. Or iwon. whatsinitFome? But don’t think the media are obliged to use your personal capitalization guide. These kinds of anomalies just make communications difficult and won’t be used by the media in any event.

3. Writing explanatory clauses (and now the hyperbolic explanatory clause). Today, XYZ Corporation, the country’s 132nd largest, privately owned, minority managed and Missouri-based provider of alternative stealth virtualized technologies … Really? This communicates something? I know. Descriptors are important. But why not give the news first and then save the jargon and hyperbole for later. Or how about linking to the descriptor? Now that would be innovative.

4. The disposable quote. “We’re excited to win the award/hire a new person/land a new account.” What exactly would be the opposite quote? “We’re indifferent to win the award/hire a new person/land a new account.” It’s a lazy quote that admittedly I have had to use at times. Shame on me.

5. The pre-formatted, award news release. I loved it, and I am sure the media loved it, when Inc. magazine decided to expand the Inc. 500 by some 4,500 places. Just think. Now local newspapers all over the country can receive scores and scores of identical news releases touting local businesses that weighed in at the 4,691st place (or how about 3,453rd?) on the annual ranking. Wouldn’t it be great, just once, if a company made light of the fact, and announced that while they ranked 4,691st on this year’s list, they are confident they can reach 4,690th place next year?

What about you? What are your pet peeves about writing news releases? Let me know and I will publish the best/worst of them.

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