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One big mistake most press releases make

Who do you think you're talking to?

Think before you speak: who do you think you’re talking to?

If you’re marketing your business, a press release is extremely useful. A repurposed blog post or specially-written piece can become a news story, bringing your company to the public’s attention.

But after years of working on business news stories, it became evident most press releases miss the real point of communication with an audience.

I had to smile when I read a story posted to The Register this week.

It’s about a journalist from the Financial Times, berating businesses for coming up with nonsensical rubbish about themselves.

Lucy Kellaway was addressing a tech audience, and although I’m a fan of technology I have to agree that they’re responsible for an astounding amount of meaningless waffle and cliches in their press releases.

Manx finance sector, I’m looking at you too.

Who is it for?

When you’re writing a press release, you’re sending it to a journalist. And their job is to write a story their audience will understand, appreciate and possible even enjoy.

That’s hard to do if you’re wading through bucketloads of “visionary” leaders, “prestigious” awards and “delighted” chief executives.

Frankly, very few examples of dull writing in press releases make it through the bullshit filter in a newsroom. Journos are generally a fairly sceptical bunch, and they don’t have the space on a page or time on-air to include over-effusive or meaningless language.

Sometimes, it’s not the PR or marketing bod’s fault: upper management sign off on these abominations, and insist on having the guff included.

But ask yourself the question: “who will be reading this?”

The importance of audience

Your audience is the public. The general public. They buy the newspapers, they listen to the radio, they read websites.

If your press release is intended for upper management, you’re missing the point of mass media and may as well email each other the backslapping drivel rather than bothering a reporter with it at all.

And it’s not just that it’s meaningless wiffle: by using the same old jaded PR tropes over and over, you bore your prospective audience.

An example:

For a while, I bemoaned the variety of things businesses and their staff were “delighted” about. And it occurred to me one day it probably wasn’t just me – there are plenty of people around the world subjected to this over-used and unimaginative adjective.

So I set this up: The Delighted People in News blog.

Set frightful delight alight, alright?

I used a simple script to find mentions of people being “delighted” on Google News, and aggregated the results on a website.

I let it run, and it collected 40,000 posts in just under three years: that’s around 40 news stories every day where somebody is “delighted”.

They included:

  • Insurance companies “delighted” with a new website
  • Football clubs “delighted” with results
  • A chain of restaurants “delighted” to open a new branch
  • Candidates “delighted” to be running for election
  • Workers “delighted” to get a job – and managers “delighted” to have them

You get the idea.

Now ask yourself the question, when did you last tell a friend you were “delighted”? My guess is never – it’s not a word people use in conversation very often.

Do something different!

A bit of boasting now. I sent out a media release this week about CCG Media accepting Bitcoin payments. It’s been used here, here and here without too much in the way of rewriting. It makes its point and explains things without resorting to management/self-congratulatory waffle.

Why not stand out with your marketing? Why not think a little differently and keep it simple?

Lose the “blue-sky mission statements going forward” and have “imaginative goals for the future”. Win “highly-regarded” awards instead of “prestigious”. Be “pleased” instead of “delighted”. Sound human.

Your audience will appreciate it – as will the journalist who has to translate corporate-speak into English.

Who knows, they may even be delighted.

If you’d like to know more about how Chips Cheese Gravy Media can help you with your marketing, press relations and more, click here to contact us!

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