By Darren Gilbert
And yet, there are still many that manage to upset the apple cart, sending out press releases that make no sense at all and expecting the intended receivers to understand them.
Perhaps I should step back a bit and take an objective look at this rather than go on a rant. The topic idea came on the back of a few particularly bad press releases that I received. There I was sitting in front of my computer trying to figure out what they were trying to say. I ended up deleting most of them because they were so terribly written. This is concerning for a number of reasons. Firstly, it damages the relationship between a journalist and the PR agency. How seriously should I regard future press releases from these agencies if the ones that I received were so sloppy written?
Secondly, an opportunity to gain publicity for a client has been lost. But more importantly, even if the said press release does make it through and is published, it reflects badly on the client rather than the agency. Who is to say that those same press releases that landed in my inbox didn’t land in a dozen others? While the goal of any press release is to earn media coverage, producing a sloppy piece of work that requires the receiver to spend a long time deciphering and then rewriting it doesn’t bode well for the reputation of the client.
According to Lange 360 account director, Ella Smook, there could be a number of reasons why sloppy work gets sent out. One such explanation could be that the right people are not doing their job. “Some agencies tend to haul out the big guns when pitching for new business, but once the client is in the bag, the top dogs head off to the next pitch and leave the less experienced ones to get on with the actual work, without sufficient guidance or quality assurance processes being in place.”
If you speak to Atmosphere Communications account director, Rebecca Cronje, she’ll tell you that the fast-paced nature of the industry also has a part to play. “Clients can be too lenient with their PRs and allow them to submit content without approving it properly.” That could point to the fact that clients are just as much to blame for the release of bad copy as agencies are but that would be the easy way out. So believes Positive Dialogue Communications managing director, Tracy Jones. “Blame should never be placed at the feet of the client. It should rather be the PR agency. We are paid to deliver the message and we should be getting it right.”
Smook agrees and adds that she finds unnecessary mistakes baffling: “It is standard practice that anything that goes out is approved by the client. But this approval should not be in terms of checking that the release is well-written – that should be a given.” Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that it’s often not the case. Smook continues: “[There is] the mistaken view by some that writing is a ‘basic’ skill. This is spectacularly removed from reality, but it also means that writing skills may not be sufficiently valued or interrogated pre-appointment.”
“More time needs to be spent on crafting the message. When it comes to the writing of press releases, less is more,” believes Jones. Smook agrees again. “While there are different ways to approach press releases, they must also be concise and factual, and devoid of fluff.” You also need to remember that that little press release is a statement on behalf of the client. It has your client’s name on it.
While newsrooms are being whittled down to save costs, the press release is still surprisingly relevant, believes Smook. With that being said, it’s important to do them right. The cost of sending out a bad press release may not have such a negative effect on the PR agency. But it will affect the client. Think twice before you click that send button. Your client will thank you for it.
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