Bad Press Release 101: How to Kill Your News pt 2

Welcome to Part 2 of our little discussion about how to kill the news value of your press releases. Today’s segment is pretty short, not because it isn’t important but because it is a very simple issue. It’s easy to overlook during the edit cycle. No one wants to wreck their chance at news coverage with a press release, but it happens. Don’t let it happen to you.

Today’s press release killer is the “unquotable quote”. It is true that clients need and deserve to have their positioning and key concepts reflected in a quote, but the language can get very artificial. You want something conversational. This is a problem because many journalists have taken a press release, written a story based on the PR pro’s pitch, and used the quote in lieu of an interview. This is great news for you and your client, when it happens, but there’s no chance of this if the quote doesn’t meet their needs.

Here is an example of a quote from a real press release that mangled the language, but still hit the key messaging:

“The [Science, Technology and Innovation] policy also seeks to trigger an ecosystem for innovative abilities to flourish by leveraging partnerships among diverse stakeholders and by encouraging and facilitating enterprises to invest in innovations,” the officials said.”

One option, easily accomplished in most cases, is to include a second quote towards the bottom that summarizes things in conversational language. It needn’t be dumbed down, but should sound like someone might in, say, a phone interview. Think of it as the equivalent of a b-roll sound bite. By including such a supplementary statement, the company’s messaging and positioning remain intact and satisfying the client’s desires, but the bloggers and journalists covering it have something useful to use within easy reach. The harder they have to work to cover your news, the more likely they’ll cover someone else’s news.

A second option is to include such a secondary quote in the story pitches you use. This has the advantage of being easy to tailor to the specific needs of the influencers you are currently reaching out to (and as a PR pro, our job is to know what they need).

Both these options require clear and effective communication with the client, both to avoid embarrassing mistakes or misunderstandings, and to ensure the client understands the value of your expertise and contribution in the matter and therefore is more willing to dedicate the extra time needed to pursue this strategy.

So, while it is often not possible to entirely remove or replace the jargon-heavy, stilted language of a press release quote, it can be fairly simple to avoid its associated PR difficulties with creativity and solid communication with the client prior to going out with the news.

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4 thoughts on “Bad Press Release 101: How to Kill Your News pt 2

  1. Shannon says:

    “The [Science, Technology and Innovation] policy also seeks to trigger an ecosystem for innovative abilities to flourish by leveraging partnerships among diverse stakeholders and by encouraging and facilitating enterprises to invest in innovations,” the officials said.”

    Does this actually communicate anything at all? Other than “We had no idea what we were actually trying to say, so we duct-taped an M80 to a book of techno-managerial buzzwords and sent out whatever landed on our desk after we lit the fuse?”

    –Shannon

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