“I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas”
What does this tell us? It seems to be a corruption of a well-known song sung by Bing Crosby. Is the release something to do with Crosby? Something to do with music, certainly? Why the “green”? Is it about the weather – does it mean we’re not expecting snow this year? Who is the “I” who’s dreaming? Nope – I give up.
It turns out that the news is that an ethical retailer has launched its Christmas catalogue. Hence “Green Christmas”. Ethical = “green”, “Green” = like White but not. It’s a play on words! Geddit??!! Aren’t we funny!
For goodness’ sake – why not just get to the point, instead of making the reader play guessing games.
“Wishing you a Merry & Healthy Christmas”
Ooh, it’s an early e-card from a particularly well-organised well-wisher! No. It’s a carol? No, it’s a press release – about pillows, of all things. The angle is that memory foam pillows that help support the neck properly are thoughtful Christmas presents. Again, the writer, for some reason, felt it was best not to say so in the headline.
“Winter Wonderland celebrates its 5th year with a magical new Ice Rink”
This one’s not bad – you do get the gist straight away, which is that the well-known Hyde Park attraction is getting a new ice rink.
But this release misses a trick by using the word “magical” – what on earth does that mean? Does the rink do astonishing card tricks, or make itself disappear? Does it perform the Indian rope trick or cut itself in half? The writer is so busy trying to convey the idea of festive, romantic twinkliness that she forgets to mention until paragraph 3 that the rink will be the biggest of its kind in the UK. Now, that’s quite newsworthy, actually, but the fact’s in danger of being overlooked.
Ooh, here’s another one who likes the word “magic”. Guess what this is about…
“Now that’s magic!”
Go on, have a guess. No? The headline the writer was grasping for was “Celebrity TV magician [name here] opens new headquarters of local company [name here]”.
I believe the celebrity in question uses the catchphrase “Now that’s magic!”, which is presumably why the writer used it. It’s an allusion, you see. Editors who happen to be familiar with the work of said celebrity and who have a bit of time on their hands will put two and two together and realise that the release is something to do with said celebrity. But over and above that, the headline does little to tell us what the release is about.
Same goes for this next one. To its credit, it’s about neither Christmas nor magic so it comes as rare and refreshing fruit to me, but it still manages to drive me wild through its use of a pun. Puns are inappropriate in press releases. If the writer wants to be clever and witty they should do so on their own time, for an audience that has the same sense of humour. Otherwise, they are simply showing off, at the expense of the reader’s understanding of the words.
Here you go….
“Rugby Star Muscles Up”
What does that mean, do you think? My first impression was that a rugby player was interfering where he wasn’t wanted, then I realised that would be “muscles in”, not “up”. Of course, it must be something to do with the rugby player getting more muscled. But why is that news? Don’t all sports stars work out?
The story is that he uses the products of a health supplement company with “Muscle” in its name. Aha, it’s a pun! He gets more muscles with Muscles – geddit??!!!!. Oh, I can’t start laughing.
Writers should always remember their audience – it would be fine for The Sun, for instance, to use a pun like this because that’s the kind of thing their readers like. But a press release writer isn’t writing for Sun readers – he/she is writing for a cross-section of journalists, all of whom want to know from the outset what the story is about. The reader shouldn’t have to puzzle out what is meant; it wastes time and is irritating. This story would have been better headlined something like “Rugby star puts on 10 stone by taking Muscle Company’s vitamins” or words to that effect.
Meanwhile, I’m collecting examples of good, efficient, press release headlines. There are some. Will report back in a later blog.
Pic credit: Tom Curtis, http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=178