Obviously it’s much more fun to mock and deride, but fair’s fair so I’ve been keeping an eye open for examples of press releases whose headlines sum up the story quickly and concisely.
I’ve noticed that many of the better releases are from larger companies and organisations – those that recognise the value of good communications and employ qualified people to get on and do it.
Press releases from smaller firms are perhaps more likely to suffer from “gild the lily syndrome” – taking a perfectly straightforward story and throwing puns and literary allusions and other flowery language at it until no-one, least of all the journalists at whom it’s targeted, can understand what it’s about.
I suspect that the problem arises because small outfits can’t – or won’t – budget for media relations, so the job of writing press releases is thrown at whichever reluctant marketing assistant or office manager is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Alternatively, the job is seized on by a senior manager who’s bored with doing the accounts and fancies that a bit of “creative” work will add some glamour to their day.
Anyway, here are a selection of releases that won’t drive editors mad trying to work out what the story is. If the story is relevant to a particular publication, the editor will know straight away and if it isn’t, no-one’s time will have been wasted.
From an airline:
British Airways adds First and business class to Moscow flights.
A good example because some press release writers would have leapt on the obvious opportunity to throw in shite puns about “flying high” and “to Russia with love”. This one avoided the temptation with a good, businesslike headline that tells you exactly what the story is.
From a recruitment agency:
Hospitals in the United Arab Emirates are seeking hundreds of nurses from the UK and Ireland.
Perhaps a little on the long side – might not fit in the subject line of the email on screen – but nevertheless, the story summed up in a sentence.
From an online pharmacy:
Innovative Health Goals Facebook App Makes You More Likely to Succeed.
Again, I know what the story is from the headline. I’d have avoided the initial caps though – makes it harder to read.
From a catering company:
Caterer launches calorie-counted healthy eating range.
Excellent. The story in a sentence. Editors in catering, women’s, health, slimming and food-related publications can all see the relevance to them.
From another catering company:
Chak 89 and ASDA Join Forces to Cook Authentic Curries.
You might not know what Chak 89 is – I’d probably have referred to it as “Indian caterer” – but that’s quickly explained in the subsequent text and anyway you get the gist, that Asda is now selling proper Indian curries.
I can’t overlook though, the later use of a pun about spicing up mealtimes. Geddit?!!? Puns aren’t a good thing in press releases. They show what a clever, witty person the writer is – that’s all they do. Apart from irritate the reader. Clever allusions can be understood by those who are in on the joke but can often go over people’s heads because not everyone shares the same sense of humour – far better to stick to the facts.
From a charity:
Medical charity to roll-out credit card sized USB devices to hold travellers’ medical records.
Sums up what could be a fairly complex technology story in one easy-to-grasp sentence.
From a retailer:
Marks & Spencer Launches Online Maternity Bra Advice Tool
All I need to know, in a few words.
From a train company:
Eurostar launches its first pan-European advertising campaign
Says what it’s about and why it’s newsworthy. Job done.
From the Confederation of British Industry:
Retail sales lower year-on-year but pace of decline stable
Retail sales statistics and trends are massively complex – the fact that something can be up yet on a downward trend (downwardly up?), or down but on a kind of lessening downwardness (upwardly down?) – has never failed to do my head in and leave me rocking in a corner when I’ve been called on to deal with them – but this manages to get the nub of the thing in a few words.
Pic credit: Scottchan, http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1701